Luke Johnson: Dragons’ Den ‘misleading’ and ‘exploitative’

Britain needs positive entrepreneurial role models, says Johnson

The head of private equity firm Risk Capital Partners has attacked the BBC for doing business a disservice with shows such as Dragons’ Den and The Apprentice. In today’s Financial Times, Johnson argued that Dragons’ Den is masquerading as factual television, when in fact it presents a misleading view of entrepreneurship in order to provide a ‘few cheap laughs’. “Entrepreneurship has been dumbed down to the status of staged entertainment,” wrote Johnson. “This is a tragedy. Britain needs entrepreneurs who are positive role models, who inspire others, and who help create jobs and accelerate our recovery from the recession.” Dragons’ Den was first aired in 2005 and is now in its eighth series. The differences between the normal process of pitching for investment and the Dragons’ Den format ‘debases’ the concept of angel investing, said Johnson, who owns a large holding in business angel company Beer & Partners through Risk Capital Partners. He wrote: “Real angel investing is not a game. It is a vital source of funding for early stage companies that may represent the next wave of industry. It succeeds when it involves rigorous due diligence, conscientious research and professionalism. It involves long-term backing and collaboration, not macho bidding contests based on a two-minute pitch.” The Apprentice didn’t escape either; Johnson described it as “bullying” and “pandering to popular misconceptions about business and entrepreneurs”.

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