How the M14 Industries Dragons’ Den deal collapsed


“Hello, I’m John. I’m from M14 Industries and we are a dating company,” defined John Kershaw as he stepped onto the set of the BBC tv present Dragons’ Den.

The Manchester-based startup was pitching its courting and social app-building platform for an funding of £80,000 for 15 p.c fairness.

Regardless of telling the cameras beforehand that he “might just be bricking it,” Kershaw went on to present a textbook pitch, leading to one thing virtually unprecedented on the present: all 5 Dragons needed in.

The confident app entrepreneur seems to have a solution for every thing.

— Dragons’ Den

I find it irresistible, you bought me already,” gushed Deborah Meaden inside a couple of minutes of the M14 founder’s opening gambit.

Peter Jones’ curiosity quickly piqued after the telco entrepreneur found out that M14 had already signed up World, the operator of numerous the U.Okay.’s main radio stations, as a buyer.

Subsequent up, Kershaw batted away a collection of powerful questions relating to the startup’s income and the potential measurement of the marketplace for area of interest courting and social apps.

“The self-assured app entrepreneur appears to have an answer for everything,” the Dragons’ Den voice-over enthused. Then got here the gives of funding.

“You’re very credible. I’ll make you an offer,” stated Touker Suleyman, first out of the gate. Moonpig founder Nick Jenkins was subsequent, adopted by Sarah Willingham. “I would just like to go on this journey with you,” she confessed. Then it was Jones’ flip to place his playing cards on the desk. And at last Deborah Meaden: “I’m going to make it really hard for you,” she warned.

After turning his again on the Dragons for a couple of minutes to deliberate, the M14 founder selected to just accept a mixed supply from Jenkins and Jones of £80,000 for 20 p.c fairness, giving the younger startup a £400,000 pre-money valuation. “A thrilling finish for the app entrepreneur as he picks his perfect investment partners,” concluded the present’s voice-over, considerably prematurely.

That’s as a result of TechCrunch can reveal that the Dragons’ Den deal would ultimately collapse. Informed right here for the primary time, Kershaw picks up the story:

“Immediately after [the show] I’m whisked away by the production crew to a small room. I’m still in a bit of a daze. The production crew take me to go meet Peter and Nick, and film the ‘first encounter after the Den.’ We have a bit of an on-camera conversation, then get a chance for an off-camera chat… Everyone is keen to get the deal completed fast.”

Everyone seems to be eager to get the deal accomplished quick.

— M14 Industries founder John Kershaw

The next day, the BBC handed the M14 Industries founder’s particulars onto Jenkins and Jones’ legal professionals, and Kershaw doesn’t hear from the manufacturing crew once more till months later once they name to reality verify earlier than broadcast.

“I get on a call with Nick a couple of weeks after the show (apparently that’s fast in Den terms) and we start chatting through how everything went, what the next steps are, and wanting to make sure everyone is still OK with things. At this point, we all are,” Kershaw remembers.

Left to right: Nick Jenkins, John Kershaw, Peter Jones

Left to proper: Nick Jenkins, John Kershaw, Peter Jones

Nevertheless, at across the identical time M14, was approached by one in all its bigger shoppers who, says its founder, had discovered that the startup was making ready to take extra funding and requested in the event that they may very well be a part of the deal.

To complicate issues additional, the unnamed shopper was keen to speculate at a £1.5 million pre-valuation, up considerably from the Dragons’ Den £400,000 valuation (which additionally accounted for numerous advisory shares) and greater than the £1 million pre-money valuation M14 had taken throughout a earlier funding spherical.

“This presented something of a problem for us,” explains Kershaw, since it might require the Dragons to up their supply or take much less fairness. “On our next chat with Nick I bring this up. Nick knows his way around tech investments, and is happy for us. But, he says, it’s unlikely that Peter will be prepared to complete on a deal that’s so far removed from the deal we agreed in the Den. Which, frankly, is fair enough.”

In a follow-up name, Jenkins additionally identified that agreeing to 20 p.c within the Den, then closing at 6 p.c a couple of months later, would trigger bother down the road for the present, and presumably result in individuals not taking critically future offers within the Den.

“It’s at this point that Nick and Peter bow out of the deal, but we stay on positive terms. Our relationship with Nick leads us to meet and eventually buy [dating app] Double, who appeared on Dragon’s Den the previous series and got investment from Nick.”

In a closing, and maybe, ironic coincidence, the unnamed investor would additionally go on to tug out of the deal in favor of merely remaining a buyer. Nevertheless, by this time, M14 Industries’ funding spherical of ~£100,000 had stuffed out properly and Kershaw says it closed in early December.

Says Peter Jones in an announcement: “Following the offer that Nick and I made to John Kershaw from M14 in the Den he contacted us to ask if the terms of the deal could be re-negotiated, we explained that was not possible and so unfortunately the deal did not complete. Both Nick and I wish John and the business all the best for the future.”


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Désiré LeSage


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