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27th Feb 2020

Investor Brian Caulfield on Dragons’ Den: “It only shows part of the process”

Jamie Concannon

“It shows the initial investment stage and does that very badly.”

It would be interesting to find out just how much an effect the media has on our chosen profession. There are most certainly lawyers practicing today who grew up watching Law & Order, and doctors whose favourite show on TV was ER.

If that’s the case, then there must be entrepreneurs who were inspired by Dragons’ Den. Such is its influence that even those of us with no prospects of starting a business are engrossed in it, so you would imagine it’s even more so for those on the cusp of it.

TV dramas, while most certainly entertaining, very rarely reflect a perfect reality. Artistic licence is usually needed to spark things up, and Venture Partner at Draper Espirit Brian Caulfield said that is most certainly the case:

“To be honest the media portrayal of almost any profession tends to be wildly inaccurate, you know?

“I mean I was involved in a Twitter conversation recently about this phenomenon called Gell-Mann Murray Amnesia. He was a famous physicist and he would read something about physics in the newspaper, think to himself ‘This is a load of cobblers’, turn the page, forget that and think that the portrayal of medicine was very accurate.”

“If you look at things like Dragon’s Den, the first thing is that it only shows part of the process. It shows the initial investment stage and does that very badly. It doesn’t show the ongoing relationship between the investor and the entrepreneur.”

“It doesn’t show trials and tribulations of growing the business along the way”

There’s a reason why ER doesn’t show every step of prepping someone for surgery, or why Law & Order doesn’t do the same for going through boxes of evidence. Plain and simple, that reason is that it wouldn’t make very good TV.

Similarly, realities left on the cutting room floor for a show like Dragons’ Den will tend to be the less exciting ones. The many ups and downs faced by investors and entrepreneurs may not be reflected on the small screen, but Brian said they’re part of the harsh reality faced by anyone looking to run a successful new business:

“It doesn’t show trials and tribulations of growing the business along the way. It doesn’t show the exit so it’s entirely artificial…

“It’s like First Dates and kind of equating that to the duration of a relationship.

“I would say it’s generally unhelpful because it does create certain expectations in entrepreneurs as to what the process is going to be like.”

You can listen to the full episode below to find out more, as well as listen to venture capitalist John O’Sullivan talk about the importance of pushback.

All In, backed by AIB, is available everywhere you get your podcasts and on YouTube every Wednesday.