Dragons’ Den: James Caan CBE

The recruitment entrepreneur and private equity fund owner left in 2010. He’s since been involved with Start Up Loans and received a title from the Queen

Dragon from: Series 5 – Series 8, 2007 to 2010 (exited the show in 2011)
Number of investments made: 18
Largest sum invested: £200,000
Most successful investment on the show: Rapstrap

Who is James Caan?

James Caan is one of the country’s most influential entrepreneurs with a business portfolio said to be worth over $95m. Yet it was his three-year stint on Dragons’ Den that really helped raise his profile and make him a familiar face in the enterprise landscape.

Born Nazim Khan – he later changed his name to James Caan after the Hollywood star – Caan was a successful recruitment entrepreneur and investor before joining the Den.

He founded the recruitment company Alexander Mann Group in 1985, which he sold in 2002, and co-founded head-hunting firm Humana International; exiting in 1999. He also founded private equity firm Hamilton Bradshaw which he still runs as CEO. In addition, Caan is involved in a number of charitable activities; founding the James Caan Foundation in 2006.

Caan as a Dragon

During his time on the Den, Caan made 18 investments in a variety of businesses which included dog treadmill business Fit Fur Life, a company specialising in ‘Toastabags’, and easy-to-install blind business Blindsinabox.

Of all his investments, cable tie start-up Rapstrap has been his most successful. Caan, and fellow Dragon Duncan Bannatyne, invested £150,000 in the business in in exchange for a 50% share in Series 6. Soon after, plastic distributor Hitachi-Maxell secured a £36m contract for the product.

Life after the Den

In an interview with Growing Business back in 2011, Caan explained that he’d left the Den in order to concentrate on the entrepreneurs he had already backed rather than staying on the show and just “doing deals for deal’s sake”.

In 2012, he became chairman of the Start Up Loans programme – the government-backed scheme designed to provide loans and mentoring to people looking to start a business – and he remained in this role until 2015 when he stepped down.

In 2013, he launched an annual competition to find the UK’s next recruitment stars, offering mentoring as well as capital, and in 2014 he gained the title of one of the top LinkedIn Influencers, above Barack Obama and David Cameron, for his blogs about career advice and tips for small business owners.

In the 2015 New Years’ Honours List Caan was awarded a CBE from the Queen in recognition of his services to entrepreneurship, combined with his charitable work.

Fast forward to 2016 and Caan remains an active investor and continues to back fast-growing start-ups across Britain, with a particular penchant for recruitment businesses. In July 2016, he invested in Belfast recruitment firm Hayward Hawk and in June he backed Newcastle recruitment start-up EliteSoft Group. He’s also found success in backing property ventures with one business on his portfolio, 90 North Real Estate Partners, having recently achieved $1bn in property investments.

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