Dragons’ Den: Simon Woodroffe OBE

The YO! Sushi founder was an investor in series one and failed to make any investments. He has since sold his controlling stake in YO! and started a hotel

Dragon from: Series 1 only, 2005
Number of investments made: 1 (Mycorrhizal Systems) but the deal failed after the show
Largest sum invested: £75,000 but the deal fell through after the show
Most successful investment on the show: N/A

Who is Simon Woodroffe?

Retail entrepreneur Simon Woodroffe is the founder of YO! Sushi; the international sushi franchise which he started out as a single restaurant in London’s Soho back in 1997.

Before selling his controlling issue in YO! Sushi in 2003 in a £10m deal, Woodroffe scaled the chain to become the market leader in sushi restaurants with 12 restaurants, including an outlet in Harvey Nichols and a restaurant in Manchester. Today, YO! Sushi has expanded to the US, Europe and the Middle East, and Woodroffe now receives 1% of the business’ gross sales.

Awarded an OBE in 2006, Woodroffe also works as a motivational speaker and gives speeches at conferences and events around the world.

Woodroffe as a Dragon

In what seemed like a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ performance, Woodroffe only appeared in the first series of Dragons’ Den. He made one investment while on the show; agreeing to fund £75,000 to help Mycorrhizal Systems purchase land for a truffle farm. However, this investment fell through after the show aired.

Speaking to Growingbusiness.co.uk in 2008, Woodroffe said of his decision to leave the Den:

“The trouble with Dragons’ Den and one of the reasons I left, is that the BBC wanted to get crap people on so that I could kick the shit out of them, and I didn’t really want to do that. I think it’s always been about encouraging.

“I always thought we should get better people on and I actually think it would be a better programme long-term because you could then have seen more follow-ups.”

Life after the Den

In 2007, Woodroffe launched the Startups 100-listed YOTEL hotel brand. Inspired by hotels in Japan and with £30m investment, Woodroffe launched the first class cabin-style hotel capsules offering them initially in Gatwick and then in Heathrow. There are now over 1,000 ‘YOTELS’ in three countries with a further 4,000 planned.

Woodroffe has also launched a number of separate arms under the YO! Company group such as YO! Home – a new property venture – and the YO! Foundation; which supports a number of charities.

More recently, Woodroffe worked on an eight-month business mentoring campaign with Volkswagen where he travelled across the UK giving business owners advice. Speaking to Growingbusiness.co.uk in 2014, Woodroffe said his biggest tip for start-up entrepreneurs was to “do it now, find someone who has done it before and get a mentor”.

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