Podcast Transcript - Inside The Dragons' Den auditions: B.C. firm pitches to get on the show
If you’ve seen the popular television show The Dragons’ Den, you know that it’s a program that features a no-nonsense group of business tycoons looking to invest in promising Canadian companies.
But convincing someone to give you money is never easy, especially the dragons.
Today – the second in our Dragons’ Den series – we’re following a company called Environment Depot on their quest for dragon financing. They made their pitch to producers of The Dragons’ Den who were holding auditions at an environmental industries trade fair in Vancouver.
Stay tuned to hear the pitch and to find out if they made it on the show.
I’m Michael Mancini, Editor-in-Chief of CanadExport, the official e-magazine of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – Canada’s most comprehensive network of international business professionals.
You’re about to hear Jay Lundy and Bill Powell of Alberta-based Environment Depot, making their pitch to two producers. Have a listen and see if you think the company makes it on the show. We’ll find out right after the audition and we’ll talk to one expert who has some useful best practices to share.
Here’s the pitch.
Jay Lundy: Our product is a product called AZ Comp. What it really does is it turns solids into effluent whether it’s agriculture from dairy, hogs, chickens, etcetera or people, towns, cities, municipalities. And it turns it into a safe liquid...
Producers: So how much money are you looking for?
Jay Lundy: We’re looking for $1.75 million and that is to purchase the production company and also expand the production facilities.
Producers: This is all sounds great obviously to be able to convert solids, etcetera, but give, what are we talking about here application wise? Sewage or...
Jay Lundy: All sewage, whether it’s animal or human.
Producers: Back to simple terms, the product, the compound, how is it being used, give me the sort of layman’s application here, who buys it from you and how do they use it and where?
Jay Lundy: Towns, cities, municipalities, large intensive livestock operations, hog producers, dairy producers and poultry producers.
Producers: And how much are you selling now?
Jay Lundy: Right now currently in Western Canada the sales are about three quarters of a million dollars.
Producers: If you’ve got the best solution why do you say you want to buy the production facility? You guys don’t own it?
Jay Lundy: We are the distributor for the product.
Producers: I understand that. But I need to know one last time I’ll ask you, how do you deliver it? Is it a special magic serum that you throw into the pile of poop or how does it, like you got to just explain how you deliver it and what kind of volumes are we talking about?
Jay Lundy: Very simply I’m going to turn it over to Bill and he’ll explain that and also explain what we’re doing in the international markets.
Bill Powell: It’s sold in two pound or 0.9 kilo water soluble bags.
Producers: So yes, that might need to come a little bit earlier in the presentation just cause you know compounds and product is very lingo terminology and we’d like to know, it’s like a big thing, you throw it into the bucket of poop and it fixes it and you can then dump it into the water stream.
Bill Powell: We’re the poo specialists.
Producers: So give us an idea, because the Dragons like money, and that’s all they care about. Yes you’re saving the world and helping make drinking water, but give me an idea of like potential clients on the international market.
Bill Powell: The city of Harare in Zimbabwe in the last two years used $44 million in chemicals to try to treat their wastewater. We have quoted $14 million to completely clean up the whole wastewater system for the city of Harare. In the city of Bulawayo we’ve received an order from them today from OXFAM to clean up all the underground pipes and we’ve quoted a million dollars to do their projects.
Producers: But that’s not a lot of money. What equity are you bringing into the equation here? Asking for a million dollars for I’m not sure what...
Bill Powell: 1.75 that’s to purchase equipment for the company.
Producers: How much of the company are you going to give up for $1.7 million?
Bill Powell: 20% of the profits until we pay the money back.
Producers: How much money have you guys put into this company?
Jay Lundy: A minimum of $300,000, probably closer to $400,000 if we really figured it out.
Producers: OK, great.
Jay Lundy: Thank you very much for the opportunity. Appreciate it.
Mancini: That was Bill Powell and Jay Lundy of Environment Depot making their pitch to Dragons’ Den producers.
Before we find out if they made it onto the show, let’s see if the pitch was effective. We’re now going to speak to someone who knows a thing or two about making a pitch.
With me on the phone is Isabelle Marazzani, Senior Business Advisor at Inno-Centre, a technology business accelerator in Montreal and Quebec City, a firm that specializes in international commercialization and business coaching.
Welcome to the podcast Isabelle and thanks for speaking with me.
You heard the pitch. I know you hear lots of pitches all the time. What did you think?
