Entrepreneurs enter ‘Dragon’s Den’ at Surrey hotel

GUILDFORD – What does it take to get on CBC’s Dragon’s Den? A little more than just a good idea.

Dozens of local business-minded hopefuls flocked to the Sheraton Vancouver Guildford Hotel, where producers screened them to determine who could present their plans to some of Canada’s biggest entrepreneurial experts.

“We look for people who come in with a lot of energy, a lot of charisma, a lot of passion,” said Richard Maerov, one of eight producers who evaluate the estimated 3,000 pitches per season.

Like many judgment-based reality shows, contestants don’t present in front of the onscreen panel right away; producers tour the country conducting auditions, asking detailed questions about business models and market research – without the snide remarks of Kevin O’Leary.

In Surrey, producers heard pitches for a variety of inventions, including a digital keychain that stores barcodes for reward cards, a splashguard for bartenders who muddle drinks, online strata business software and a paintbrush with interchangeable heads.

“We’re looking at the uniqueness of the business, how different it is from what already exists and what people already know about,” said Maerov.

Joe Facciolo, 32, and Skai Dalzeil, 33, showed off their social gifting app Guusto, which means “great taste” in Italian. The duo emphasized Guusto’s personal feel and versatility in offering dining gifts that can be used at multiple franchises, rather than locking in to one location of one chain.

“We definitely wanted to highlight the uniqueness of our product, of our app,” said Facciolo. “Being able to show a demo was pretty key for us.”

Facciolo and Dalzeil told producers they were asking for $250,000 to hire two developers, test various marketing programs and build functionality for the app to run in the United States. In exchange, the “dragons” would get a piece of the pie, though the size of that piece had yet to be determined.

While they had never applied to be on the show before – some applicants return year after year to pitch their ideas – they were comfortable throughout their 10-minute pitch.

“Although it was our first audition for Dragon’s Den, we’ve pitched for a number of different investor groups,” said Dalzeil.

Producers made suggestions, such as cutting the more detailed PowerPoint slides in favour of a strong, live demo and other visuals.

“If we do make it Toronto, we’ll have to be cognizant and kind of scale back the more mundane details,” said Facciolo.

Thousands of aspiring presenters pitch their ideas every year, but only a select few punch their ticket to the Queen City. However, getting flown across Canada doesn’t mean you’ll be on TV – some presentations end up on the cutting room floor.

jzinn@thenownewspaper.com

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