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Dragons' Den: Pitching, Bitching and Plenty of Nervous Twitching


Luck has a lot to do with business success. Being in the right place at the right time certainly helps. If it wasn't for Steve Jobs attending Hewlett-Packard's after-school classes, he'd never have linked up with Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. And I wouldn't be typing this on my MacBook Air.

Likewise, being in the wrong place at the wrong time definitely doesn't help.

Take the long since forgotten third class passenger and budding entrepreneur (no records exist of him, so don't bother checking) who successfully pitched an idea for a new kind of mining drill bit to Benjamin Guggenheim when aboard the Titanic. He must have thought his ship had come in. Only to discover the very next day that ...Oops! Well, you know the story.

Dragons' Den is rather surprisingly back for its 13th series. Are the BBC mad? Who on earth would want to run the risk and undoubted misfortune of going on the 13th of anything? Quite a few people as chance would have it. Although let's face it, the omens aren't exactly good for anyone brave or desperate enough to appear. Less than half of those investments made on the show actually come to fruition.

First through the door to see the Dragons on the opening episode was Alexis Tsipras. Currently the Prime Minister of Greece, he was looking for roughly €54bn to bail out his country and help it through a slight bit of financial trouble it's been having of late. Since the highest amount the Dragons have previously pledged to invest is £250,000, it was hard to see how they were going to be able to ratchet that up to what Alexis was asking for.

Deborah Meaden was first to start the questioning. As a leisure and tourist expert - albeit in the West Country of England - she'd have been the perfect partner, if only they could have got the whole population to start living in a caravan.

But despite the enticing prospect of foreign visitors accounting for 15% of the beleaguered country's GDP, his answers didn't convince her of the viability of his request and therefore her money belt remained firmly locked.

For some reason she simply couldn't envisage when or indeed if she'd ever get her investment back. Even the added incentive of a two week timeshare on Thessaloniki and a one off recording by Maria Callas given to Aristotle Onassis couldn't change her mind.

Peter Jones along with new boys Nick Jenkins, founder of and clothing magnate, Touker Suleynan (being of Turkish Cypriot origin, he was hardly going to be forthcoming with the cash) as well as Sarah Willingham, who you may recall from 2007's The Restaurant with Raymond Blanc, were similarly dismissive and declined to get involved.

While the Dragons were full of praise for the quality of the olives that Alexis brought with him to try and tempt them into a deal, he dejectedly left empty handed, falling victim to the old cliche: Never trust a Greek bearing gifts. "Lovely man" said Peter. They all agreed and Deborah in particular had a twinkle in her eye. Maybe he'd have more success eventually charming the infinitely less hard-faced Angela Merkel? Fortunately that was the case because after lengthy weekend talks, Eurozone leaders finally managed to thrash out a last minute agreement.

Of the wannabe Warren Buffett's who were sweaty of brow, dry of mouth, temporarily blank of mind and genuinely seeking funding (more's the pity Tsipras wasn't really one of them), the following stood quaking in front of the assembled millionaires.

Ben Fridja wanted £70,000 for 10% of his products innovation company which currently included a clothes steamer and a juice machine. The steamer got everyone jolly excited. It was as if they'd never come across one of these contraptions before. Now I hate to burst their bubble, but they are pretty damn commonplace.

Staggeringly, Nick and Deborah each stumped up £35,000 for a 12.5% share of Ben. Personally, I'd have demanded his teeth. Failing those, his hair wasn't bad.

Farnaz and her shapewear titled Fat Britches - a hotter and heavier equivalent of Spanx - met with a far less favourable response and the figure she left with was a big fat zero.

Meanwhile, Fraser and his property Crowdfunding concept, which coincidentally wasn't cramming as many East European renters into a Lewisham basement flat as possible, was given short shrift for his request of a cool million in return for a 5% equity share.

Lastly, there was Thierry and his step up yoga device called Beam Block. He wanted £50,000 for half of his business, an enterprise which he'd already spent £100,000 on and had left him jobless, penniless, homeless, but supple beyond belief.

Peter and Touker both put up £25,000 and Thierry left a happy man exclaiming that this was the beginning of a new life for him. Given the choice, I somehow think I'd have preferred his old life - the one on the streets.

As for the new judges, they fitted in pretty much from the off. If you didn't know better or hadn't watched any of the preceding 12 series, you could easily have thought that they'd been there from the very beginning and that the likes of Theo Paphitis (being a Greek Cypriot he'd have looked far more kindly on Alexis or given him a free Rymans calculator on which to work out all those tricky cost cutting sums), Duncan Bannantyne, James Caan (much better in the Godfather) and Rachel Elnaugh had never existed.

Even I'd almost forgotten about Rachel. She was on series one and two. Her company, Red Letter Days subsequently went into administration, only to be rescued from the evil clutches of receivership by none other than Peter and Theo.

As frequently happens with the likes of The Voice and X Factor, when former contestants come back for another bite of the celebrity cherry, it would be a rather delicious and ironic twist if Rach came back into the Den looking for funding for a new business idea.

Naturally, in true reality TV style, she'd have to be turned down and given a humiliating going over by Deborah who replaced her.

Considerably past its sell by date, highly contrived and now hardly anything to do with the workings of business investment in the real world (when was it?), Dragons' Den continues on Sundays, BB2 at 8pm.

Next week, I think I might be the one who's out. Either that or on a nice cheap holiday in Greece.

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