What’s it like to be on Dragons’ Den?
That’s the question that tons of people have asked us since our episode aired in late 2019. In this post I want to break down what happens before the Den, during the application process, once you've been accepted and then what the live taping is actually like.
How Do You Get Accepted Onto Dragons’ Den?
There are a couple ways that you can apply. The way that we did it is that we applied online through their standard system but rather than submitting a video application there, we took that paper application to one of their in-person auditions. We went up to the casting at Blue Mountain which is just north of Toronto, Ontario.
It was perfect. We were able to walk in nice and easily with no huge lineups or long waits. Once checked in, you wait in a holding room and get to chat with other applicants (and also check out their products!). There were certainly some unique ideas, including an at-home “escape room” style challenge built out of furniture.
When we were called in to meet the three producers and pitch Grobo, we received a super warm welcome. It turns out that one of the producers has known about Grobo since 2016 and is on our mailing list…. He had so many great questions for us and became the producer that we worked with to prep for the show (more on that later).
Your audition pitch for the panel of three producers needs to be spot on. Here are our tips for how to be successful:
1. Know the pitch.
Dragons’ Den uses a standard opening script for introducing yourself, your hometown, and your ask. Have it fully memorized to show you are professional and can pitch properly on TV.
2. Stand out
We brought in a big jar of home grown weed and it definitely grabbed their attention. The producers travel across Canada and spend 100+ hours listening to pitches so you NEED to figure out how to be memorable.
3. Have an awesome business
Seriously, they are looking for good companies. Know your numbers and why you should be on Dragons’ Den. Also know what you’re after and which Dragons you’re most interested in.
Done your audition? Perfect. Now you wait.
After the Canada-wide auditions are complete, the producers get together and pitch their favourite companies to each other to finalize the list of companies that will pitch to the Dragons.
It took a few weeks but we eventually got a call back saying that we had been selected for Dragons’ Den!
Preparing for Filming
Our taping was scheduled in May, months before the episode actually airs. All pitches are filmed across a ~2 week period where the crew and Dragons film for 12+ hour days.
Once you've been selected to be on Dragon's Den, the next thing that happens is you begin working with the producer that actually picked your company and your product.
To prepare for it, you have a number of calls with your assigned producer. Together, we figured out what props we wanted to bring and which ones we needed from CBC. The first 60 seconds of our pitch, and discussed possible questions the Dragons might ask us. The show truly does want you to be successful and they’re there to help make it happen.
Overall tip here is to write your script early, review it with a producer, and the memorize it.
On a more fun side, I personally recommend that you watch a ton of old pitches. Personally, I binged the last 4 seasons and got to know the Dragons’ every move…. Or almost. You can figure out their personalities and the common questions they like to ask.
In our case, for example, we knew that:
Jim Treliving - Wouldn’t be very interested since he has an ex-cop persona.
Vince Guzzo - Wouldn’t be interested because of the nature of our business.
Arlene Dickinson - Already invested in a competitive company at might not be able to participate due to prior NDAs and agreements.
Our most likely potential partners would be:
Manjit Minhas - Her brewery already operates in more of a “vice” space
Lane Merrifield - He loves data and software, both core aspects of Grobo
Michelle Romanow - A tech-savvy entrepreneur with strong marketing interests
Our pitch was designed to hit key points that would matter to each of them. From previous episodes, we were able to accurately guess a majority of the questions that were then asked on the show.
For example, valuation. In our case we went in with a fairly large valuation and we knew that we would likely get challenged on it. Other questions that are very common include your sales numbers and traction numbers (eg. users, growth, etc) which didn't make it on air.
The exciting part!
Behind the scenes getting our makeup done
You're either in the morning or the afternoon block. In our case we were the morning block so we were at the CBC studio in downtown Toronto before 7am getting ready for the pitch. There, you meet with the CBC team including their set designers and props masters. They help to put the final touches together and see the props that had been prepared for us. The entire group that shows up for the morning block doesn't actually know when in that block they will be filming. That keeps you in suspense and on your toes. Once you get everything ready you do a quick cheer and hurrah, and then everybody starts hanging out in a green room until you get called in to pitch.
You know those awkward pre-pitch interviews? This is when they film those. In our case, we had to jump while saying that our company was growing. The producers come up with most of the ideas and it’s all good fun! Most of these interviews are never aired.
Once on set, they lead you up the stairs then count you down 3...2...1… the door opens and you head out to start your pitch.
The producers and the stagehands have already taken all of your equipment and they've set it up for you. As you walk down the stairs, that's the first time you see the dragons and everything is set up and ready waiting for you there. What's really cool and what I did not expect beforehand is that the dragons have no idea who's coming down the stairs. So there's a conscious effort made for them to not know which companies are next to the point where there will actually cover a lot of the props before a company walks down the stairs to keep them hidden. That allows the viewer to see the Dragons’ initial reactions as they start figuring out what type of company this might be whether it’s a food company or a services company or a grow box company like Grobo.
So now you're standing there you're facing the dragons. And it begins. Our entire taping probably took somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes. It's easy to lose track of time and they edit it all down to about a seven minute segment. Since the segment is so short what happens is that a lot of the interactions don't necessarily make it on screen. That's just because they're trying to make a fun and engaging show. In Grobo’s case, one of the biggest interaction that didn't make it on screen is that Lane Merrifield, one of the Dragons, actually walked over to see the product and look more closely at how it was built and how it works.
Overall, they asked a lot of great questions and only once in the entire filming process was there a quick cut and repeat of one of the Dragons’ lines that wasn’t caught on a mic. The rest is one fluid cut with no retakes or do-overs. All six investors are constantly asking questions which can be difficult to follow since they often speak at the same time, however the editing makes it seem like it's it's largely a one person at a time discussion.
Yes, we were offered and accepted it on the show. In the months after filming, we worked with the venture capital team of one of those investors to perform due diligence. In the end, we closed the funds from other investors before the deal with the Dragons’ was finalized.
Overall, it was a phenomenal experience for us and the exposure has been fantastic. It was so cool just being on the Dragon's Den show. The is absolutely massive and it's really an incredible experience to have gone through.
We have built a good relationship with a few of the Dragons since the show and look forward to working with them in the future. I’d highly recommend going on the show to anybody that's looking for a deal, some good investors, exposure and really just a phenomenal experience.