Have you ever wondered what happened to entrepreneurs who were rejected on Dragons’ Den? Here are a few companies that the investors wish they didn’t turn away – you’ve probably heard of them.
Dragons’ Den is a British public favourite as entrepreneurs enter their cave in an attempt to secure funding from five wealthy investors.
Since the show premiered in 2005, over 1000 contestants have approached the Dragons and more than 276 deals have been secured, with over £22 million pledged in investments.
However, have you ever wondered what happened to the businesses that the Dragons deemed unprofitable? Here are some of the biggest successes which would’ve had the investors frustrated at “the one that got away”.
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The Dragons made a huge mistake with these businesses
One of the Dragons’ Dens rejects includes Alex Savelli and Finn Lagun. They appeared on the show in 2018 to pitch Pasta Evangelists, a service that delivers fresh, restaurant-quality, and authentic pasta straight to doorsteps.
The pair requested £75,000 in exchange for a 1.5% stake; although the judges were impressed with the samples, they ultimately didn’t offer any funding. Touker Suleyman labelled them “delusional” after the entrepreneurs predicted Pasta Evangelists to be worth £200 million.
Two years later, the company ended 2020 with £14 million in revenue, and in 2021, they were reportedly acquired by the world’s largest pasta company for £40 million. The service even launched its restaurant in Harrods in May 2021.
James Watt and Martin Dickie applied for Dragons’ Den in 2009, asking for a £100,000 investment in return for 20% of the business. However, they didn’t manage to pitch the idea to the investors after bosses deemed their business as “not unique enough, special enough or with enough growth potential to appear on the show.” – ouch.
The craft beer and pub chain business was valued at $2 billion in 2020, so it looks like the rejection hurt the Dragons more than the founders now.
Another from the list of Dragons’ Den rejects is the Tangle Teezer. It is now a cult beauty product at this point, but hairdresser Shaun Palfrey got off to a rough start. In 2007, he aimed for £80,000 for a 15% stake, but the Dragons rejected him because it was “just a brush”.
Now, the hairbrush is in nearly every girl’s vanity and has been endorsed by the likes of Keira Knightley and Victoria Beckham. In 2021, Palfrey sold most of his shares to Mayfair Equity Partners, placing the business at a value of £70 million.
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Possibly the most popular and fun suitcase for kids, Rob Law pitched his idea in hopes of a £100,000 investment in exchange for 10% of the company. Trunki is the world’s first rideable suitcase for children but was turned away in 2006.
Richard Farleigh offered only half the target amount for the same stake, so Rob left empty-handed. Since then, over 4 million suitcases in over 100 countries have been sold – Rob truly was the one that got away.
James Nash’s invention – a single-serve plastic glass of French wine with a foil lid – was deemed unprofitable because “people don’t want to buy wine in plastic glasses like that with a seal on top”, according to Duncan Bannatyne.
Oh, how wrong he was – Nash asked for £250,000 for a 25% stake and after he was turned away in 2009, M&S took on Cup-A-Wine and the rest is history. It’s believed the annual turnover the following year was calculated at £.15 million.
Hungry House was introduced to the Dragons in 2007 after Shane Lake and Tony Charles requested £100,000 in return for 11%. James Caan and Duncan Bannatyne offered the total amount in exchange for 50% of the business, but the deal never materialised.
The investors are probably beating themselves up right now; Just Eat purchased Hungry House in 2018 in a deal worth at least £200 million – the latter was the former’s biggest UK competitor.