After entering the Dragons' Den and living to tell the tale, ET-Games secured funding from Streetbank founder Sam Stevens.
Dragons' Den is a popular BBC TV series where frightened entrepreneurs pitch for investment to a panel of intimidating rich people. We were invited on with our first game, Pucket. We failed to convince them, but we accepted an offer from Streetbank founder Sam Stephens for the full amount and on the same terms as we were asking for in the Den. We had practised our pitch to Sam prior to filming, but the practice turned out to be the real thing when he turned round and made us an offer - for a moment we thought he was just staying in character! As a result of Sam’s investment, we were able to stock up fully for Christmas and the games have been selling faster than we can have them made. Going on Dragons' Den was a bit like a speed dating event at the end of which you must marry or forever part. It was helpful to be forced to do lots of detailed business planning, and the filming day itself was great fun. However, it is very odd to be in potentially the most important business meeting of your career and not be allowed to bring or take notes, let alone a calculator. We have three bits of advice for would-be entrants to the Den:
- Memorise your numbers and trust them.
- Be ready for some scathing (theatrical) comments from the Dragons.
- Don’t get flustered; you know your business better than they do.
Not all of which were aired.
IS PUCKET BORING?Peter Jones threw this one at us. We think it’s because he lost his game against Theo. It’s certainly true that not everyone enjoys a game of Pucket, that’s why our strap line is “Finger-flicking fun for nearly everyone” (that and the fact that it lends jaunty rhythm to the line). However, we’ve introduced Pucket to enough random punters at festivals up and down the land to know that most are not as hard to entertain as Peter – they play for hours and end up more Pucket-obsessed than we are.
Will you take Deborah Meaden’s advice to have the game manufactured in the UK?Our relationship with our Indian suppliers is good, and we would not want to leave them in the lurch. However, we are in discussions with Blue Sky Inside, a social enterprise that provides meaningful work for offenders in UK prisons. We would also like to consider UK manufacturers for our next game. If you have a factory that makes things out of wood, give us a call.
Why didn’t your numbers add up when you explained your costs to Peter Jones?No Den pitch is complete without an awkward moment where the numbers don't add up - luckily ours wasn't aired. The confusion was caused because Peter Jones was adding up our costs and saying “I’ve got £42k”, whereas we were subtracting them from our gross profit, and saying “That should get you to the £35k”.
Shouldn't you subtract the company's debt from your valuation?Duncan Bannatyne – the sly bean counter – complained that our company valuation should be reduced by the amount of our debt – which at the time was £20k. His point was that if you’re about to buy a business for £100, and then you discover that the business owes £20 to someone else, then you’re entitled to a £20 discount. Duncan’s point is a fair one, except in our case we didn’t just have £20k debt, we also had £20k pre-paid orders with our supplier (that’s why we took the debt in the first place). Unless a business has made a loss, it’s unlikely to have debts without owning something of a corresponding positive value.
Why don’t you have a marketing budget?Theo Paphitis made a meandering speech to us about Perudo and a card game called “O [insert naughty word] Hell”. This wasn't aired in the final cut. We think his point was that traditional games can be great fun and be re-discovered, but if you don’t own the game then you need a big marketing budget in order to “build your brand”, as otherwise competitors can push in and start selling the same game. Theo’s own example, Perudo, is in fact a good counter-example to the marketing budget myth: have you ever seen an advert for Perudo? Advertising doesn’t work (for us at least), and it’s a public nuisance – whereas demonstrations and recommendations are either free or make us money. Pucket has had lots of free editorial coverage in newspapers and magazines, and when we attend summer festivals and demonstrate the game to thousands of people, we sell enough to more than cover our costs. We believe that marketing shouldn’t be separated from the product itself – the best reason to buy something is because you’ve tried it and enjoyed it, not because there’s a sexy ad for it on TV.
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