1. (from Brad in Charlottetown) Through your previous show, “Venture”, and with “Dragon’s Den” you have probably seen more Canadian start-ups up close than anyone else. Does the excitement of seeing the hopes and dreams of entrepreneurs still rub off on you or do you just see the challenges and pitfalls ahead for them?
If you’re asking if working with entrepreneurs inspires me to become one, my answer is no. As much as I admire the energy and creativity and resourcefulness of entrepreneurs, I love my own profession too much! But if you’re asking if the hopes and dreams of the people on Dragons’ Den and Venture are contagious, the answer is YES. Those of us behind the scenes on these programs have often been completely captivated by these passionate people and their quests– although the “challenges and pitfalls” are hard to forget, in any case.
2. (from Andrew in Vancouver)
I didn’t know until recently that you did all the groundwork on bringing “Dragons’ Den” to Canada. What was that experience like?
That experience was initially quite frustrating. It started back in 2005, when I was the executive producer of Venture, and a colleague at CBC happened to see the British version of Dragons’ Den. She suggested it would be a natural fit for the production team at Venture, and I agreed. But when I called the BBC to inquire about licensing it (Venture had previously licensed its “Back to the Floor” concept, where CEOs and workers traded places), I discovered the BBC didn’t own the Dragons’ Den format – the show had been created in Japan, and was now owned by Sony, which was in the process of licensing it around the world. My next call was to Sony in Los Angeles, but that’s when the frustration began. I couldn’t get an answer on the cost of licensing – the Sony rep wanted me to first commit to the number of episodes, and the budget of the program – things that I simply couldn’t answer without more information from HIM. After some back and forth-ing, I handed the file over to CBC’s Business Affairs department, which has more experience in those types of matters…..and our successful version of Dragons’ Den is the happy result !
3. (from Ken in Saanich)
Without naming names (unless you want to) have you ever seen a business succeed where your initial reaction was “this will never work!”
Oh yes…..we did a report once on Venture where the poor entrepreneur was in so far over his head, he really seemed to be going nowhere. (It was one of those stories where viewers would write in CBC to complain, i.e. “That wasn’t very inspiring! Why did you put THAT on the air?” and we’d have to explain we never knew the outcome when we started shooting on stories) In any case, this particular fellow was lucky because a distributor for his product was watching the night our story went to air, and he actually got a deal and became quite successful.
Also, I have to admit that I often don’t make correct predictions with pitchers for Dragons’ Den. Some of them begin their pitch, and those of us watching in the backroom may be thinking “wow, the Dragons are going to FLAME this person”, and the next thing we know, one of the Dragons is saying “I’m in!” We’re left shaking our heads in wonder. But of course, the Dragons are multi-millionaires – who are we TV people to question their judgment!?
4. (from Anne in Cambridge)
Of all the companies and entrepreneurs you have interviewed, which one went on to become the biggest success. Did you sense at the time that they would be big?
Some super-successful Canadian icons were on Venture before my time there, i.e. Mark from Mark’s Work Wearhouse, Christine McGee from Sleep Country Canada. I was there when V.J. Tracie Tighe (now executive producer of Dragons’ Den) profiled Chris and Larry from Clodhoppers, the candy that became very popular – and I would say she probably had a good sense that they would be successful. They were working hard, and were intensely committed to their product.
5. (from Devon in Calgary)
On “Dragon’s Den” you work with some very wealthy people, such as Boston Pizza founder Jim Treliving and First Energy Capital founder Brett Wilson. Is there one quality that all these successful entrepreneurs have in common?
Funny you should ask…..we were just talking about this a couple of weeks ago, while we were filming Season #4 of Dragons’ Den. One of the producers and I were observing that all the Dragons are INCREDIBLY ENERGETIC. They work long days shooting (from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.) yet they are also out socializing most evenings, and often exercising early in the a.m. And I remember years ago a consultant telling us at Venture that entrepreneurs generally put in a lot longer hours than many corporate types – they have to. It takes a tremendous amount of energy to get something brand new off the ground. I think that may explain the success of a lot of entrepreneurs, and possibly successful people in other venues as well – they have either been born with, or have developed a huge reserve of stamina and energy, and they put it to use to achieve their ambitions.