Guilty Pleasure?

I regard all reality-TV as guilty pleasure, if pleasure at all. (One might go so far as to label all television this way.) “Reality television” is an oxymoron to me, and I’ve banned all of it from my viewing schedule. Except for one, and I see it’s gearing up for it’s second season… and again, I’ll be watching. I enjoy it, and it actually helps keep my business sense sharp.

Dragons’ Den on CBC Television describes itself this way:

Welcome to the Dragons’ Den where entrepreneurs pitch the Dragons (five Canadian business moguls) for investment. Watch as they try to convince the Dragons to part with their cash or simply fall apart and crash.

The premise, for those who haven’t seen it, is that five of Canada’s business luminaries travel across the country, hitting a number of different cities. In each one, entrepreneurs can sign up to make a pitch to the “dragons.” They will explain their business idea or invention, tell what they’ve done with it so far, and outline an investment proposal. They must explain the basics — how much capital they need, what they’re offering in return, and what it’s going to accomplish. Each “dragon” can quiz, critique, or negotiate with the entrepreneur. If any or all are willing to invest their own money (and they actually do) until the requested amount is met, then a deal is done. If not, the entrepreneur is sent packing.

What I like about this is listening to the pitches. Sometimes I’m amazed at what people think is going to pass for a viable business idea, and other times there are some gems in there. The “dragons” don’t have much time for analysis, but they will poke and prod until they get enough of a picture to make a judgment, and I try to play along. Not that I’m investing any money, but wrapping my mind around —and tweaking— various business models is something that comes fairly naturally to me. For the observant, watching the “dragons” do the same thing here can offer insights you’ll never get by watching “The Donald” in an over-hyped self-promoting series. It’s also instructing at times to watch some of the entrepreneurs walk away from a deal when their greed prevents them from giving away what they feel is too much equity or control. And you know when you see it that what could have been a big idea is going to stay a small one. And in that, there’s a lesson for every underfunded entrepreneur.