By Jill Boulton
Here’s the second in a three-part series of articles about the time when Visorcat entered the infamous Dragons Den …
LIFE’S a pitch if you have a business. You have to sell your idea all the time, to anyone who is vaguely interested. And then, if your idea is unusual, you have to work out how to explain it in words that everyone will understand – not always easy, even for a former journalist like me.
Business gurus talk about ‘the elevator pitch’ – you’re supposed to be able to explain your business in a few sentences. For the Den, we had to explain and demonstrate our product and business in three minutes – somewhat longer than an elevator pitch but not very long, given that most presentations to business angels are expected to be 20 minutes.
But this is the Den, and in the Den you have to pitch without support. It’s just you, your business and the Dragons. No Powerpoint, no notes, nothing.
Andy, Alan and I were quite excited to arrive at BBC North in Salford Quays, near Manchester, (pictured above) to deliver our three-minute audition pitch. We all got ID badges, which bore our full names and photos – except that Alan’s picture didn’t work, so Alan’s badge just said ‘Alan’ on it with no surname or picture. A great souvenir!
I kept my badge, as there were no BBC mugs or Blue Peter pencils available. Cuts, eh?
After a lot of form-filling, which included non-disclosure agreements and signing away all our rights to probably everything, we eventually got on with the audition. It was pretty informal, with just two BBC crew and a tiny camera on a tripod, in a small room, not a studio.
We thought it easiest to present a minute each – I would introduce the product and market, awards and testimonials, Alan would talk about how he came up with the idea, and Andy would describe the business opportunity while Alan demonstrated the product.
Simple in theory, but the practice was problematic as Visorcat produces an audible squeak when being used, which was drowning out Andy’s bit of the pitch.
So, with a bit of rearranging and quite a lot of takes, we managed it without fluffing (or squeaking).
Our assistant producer then asked us a few questions, also on camera, about ourselves and why we do what we do, then there was a more formal bit, asking more serious questions, such as how we had come to the valuation we had and why we needed investment.
After a couple of hours it was all over and we headed for the Manchester tram, not really expecting to see BBC North again, except on telly.
Which is why I was happy with my BBC souvenir, the ID badge reminding me that on Valentines’ Day 2014 – exactly one year after we launched Visorcat – we visited Bridge House at BBC North, the home of Dragons’ Den.
Next article: High heels and higher hopes