Dragons’ Den’ Still Fiery Heading into Season Nine
It’s finally here! The ninth season of one of Canada’s most-loved shows, Dragons’ Den, premiers tonight and with it the return of two of our favourite Dragons, Arlene Dickinson and David Chilton. With the departure of the likes of Kevin O’Leary, Bruce Croxon, and W. Brett Wilson in seasons past, this year’s season has a tough act to follow, but not to worry–we’re guaranteed to see the incredible (and incredibly funny) entrepreneurs we’re used to, along with the sharp and savvy judge’s panel the show’s become known for:
Breathing fire is exhausting.
Hey, I think that’s one of those plays-on-words I’ve heard so much about.
Nonetheless, the two new Dragons on Dragons’ Den – Vikram Vij and Michael Wekerle – have a firm understanding of the heat the show generates.
“On one of the first days when we were finished filming, I was so tired, I sat on the edge of my bed, and I literally fell backward,” recalled Vij, a celebrity chef and restaurant magnate. “I woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning, I hadn’t eaten anything because I’d been so tired, so I ate peanuts from the hotel room.”
Wekerle said so much is happening all at once on Dragons’ Den, with both the pitchers and the Dragons themselves, that you have to keep your head on a swivel.
“Among the Dragons you have a master chef here, a master marketer, a writer, a franchisee extraordinaire, and myself who has been doing finance for a long time, and yet still sometimes people will come in and try to bull—- us,” Wekerle said. “They’re overly aggressive and try to blow us over with smoke and mirrors.
“But the Dragons can see right through it. About five days into doing this, I already had realized, ‘Man, these guys are tough. And this job is tough.’ ”
Wekerle and Vij join incumbents Arlene Dickinson, David Chilton and Jim Treliving as the ninth season of Dragons’ Den begins Wednesday, Oct. 15 on CBC. Many of the Dragons’ faces have changed through the years, but the format and the appeal have held up.
“Being on the show longer than the other guys have, I think there has been an evolution of the entrepreneurs not being so shy,” Dickinson observed. “They’re more confident in front of us and in front of a camera, talking about their hopes and dreams and ideas. That has escalated, just as our chemistry has escalated. Even with new Dragons coming in and out, it has become much more sophisticated over time.
“Also, I’m really proud of how we have started to frame the conversation about entrepreneurs in our country. It has become sexy again. I have the most pride in that and in helping young kids think about business. We want kids to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea,’ right? So why not get out there and do something about it, rather than having their creativity in business squished.”
As the resident writer among the Dragons, Chilton pointed to the narrative properties of the show.
“If you think about the format, stories are what captivate people,” Chilton said. “We are hard-wired to like stories. We like beginnings, middles and ends. We like characters and conflicts. Well, every single episode of Dragons’ Den has that.
“Then when you add Arlene’s point, with the quality of pitches getting better all the time, people are watching the show and learning from what worked and didn’t work when others tried it. How it keeps growing has been fascinating to watch from my perspective.
“And the other guys know it now, you wouldn’t believe how tiring it is. Because all through the process, you’re thinking to yourself, ‘Where can I add value? How can I add value?’ With all the Dragons there, it’s much tougher than having a one-on-one meeting with someone who’s trying to pitch you something. At the end of the day, you’re zonked.”
Chilton’s right, I can’t imagine the stress of making these types of business decisions in a pressure-cooker environment, with both high-energy competition and a de facto time clock. Yet I’m sure all the Dragons would agree that what makes anyone feel less tired is making a lot of money.
Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and where there’s fire, Dragons still lurk.