27 March 2009

Through the Fire & Flames, Dragons' Den Pitch

For the past 9 months I have been working on a side project with a client/friend of mine - we've called it Arenacam and it's fully operational.

The idea behind this endeavor is to allow parents and grandparents the ability to view minor hockey (...or ringette ...or figure skating) from the comfort of their PC. This means that dads that work late can still catch little Johnny's first goal and soldiers that are stationed overseas don't have to miss a game.

Arenacam streams live video from centre ice over the internet.

Pretty cool, eh?

We thought so too. Which is why when we decided to pitch it to the Dragons' Den, a CBC TV program - one of the best shows out there in my opinion - I've watched it for a couple of seasons now.

We only learned of the auditions being held in Calgary a few days ago and did not have a whole lot of time to prepare and, considering that we only just got the working model in full operation a couple of weeks ago and have just proven the technology behind it, you can understand why we don't have all the marketing materials together for it yet (but I know a company that can help us out with that!). But, we through some quick materials together and for the first time, put our ideas about marketing and revenue generation down on paper for the pitch.

It's time to see how we can market it and make millions. We built the Ferrari, now it's time to take it out and see what it can do.

If you haven't seen the show, there is a panel of experienced (read successful) business people with money that you pitch your business or idea to and if they like what they see, they invest their hard earned money in you. It's a great concept. And, because the panelists are playing with their own money, they don't pull any punches and get right down to brass tacks. These panelists are the Dragons, you take your idea to their den - some walk away with a deal, most get burned.

Today, I pitched Arenacam to a pretty young lady, who is one of the producers of 'the Den and a University of Calgary professor, who, as I later learned, is a very highly thought of Professor, fondly known as Doctor Bob. This was the audition panel. Call them Dragon understudies, panelists or producers - they hold the ultimate hammer as to who appears and doesn't on the show. (was that enough sucking up?)

I opened the pitch with, this is the greatest idea since Hockey Night in Canada. It was a deliberate nod to the CBC and to illustrate it's potential as an idea within the hockey genre. I explained the idea which they quickly understood and liked. This was great - everyone was in agreement that it is a great idea... in fact, I've not heard a negative comment about the idea, from anyone I've told.

The only negative on our pitch was the fact that we don't have a revenue stream or sponsors at this time. Dragons want to know how they're going to make money - and rightly so. Both my partner and I believe in the idea and wanted to prove that we could make it work first before selling it to sponsors. Selling something that might work is a lot harder than something that does. We're confident that it can make money - we just don't have that part of the business worked out yet. You know the whole cart and horse thing, which comes first? The idea beats out the cart and the horse - you don't need either without first having an idea.

Brett Wilson, one of the actual Dragons and an icon in corporate Calgary, dropped in and spoke to our small group, which may have been about 15 people. He explained what he was looking for when he looks at investing, he said, 'it always comes down to people' - he invests in good ideas brought forward by dynamic people, 'you invest in their braintrust'. This gave me hope. That is what our project is after all - a great idea and I like to think that my partner and I are dynamic or at the very least, copacetic.

He also mentioned that what it takes for success are three things: Brains, Courage (my word, not his) and a Wallet. He assumes the role of the wallet for the show, but with his track record you know he doesn't lack the other two.

Our pitch was for the Dragons to fund a rapid expansion - put arenacam into 150 arenas, 10 in each of 15 major markets across Canada. A bold ambition, yes, but certainly feasible and would secure a nationwide network for advertising sponsorship. The cost of this expansion is unknown at this time, but the Dragons needed a number. We came up with $1.5 million, realistically, it's probably a million too much, but it's easier to go down in your price than up. In retrospect, I shouldn't have offered any price this early in the project, but the Dragons, they feed on numbers.

After being grilled on the numbers for what seemed like way too long, it was over with the promise of a review of the web site and that they would let us know. I was expecting the golden ticket a la American Idol, but it's not that kind of reality show - they don't disclose if you're in or out. It's hard to say if our idea will make it through to the next level - don't call us, we'll call you always leaves you with that feeling that you weren't exactly what they were looking for, but I am confident that our idea will win the hearts of the producers at the CBC when they review the auditions prior to the season.

On a final note, the panel agreed that Arenacam was a great idea - whether or not it's worthy of the Dragon's eating it up on national TV is yet to be determined. But they did like the idea.

I will keep you posted. Fingers crossed.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

sounds like a great idea and i can't wait to see it on air
looking forward and crossing my fingers that you and your wonderful idea will make it on tv

3/30/2009 08:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

awesome idea!

3/30/2009 08:52:00 PM  
Blogger Kevin Franco said...

There have been some recent developments that are very exciting, but I dare not explain any further for fear of the deal imploding...

3/31/2009 08:26:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I take it this venture was unfortunately not successful? I ask as I keep seeing the camera case in the Spindles and Stairs arena and would love to be able to utilize the technology when I am away on business.

9/24/2014 02:14:00 PM  

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