Dragons’ Den’s most successful businesses

Startups takes a look at the progress of some of the best businesses to have passed through the Den

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It’s now over 10 years since the first episode of Dragons’ Den aired on British TV screens and in that time we’ve seen some brilliant, and not so brilliant, businesses pass through the Den.

While many of the start-ups which have appeared on the BBC show have since floundered or failed to gain traction, a number have gone on to achieve huge success – with and without the Dragons’ investments.

We’ve delved into the Den archives to find out what has happened to 16 of the brightest businesses to have pitched to the Dragons and where they are now.

From the popular Levi Roots to the £65m-valued Tangle Teezer dubbed “hair-brained” by Peter Jones, click the red button to find out just what happened once the Den’s cameras stopped rolling, and discover a few highlights below…

Tangle Teezer (£70 million)

The creation of former hair colourist Shaun Pulfrey, Tangle Teezer – a hair comb with 400 teeth which can glide through wet or dry hair – failed to muster interest in the Den with Pulfrey’s pitch dubbed “hair-brained” and a “waste of time” by the Dragons.

When he appeared on the show, Pulfrey was unable to evidence any sales as he had only began manufacturing the brush, had no deals lined up with distributors, and had inadvertently insulted Meaden’s hair colour; factors which led all five Dragons to negate from investing.

Poor pitching aside, Pulfrey’s plans to take the business UK-wide have been achieved and then some.

Recently valued at a hair-raising £70m, Tangle Teezer now boasts a roster of celebrity fans including Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham, Nicole Scherzinger, Cara Delevingne, and even Princess Kate Middleton, and is now stocked in Boots stores across the country.

Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce (£30 million)

One of the biggest success stories of the Den to date, Levi Roots has become a household name with his popular hot BBQ sauces that tell you to “put some music in your food”.

Having serenaded the Dragons in his pitch with the song that he would later become widely famous for, Roots (real name Keith Graham) won investment from Jones and Farleigh on a “punt” and was told by Duncan Bannatyne that there was “no future for his business”. Fast forward eight years and Roots has undoubtedly proved Bannatyne wrong.

Reggae Reggae sauces are now stocked in all the major UK supermarkets and Roots has expanded his range to cover chilled ready meals, pasties and even Caribbean-flavoured soft drinks – taking his worth to an estimated £30m according to the Sunday Times Rich List.

Wonderbly (£30 million)

Founded in 2012 by ‘dadpreneurs’ Asi Sharabi, David Cadji-Newby, Tal Oron and Pedro Serapicos, Wonderbly (then known as Lost My Name) took to the Den in 2014 in search of a £100,000 funding boost.

During the pitch, the Dragons were impressed by the rapid growth that the business had experienced so far, having scaled by an eye-watering 2,000% between the October and November of 2013.

But it was tech-lover and fellow father Piers Linney who was won over by the business – so much so that he broke records by investing all of the requested money for just 4% equity; the best equity deal in the history of Dragons’ Den.

And it seems that this bold move paid off. Known for its beautiful illustrations, fun stories and intricate personalisation, Wonderbly has now sold over two million books in countries all over the world.

Gripit (£14 million)

GripIt Fixing founder Jordan Daykin made Dragons’ Den history when, at 18 years-old, he became the youngest entrepreneur to ever secure investment on the show.

Having created a patented solution for firmly fixing screws into plasterboard with the ability to hold 180kg in weight, Daykin’s confident pitch won over Deborah Meaden who invested £80,000 for a 25% equity stake in the business. And her decision to invest was a sensible one.

While still only 20 years-old, Daykin’s start-up venture is already profitable and he claims that the business is now worth £14m; which means Meaden is set to make a good return. In fact, Daykin has gone so far as to say that his business is the Den’s “biggest ever success story”.

Trunki (£12 million)

No-one in their right mind would think that business was worth £1m” – was the comment made by Paphitis following Trunki’s exit from the Den in 2006; an appearance which had seen founder Rob Law fail to win investment from the Dragons.

17 years later, Paphitis’ remark couldn’t be further from the truth.

Widely known to be one of the Den’s most successful ‘rejects’, Law’s sit-on, ride-along children’s suitcases have become a familiar sight at airports all over the world, secured £4m backing from the government-backed Business Growth Fund in 2013, and Trunki, the well-known children’s suitcase brand, has recently been sold in a deal thought to be worth over £12 million.

Pouch (£10 million)

Pouch, a free browser extension launched by Jonny Plein, Ben Corrigan and Vikram Simha in 2016, automatically finds and presents users with the best legitimate discount codes available as they shop online.

“Post-Dragons’ Den filming, we were offered nearly triple the investment amount for an equity amount we felt much more comfortable with, putting Pouch at a deserved multi-million-pound value.

Not to mention the PR boost afforded by the episode. After it went live, Pouch gained a whopping 60,000 new users and, as of May 2018, had hit 100,000 downloads.

The breadth of its offering, too, has grown – the extension now shows codes for more than 3,500 retailers, including ASOS, Amazon, Argos, Currys, Debenhams, Gap and John Lewis.

Furthermore, in May 2018 Pouch was rightly recognised as one of the UK’s top 100 most exciting start-ups in our 2018 Startups 100 index.

Worthenshaw’s (£4 million)

Now 29, Worthenshaw’s founder Kirsty Henshaw was the youngest entrepreneur to receive funding from the Dragons when she appeared on the show in 2010 with her range of free-from, frozen ice cream alternatives.

Bannatyne and Jones were keen to take a stake in the business and help the budding female entrepreneur to launch nationally in major supermarkets. However, it would appear that Henshaw was unable to gain the traction needed for the ice cream business and, in July 2012, it was announced that Worthenshaw’s had rebranded to Kirsty’s with a focus on chilled adult-ready meals.

Henshaw’s decision to pivot the business appears to have paid off and her gluten-free, dairy-free meals are now stocked in Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado and Asda with sales reported to have grown 75% in the last 12 months.

Now valued at £4m, the Kirsty’s brand is rapidly taking off and on her blog Henshaw has commented that “while the business has evolved and moved on from desserts to concentrate on savoury meals, the aim and vision of the company remains unchanged”.

Skinny Tan (£2.2 million)

Any business which boasts profit figures of £600,000 for its first year is always going to turn heads in the Den and Skinny Tan did just that – attracting offers from all five Dragon investors.

Launched in Australia in 2012 by Kate Cotton and Louise Ferguson, Skinny Tan is a naturally-deriving fake tanning lotion which claims to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

With revenues of £1m for 2014 and turnover set to double to £2.2m over the next 12 months, it’s no wonder that Skinny Tan was a winner in the Den.

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