Dragons, lions, sharks and monkeys - the animal changes from country to country

Prompted by the upcoming season two of ‘Løvens Hule’ (The Lion’s Den), as it’s called here in Denmark, I wanted to take a look at the history and the makeup of the program. It’s actually a lot bigger than I thought at first, so it was a pleasant surprise to find that the show has been running all over the world! Startups and entrepreneurs from more than 30 countries as diverse and far between as Australia, Vietnam, USA, Sweden, Nigeria. Israel and South Africa have gone into the investors with the hopes of accelerating their business.

The format of the program is pretty much the same all over. There are minor differences in some countries and seasons, but the framework is the same:

You pitch – you answer questions – you negotiate an investment (if you’ve caught the attention of the investors with the pitch, that is)

Typically people are looking for investments in return for 5-20 percent of their business, but money is not always everything. The fact that an experienced investor is getting in on their project can be a big part of why the contestant goes on the show too.

Fierce animals

Given that this is the English version of the blog, you may have already noticed, that the fierce animal the contestants will face changes from country to country. The original animal was a Tiger, as the show in Japan was called ‘Money Tigers’, but other popular animals are Dragons (as in the UK and France fx), Sharks (as in the US and Australia*) and Lions (as here in Denmark and Romania fx).

The name of the show is not always with animals, as titles like ‘Your Opportunity’, ‘The Traders’ and ‘The Project’ also figure in the list of this franchise.

*Australia has actually had the show twice – once called ‘Dragons Den’ and once ‘Shark Tank’.

Deal or no deal

To get an investment from the sharks, lions, dragons or whatever they’re called, the contestants need a good pitch. One of the investors on the American version said, that “The contestants need to convince us of the product or the idea in the first 90 seconds. If they haven’t done it by then, all the time in the world won’t matter.” If they do convince the investors, the contestants have an equity and an investment in mind, but sometimes the sharks/lions/dragons have other figures in mind. Some haggling may follow!

The deals made on camera are not 100 percent binding, though. Because the show is built on the pitch, the investors don’t get to do research on the contestants and their businesses in advance. That means, the investors go home and do their homework after the show – due diligence as it’s called – and if something doesn’t check out, the deal could go south.

How many of the deals made on the show that fall through afterward is hard to gauge, but in some countries and seasons it’s supposed to upwards of 50 percent. So make sure you’ve got your facts straight before you go on the show!

Investors are not always right!

This is an important lesson for every startup: no investment doesn’t equal a bad idea. Case in point – Tangle Teezer. A comb for tangled hair. Shaun Pulfrey offered 15 percent of his company for £80.000 in the 2007 season on the British ‘Dragons Den’. Everyone said no on the show, but Pulfrey soldiered on with his business. Fast forward to July 2016, and rumor has it, Pulfrey is looking to sell his Tangle Teezer business for £200 million. As this hair-pun filled article from The Daily Mail points out, if the sale goes through at that valuation, Pulfrey will be worth five times the worth of one of the dragons on the show. The dragons mocked Pulfrey’s idea, but now his product is sold basically all over the world.

Mikkel Guldbjerg Jensen

Mikkel Guldbjerg Jensen

Mikkel’s goal is to spread the Pitcherific-tool as far and wide as possible to allow startups to get off to a good start. Mikkel roams the communication channels and organizes the communications effort of Pitcherific.

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