Selling ideas to Dragons

Selling ideas to Dragons

The latest 5 point guide from Dragon’s Den to succeeding in getting a product to market was presented on BBC last night. Here’s what they say, with a few thoughts of my own added in.

1. Keep your ideas coming

Put simply, the more you ideas come up with, the more chances you have to succeed. Basically, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket. Alternatively, if you are not prolific, it helps to be creative.

In the programme, the example given was Mark Chapkins; the stereotypical mad inventor. Mark presented lots of ideas at his Dragon’s Den pitch. Only Peter Jones was interested and with his help Mark has now achieved a turnover of £250 in 3 years. He now writes books on celebrity inventors and is employed by the Science Museum “inventor in residence”.

Of course, to  have a “good” idea, you need to be able to identify s problem and come up with the steps to solve it. See point 5 below.

2. Don’t forget to dream

Be optimistic. Brainstorm all of the positives about your idea before you pull it apart. A good technique to do this is to use  “second position” to see how realistic your idea is. That is, look at it from the perspective of end users or potential investors.

3. Do the paperwork

Protect your idea. Register the patent, if possible, but remember “patent pending” is not yet a patent. Can you get copyright on your idea? Deborah Meaden is particularly keen on this, and has pulled apart many a good idea because the paperwork is not right. Next week they are looking at Business Planning, so more on this topic then.

4. Think outside the box

Frame the problem you are trying to solve in a different way to come up with a unique way to solve it. Again, use “second person” perspective to aid this. The programme gave the example of “mad inventor”  Rupert Sweet-Escott. He invented a wind turbine chimney pot. This has proved successful in Japan, achieving £270K turnover.

However, Duncan Bannatyne disagrees – he prefers a more pragmatic, realistic approach saying  improving on an existing idea is a safer option for those not gifted with original thinking. The example given was the Magic Whiteboard Series, which improved on flip charts as a portable self adhesive alternative, achieving  £2M turnover in last 3 years.

5. Be your own worst critic

Your product needs to solve a problem (this is the opportunity) worth solving (this converts it to a need) See my FREE e-book for more information.

Your idea needs to work and there needs to be  a market for it.  Bad examples presented to the Dragons included; edible greetings cards for dogs, anti-wrinkle cap, and Derek Cousins Flow Signals – traffic signal safety light. Each of these were either difficult concepts to understand, and were not taken up by the Dragons. The Flow Signals were described as  “the worst invention to be brought to Dragon’s Den”.

So, there we have it a 5 point plan to get your ideas to product and to market.

The best example of meeting all of the above criteria (missed by the Dragons) was Tangle Teeze (to fix Tangled, Knotted , Hair). Poor presentation ( especially the demonstration) combined with a lack of market research scared the Dragons off. . The inventor took their advice and was approached by many distributors following the programme. The product has now sold over 1.6 M items, wirth £2.3M turnover with international sales. Now that is success to be modelled.

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