Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dragons' Den or Parasites' Puddle?

I've watched two or three Dragons' Den programme so far and I was really cross with what I saw in the last programme.

A Yorkshire man who invented a device that would save water when flushing toilets was slagged off for being an 'eco-warrior' and written off as uninvestible. He was deemed more interested in saving the world than succeeding in his business.

This inventor-entrepreneur was described as arrogant and questions were raised about whether he expected people to look at their own p-- before flushing. This requires a change in habit and the 'Dragons' were not convinced that the device would sell.

These 'Dragons' simply didn't get it, did they? The environment has come to such a state that people MUST change their habits and if there are gadgets and tools to help people to do so, then such are to be applauded. They have no idea how fast the market size for earth-friendly products is growing.

(As an aside, there is such a high incidence of colon cancer in this country that people of a certain age have been advised: Don't blush. Look before you flush. It is good to study one's p--. Mothers with young children do that all the time. Too light: not enough iron. Too hard: must drink more water. Floaters: not chewing food enough or bad digestion!)

This Yorkshire inventor was also viewed as being anti-capitalist. I didn't actually hear what he said (due to his accent) to warrant such a conclusion by one of the Dragons. If the inventor was anti-capitalist, would he have gone to these out-and-out capitalists to try to get some investment?

Then we saw a young man who claimed to have developed a puzzle cube. There were several 'Dragons' bidding for this product. They wanted to invest in his company or his product for high percentages of equity.

'Don't do it! Don't do it!' I kept shouting from the comforts of my sofa.

The Dragons' faces lit up when they were told that the puzzle cubes, manufactured in China, cost $2 (presumably US) to make. They are being retailed at above £15. Whoa! High profit margin. They want a slice of it. You can imagine them rubbing their hands together in glee, cerebrally.

No questions were asked about the working conditions of the worker-producers. No reservations were raised about the use of plastic AND wood in making the puzzles. What sort of plastic? Is it coated in harmful chemicals? From where does the wood come from? Where do you think a Chinese manufacturer would buy wood from?

A fellow PhD student conducted research amongst Chinese factory workers in Shenzhen and her thesis contains some really woeful tales of what these young girls have to endure while the big bosses and foreign investors soak up the profits.

Do these 'Dragons' care? No. They were each only keen to negotiate as big a slice of pie (cake?) as they could get from this young man. What is £100,000 to any of these when they have millions at their disposal? Yet you see them trying to claw away at as much equity as possible from this young man.

Publicity on this programme paints each of these 'Dragons' as being successful beyond measure. But look carefully. From selling ice-cream to owning a chain of nursing homes? Impressive. Who wouldn't make money out of nursing homes in this country when the government has to pay to support their aged?

Some of the 'Dragons' obviously came from privileged families where there was money to spare. Sure, they had done well buying and selling businesses. That is the name of the game and I do not have anything against it per se. But how much of success in life boils down to being at the right place at the right time? How many of these could profess to be whiter than white when it comes to (evading) tax matters, for example, especially when they were starting out in business?

I don't begrudge the hard work these 'Dragons' had put into their businesses to make them successful. Along the way they would have learned many skills and tricks to help other entrepreneurs, I'm sure. That is why I watch the programme.

But I cannot bear their arrogance. On another programme when another inventor decided not to accept their investment for a large percentage of equity he was not prepared to give away -- much to my relief -- one of the 'Dragons' described him as 'barking mad' and another said he could not have bought advice from one of them for the price he was willing to invest.

They are not so much interested in developing a product or person as such, they only want the profit at the end of the day. Just because they have come to a certain station in life where they have the money to invest, they are simply acting out their natural instincts as predators.

They are capitalizing on the hard work of invention and product development put in by others. Others who have already done the legwork, established good working relationships with suppliers and manufacturers, researched their market, registered the patents, etc, etc. To accept their temporary injection of money and lose equity would be like inviting a parasite to make a home in oneself.

Which is why I'd rather view the programme as 'Parasites' Puddle'.

Back to Organic-Ally.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Being eco friendly and running a business is quite possible but, not seeking large profit and being ethical in ones dealings is "not quite the thing" if you are a capitalist. The Co-op seem to manage pretty well, though and their bank too. What many of todays big business have not taken into account is that many of todays youth (inc my daughter) are keen to know the origin of products and have joined the NO SWEAT campaign and others like it. I also think there are plenty of people like us out there - we are just not news. I am alwayschecking the ethiscore of companies before I buy. Have you seen the Corporate Critic website? Lyds