Lessons from Dragons’ Den, week 5: A masterclass from the JogPost duo

After their success on this week’s show, the pitch-perfect pair give us their tips

In previous editions of our Dragons’ Den blog, we’ve tended to focus on the failures, rather than the successes, of the applicants. Given the incessant torrent of wild projections, weird gimmicks and garbled responses we’ve seen thus far in the series, such a negative focus is surely understandable. But, just for a change, we’d like to be positive this week, and focus on what an applicant did well, not badly. On Sunday’s show the JogPost team of Henry Buckley and JJ Harding managed to tease four offers from the assembled Dragons, and demonstrate to the watching millions how to hit the perfect pitch in every detail. Buckley and Harding didn’t produce the most eye-catching pitch last night – that particular accolade surely goes to the couple who staged a mini-pantomime at the start – but everything they did was crisp, realistic and well-informed. Following Sunday’s episode, we asked Harding to give us the secrets of his team’s pitching success. Here’s what he told us:

Get the figures right

As we’ve seen throughout this series of Dragons’ Den thus far, many start-up entrepreneurs lack even the most basic command of their financial figures. But the JogPost duo nailed their numbers, inspiring instant respect from the Dragons. Harding told us: “Duncan (Bannatyne, who quizzed the applicants early on) is pretty on the ball with the financials, perhaps more than any of the Dragons, so impressing him with the figures made a massive difference. “Once Henry had delivered the figures, there were no further questions – which showed that we’d got them right.”

Stay realistic

Every aspect of the JogPost pitch was rooted in realism. Their request for investment valued the company at £500,000, less than three times turnover – far more sensible than some of the wild valuations we’ve seen in the Den recently. And they deliberately quoted conservative growth estimates, demonstrating a pragmatic attitude which clearly impressed the Dragons. Harding said: “The whole point is to be realistic so they, the investors, can get a fair appraisal of the company. We went in with a valuation of £500,000, and we realised the Dragons could figure out from the figures that that was an under-valuation. “The plan is scalable and realistic. We just have to tell it how it is, and anyone in business can see it’s scalable.”

Practice makes pitch-perfect

Any right-minded start-up would rehearse their pitch before delivering it, but Buckley and Harding had theirs down to a tee – their delivery, pace and body language were spot on. Harding told us this was the result of rigorous repetition, and real-life rehearsal. “Henry emailed me a draft version of the pitch the day before we went into the Den, we rehearsed it a little bit, I memorised my bit. We even practised for an hour and a half in the pub the night before – we got a couple of people in the beer garden and ran through it with them! “We speculated on loads of potential questions, but actually all the questions were questions we get on a day-to-day basis from our clients. We sell to businesspeople, so we’re used to that sort of scrutiny.”

Divide and rule

When you’re pitching as a team, it’s crucial that you clearly allocate responsibility for each potential subject area. If you don’t know which team member will answer in each area – be it finance, HR, marketing or business development – you run the risk of ruining your presentation. If all your team members answer at the same time, or if you’re unsure as to who’s answering what, the investor is unlikely to be impressed. When JogPost entered the Den, it was clear who was responsible for what – so, when the Dragons fired out a question, the relevant team member was able to provide a clear, decisive answer without hesitation or contradiction. Harding explained: “Our company’s divided anyway. Henry and I have very different skills and strengths, so we complement each other. Henry’s always been in charge of accounting, I’ve been involved in developing the business, promoting and growing street presence. There were certain areas of overlap, but we knew who’d be answering what.”

Be sure to name-drop

If you’ve ever worked with a major brand, be sure to mention it in your pitch. There’s no point being humble when presenting to investors – even if they think you’re bragging, they’ll be more likely to invest if you can drop in a few big brands. When the JogPost duo mentioned a deal with Pizza Hut, they pretty much guaranteed investment from the Dragons. Harding told us that “we knew we had to use the Pizza Hut testimonial, especially if we could get the enquiries off the back off it, and get some validation from the Dragons”. For all their earlier poise and precision, Buckley and Harding sealed the deal by mentioning a big-name client – and demonstrated that, when pitching to investors, all-out modesty is rarely the best policy.

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