One of the thrills of watching this show is discovering which Dragon will put their money where their (often acerbic) mouth is and invest. The rules of the programme stipulate that contestants must declare exactly how much funding they’re after at the start of their pitch. Failure to secure at least this amount of cash will see them leave the studio empty handed.
The beauty of the show is that the Dragons don’t necessarily have to invest the whole amount themselves – making for some unlikely business bedfellows as they team up to offer a percentage each of the amount requested, usually in return for a larger share of the start-up than the contestant had previously agreed to relinquish.
In our second blogpost of this series we’ll be scrutinising the hard cash at the heart of this TV gold, and separating the big spenders from the bail-outs and Scrooges.
What was the smallest investment?
Taking into account the effect of inflation, the smallest investment ever was made by Duncan Bannatyne in series 12 episode 3, when he invested £40k in a product that allows buyers to make their own cider in just 10 days. Victor’s Drinks was the brainchild of home-brewers Ralph Broadbent and Alex Dixon, who offered 15% equity in return for investment. Clearly Duncan was thirsty for a more significant stake in the bevvy business, however, and he finally won out. The deal closed with him securing a 25% bite of the apple.
What was the largest investment?
Credit where credit is due. In series 6 episode 3 it was the super cool pitch of Michael Cotton who got the Dragons all revved up – and digging deep – with his ingenious Fuel Angel. The simple device can replace the fuel filler cap on virtually every model of diesel car, van and light commercial vehicle to prevent the nozzle of unleaded petrol pumps being slotted into the wide-bore neck of diesel tanks. So impressed were the hard-nosed Dragons that Theo Paphitis and Deborah Meaden jointly agreed to invest £250,000 (£292k in today’s prices, and a record for the programme) in return for 25% of the business. The team behind the pitch were only prepared to hand over 20% and ultimately decided to go it alone. Cotton later said: “Since filming the Dragons’ Den programme the interest from around the world has been phenomenal. We have launched the product in the UK but have also acquired patents for Europe and the USA. We are receiving inquiries from as far afield as Australia.” Sounds like they’re not likely to run out of gas anytime soon…
The average investment adjusted for inflation is £103,209.
The Dragons’ total investment adjusted for inflation is £15,700,069.
Number of investments per Dragon
The Dragon who invested the most times per episode was Theo Paphitis, with 42 investments over 78 episodes. He was closely followed by Peter Jones, James Caan and Deborah Meaden, who all invested, on average, once in every two episodes. Meaden is often slammed for being among the stingiest business celebs on the panel, but our data shows the reverse. She told the Guardian: “I get criticised all the time for not investing but I am one of the highest investors. I come over as quite blunt, and I wonder if that is why people miss the point when I am saying, “You are very good, I like you.” I’m very direct, I don’t believe in wasting time, in wasting words.”
On the other side of the scale, the Dragon who invested the least amount of times was Doug Richard, with Simon Woodroffe and Kelly Hoppen close behind.
Read on to our part two to find our more about how the Dragons’ invested. What was the highest individual investment per series and who were the top investors across all of the 11 and a half series. Read more.