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The inside story of my Dragons’ Den experience!

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The inside story of my Dragons’ Den experience!

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September 4th, 2015

Chances are if you’re reading this, you’ve probably seen John Readman’s (Ride25’s CEO) appearance on BBC2’s Dragons’ Den. If you haven’t, and want to take a look, you can here…

The 10-minute edit that you saw of Ride25 was just a fraction of what when on behind the scenes, so here’s his inside story in case you’ve ever wondered what really happens in the Den…

DD freeze frame 4How and Why Ride25 went on the show…

When I got a phone call out of the blue from a BBC producer saying he’d like Ride25 to pitch on Dragons’ Den, I thought it was a mate winding me up and told him to send me an email from his BBC email address so that I could ring him back to verify it was for real! (I have a lot of silly mates!)

Apparently, the BBC had spotted us on a website called where we had been ranked as one of the UK’s most exciting new businesses and they wanted us to appear on the programme. Although it wasn’t something we’d ever considered, we decided to go for it – perhaps it was the flattery of being asked, or the fact that we knew we’d be on prime-time TV (something that our current marketing budget can’t stretch to!) The investment wasn’t really a big draw for us, however, the consumer marketing expertise of a Dragon would have been an asset to our business to help us to expand.

DD freeze frame 3The day of the show…

We turned up to the studio bright and early and were shown into the green room where we waited a few hours before getting ‘the lift’ into the Den. We were at the studio in total from 8am to 6pm at night, with the Dragons filming four or five pitches per day. They do this for a total of 3-4 weeks, so no wonder they look fiery at times! (Although a lot of this is in the edit as they did actually smile and laugh!)

(A small note for BBC licence payers, you’ll be pleased to know that the green room offerings only extend to own-brand chocolate biscuits and instant coffee – no wastage on the finer things in life here!)

What really happened in the Den…

After we cycled into the Den it was my chance to give my 3-minute pitch to the Dragons. I felt my pitch went pretty well – admittedly I was nervous (who wouldn’t be standing in front of five Dragons in my lycra!?) but I was glad that I got across everything that I wanted to. Unfortunately, the TV edit didn’t show my full pitch, which came across as a bit disjointed – but that’s to be expected I guess from as TV show! (If you want to read my full pitch, have a look here)

As you will have seen, we asked for £250,000 for a 25% stake in the business. The figure sought was always likely to be an issue. There have been very few deals made at that level – one I believe. BBC producers tried to persuade us to reduce our demands prior to pitching and it’s possible we may have got it had we gone for less, but we went in with our eyes open!

Deborah Meaden immediately fired a question about the £1m valuation. I explained that I wasn’t valuing the business at £1m but £750,000. The £1m would be a post-money valuation if I managed to successfully pitch to them. Peter Jones jumped in to help me explain this to Deborah. As per usual in the Den, I then took some intense grilling about my business numbers – which, I was pleased, went very smoothly (but clearly not bad or dramatic enough to make it onto TV!)

DD freeze frame 2Another big side of our business, which wasn’t shown on TV, was the charitable element. I was asked in depth how we work with charities to help them to fundraise, and also how much we donate to our corporate charities Re-cycle and 1morechild.
All in all, (and I know this wasn’t really shown in the TV edit) the overall feedback from the Dragons was positive. They loved what we do, the fact that the timing is great with cycling being so popular at the moment and also the charitable side of it. Interestingly, they said that they know lots of people who would love to come on a Ride25 tour! (Indeed Sarah Willingham said that it was right up her husband’s street!) Even though Peter Jones came across as a bit of an anti-cyclist baddy on the programme, I don’t actually remember him saying some of those things – particularly the part about me taking him for a ride saying that our business was worth £1m – and the fact that we ‘don’t have a business’…. Maybe I have blanked that part of my interview, but I tend to think that some elements of the show are taken post-edit to create a good story… and Peter is famous for his one-liners.

In total I faced a grilling for an hour and a half, but on returning to the team I was convinced I’d only been gone 25 minutes! No wonder some people faint or ask for a chair!

While I’ll willingly admit it’s one of the hardest things I’ve done – and I’ve done a lot of public speaking – I was told that we have a good business, to keep what we’re doing, but (oddly) not to be so ambitious by trying to cycle all the way to Australia! Nick Jenkins said that the best cycling is to be had between the Uk and the Alps…. Although we agree that there is some truly spectacular cycling between here and the Alps, equally, there are some fabulous (if not even better cycling routes past the Alps that we have already discovered. and many more which are waiting to be explored by our Ride25 riders!) Perhaps Nick Jenkins needs to come on one of our tours to experience it though!

3 Responses to “The inside story of my Dragons’ Den experience!”

  1. Roger Williams Says:

    Well done John and good luck. Ben’s dad (Roger)

  2. chris ash Says:

    An excellent and insightful account of your experience John, I dare the dragons to have a go on the Nurofen Pass….

  3. David Says:

    Hey John
    I so wanted to catch-up and chat with you about this at the London Bike Show. Second best, I ended up with a nice cap. This is a great review and gives some excellent food for thought.
    Would love to catch up some time!


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