Marazzani: I thought overall the product seemed very interesting with a lot of sales potential. I though the real difficulty for this pitch was to convince. I thought basically four different things.
The first was not enough preparation. It did not seem like they had rehearsed enough. I also thought the “script” was a bit weak. It should have been more scripted. Thirdly, I thought the content was probably not clear or concise enough.
I thought terminology was obscure for most people.
Lastly, it was a somewhat weak communication of numbers. You noticed that the interviewers had to quickly step in to get the speakers to clarify some basic information. For the most part, there was information that should have been mentioned in the first 30 seconds of the presentation. For example, producers had to ask several times about the form and delivery of the compound. Also, the speaker talked about the product without talking about his company or the relationship between the distributor and the company that actually produces the product. That came later in the conversation. The fact that this was not clear from the get-go sort of left an impression that there was something uneasy about that communication.
Here’s how it could have been: “Our company, Environment Depot, is the exclusive worldwide distributor of AZ Comp, a compound sold in a 2 pound water-soluble cellulite bag used by cities, villages, livestock farmers to turn sewage into safe drinking water.
According to X – you have to quote a reliable source of course – the water treatment market worldwide is worth X dollars. After X many years of selling this product, our sales total X dollars. We are looking for an investment of X dollars to buy out the producing company in return for X percent of equity in the company. That’s it.
Then you go on to the questions of course. But you put the basic information on the table first. But another thing that needs to be said is that when evaluating a pitch, it’s a lot easier to figure out if it was good or not when you can see the pitch. Non–verbal communication is as important as the words spoken. The only information I had to go on was sound.
Mancini: How do you know if you have your numbers right? In other words, how do you know if the amount of money you’re asking for matches the equity you might be giving up in the company?
Marazzani: That’s an interesting question. Practically speaking the requested financing should offer an interesting and realistic profit perspective in a reasonable amount of time. If the financial risk seems disproportionate to the return, the investor won’t be interested. For example, if your company is worth $1 million, it is very unlikely that an investor will want to inject another million in your company for a mere 10% of the company’s shares.
So ideally, the requested funds should correspond to the percentage of shares you are willing to offer. Of course a financial specialist will look at potential sales as well, not just the actual value of the company.
Mancini: What are some things you should never say in a pitch?
Marazzani: Well, there are four things you should avoid at all costs. The first one is lingo terminology, acronyms, unclear language and buzz words. For example, catchy phrases like “We strategize for a synergistic win-win outcome.” It’s tempting to impress your counterpart but it does not usually work.
Second, any statement that makes you look like you’re desperate or in a terrible financial situation such as “I’ll accept any deal” or “We can do anything for our clients.”
Thirdly, it’s what I would call trying to over-impress the counterpart with humongous numbers. Of course sometimes these numbers are humungous in real life but it’s better to quote a reliable source than to just say “Our market is worth $700 billion.” Most people dealing with that kind of money usually don’t need to be reminded how big of a market that is. They already know.
Lastly, it’s what I would call broken promises. Saying things like “I can’t show it to you right now” or “It’s not finished yet” or “My sales could be X, but”. These are the types of things that leave a somewhat uneasy feeling to the counterpart.
Mancini: If you think a pitch has gone well, should you secure a follow-up right on the spot?
Marazzani: Yes. You’re immediate job was to spark interest so if you feel that it went well and that the counterpart if interested – unless they say clearly that they are not – you should definitely ask for a follow-up meeting. This is what the elevator pitch is for.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this Isabelle.
I’m sure you’re asking yourselves if the company’s pitch was good enough to make it onto the show. Well, they were asked to be on the show. But, Lundy and Powell decided appearing on Dragons’ Den was not right for them.
Lundy and Powell could not be reached for a follow-up interview. But they did send me an email explaining that they are working on a number of projects in Africa that they hope will finance their expansion and that they prefer to maintain control of their unique Canadian-made product.
Mancini: Well that’s all for this podcast edition of CanadExport.
For Canadian companies looking for more advice on making a pitch, whether it’s for venture capital or if you are looking for an angel investor, contact the Trade Commissioner Service online at www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca.
You can also go to canadexport.gc.ca where you can find videos, articles and other audio podcasts on making a pitch and other topics.
I’m Michael Mancini, signing off for now.
To download our other episodes, just go to www.canadexport.gc.ca or go to iTunes and use the searchword “CanadExport.”
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