As Dragon’s Den returns for its 19th series, there’s a new face among the panel of investors as more budding entrepreneurs pitch for investments in their businesses.
At 29, newcomer Steven Bartlett is the youngest ever investor to join the Dragons’ Den panel.
“I watched the show from the beginning when I was 12 years old, so I’ve been a fan of Deborah and Peter. It was surreal sitting next to them,’ says Steven, who built his fortune after co-founding social media marketing agency Social Chain when he was 20. ‘I didn’t dwell on it much though because I was too focused on the job I had to do as a Dragon.”
Steven has reportedly built a £300million via the social media marketing agency Social Chain that he co-founded when he was 20.
In the new series of the BBC1 business show, which began on BBC2 in 2005, Steven will replace Tej Lalvani and take his place alongside fellow Dragons Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman, and Strictly Come Dancing 2021 star Sara Davies.
Here’s everything you need to know about the new series, including the latest line-up of Dragons and some of the pitches in the first three episodes of the series. Plus, we chat with the new Dragon, Steven Bartlett.
'Dragons' Den' – when will the 19th series air?
The 19th series of Dragons' Den will be on Thursday, Jan. 6 on BBC1 at 8.00pm.
‘Dragons Den’ – Who are the Dragons in Series 19?
Peter, 55, is the only investor on the panel who has been in the series since it began in 2005.
Born in Langley, Berkshire, Peter set up his first business when he was 16, selling personal computers under his own brand. The business failed when he was in his 20s, which meant he had to give up his three-bedroom home and cars, and move back in with his parents for a while.
He has since built his fortune, specialising in mobile phones, television, media, leisure, retail and property. According to 2021’s Sunday Times Rich List, he is worth an estimated £1.157bn.
Born in Taunton, Somerset, Deborah, 62, built her fortune by running a multi-million-pound holiday park business, which had most of its sites in the West Country.
She is the second longest-serving Dragon, having joined the show in the third series to replace Rachel Elnaugh.
As of 2021, she has agreed investments through this route in 63 businesses to the value of over £3.3m.
Fans of Strictly Come Dancing will remember her stint in the 2013 series when she was partnered with professional dance Robin Windsor. She was eliminated in the fifth week after dancing a Viennese Waltz to the James Brown classic It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.
Born in Famagusta, Cyprus, Touker’s area of expertise is in fashion retail with interests in UK shirt maker Hawes & Curtis and London fashion label Ghost, which was co-founded by designer Katherine Hammnett, who’s best known for making T-shirts with political slogans.
Prior to this, he had a business that supplied clothes to high street stores including C&A, Dorothy Perkins, and Topshop.
Touker, 68, was chosen to join the investors' panel in the 13th series of Dragons’ Den, along with fellow newbies Nick Jenkins and Sarah Willingham. He is the only Dragon out of the three to have been on the show since.
In the 17th series of Dragons’ Den, Sara replaced Jenny Campbell on the panel of investors and this new series will be her third time in the Den.
Born in County Durham, Sara, 37, is the founder and owner of craft supplies business Crafter's Companion, which she started as a student at the University of York.
The business started with a tool called The Enveloper which can be used to create bespoke envelopes for handmade cards. After launching it on the TV shopping channel Ideal World, Sara sold 30,000 units within six months. By the time she graduated the business was turning over £500,000.
The company now exports to more than 40 countries worldwide and in 2018 its turnover was believed to be almost £25million.
After filming finished on the new series of Dragon’s Den, Sara took part in the 2021 series of Strictly Come Dancing. She was partnered with professional dancer Aljaz Skorjanec and was eliminated in the 8th week after performing an Argentine Tango to No More Tears (Enough is Enough), the song recorded by Barbra Streisand and Donna Summer in 1979.
Steven was born in Botswana, but when he was two years old, he moved to Plymouth where he grew up.
He went to study at Manchester University, but dropped out after one lecture. However, he did stay in Manchester where he co-founded the social media marketing company Social Chain. By the time he was 27, it was valued at more than £300 million.
Now 29, Steven also acts as a speaker, investor, author, and content creator. As well as hosting Europe’s most downloaded business podcast, ‘The Diary of a CEO’, he has written a book called ‘Happy Sexy Millionaire’ which was a Sunday Times bestseller its opening week.
In the new series of Dragons’ Den, Steven replaces Tej Lalvani, who appeared on the show for four series from 2017 to 2021.
‘Dragons’ Den’ – What pitches will be made in Series 19?
Here’s what we know about the series so far…
As Dragons’ Den opens its door for business, Steven Bartlett takes his place on the panel alongside returning Dragons, Peter Jones, Deborah Meaden, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies and he certainly comes out fighting in this exhilarating first episode of the 19th series!
The first pitches of the series include a couple of 21st-century cheesemongers who reveal that they have already sunk an astronomical amount of money into their new app.
Meanwhile, emotions run high as a hair technician tangles with the fearsome five, a Scottish entrepreneur presents a pint-sized gadget that he hopes will be big business and a robotic invention sends the Dragons into a virtual world.
Among the pitches in this episode are an ethically-minded couple who have some planet-saving ideas to transform the DIY market and a mother with an invention borne from her own sleepless nights.
Meanwhile, a pair of beauty product designers hope to tackle the problem of plastic in the bathroom, and an animal lover from Canada has a green solution to canine pollution.
A duo offering activity-packed weekend breaks for adults is among the entrepreneurs pitching for an investment in their business as the 19th series of Dragons’ Den continues.
Unfortunately, the entrepreneurial pair’s idea turns one of the Dragons into an unhappy camper…
Meanwhile, there are a few raised eyebrows when another entrepreneur enters the Den with vegan handbags that have an x rated twist.
Also in the episode, the creators of a new home delivery app for shoppers strive to bag a deal, and the Lancashire couple behind a range of homemade soups and stews warm hearts as well as stomachs.
‘Dragons’ Den’ – Q&A with new Dragon Steven Bartlett
How does it feel to be on a show you watched when you were younger?
It’s surreal! I watched it when I was 12 years old so I’ve been a bit of a fan of the Dragons like Deborah and Peter. It’s surreal sitting next to them but I didn’t dwell on it much because I’m too focused on the job I have to do as a dragon.
How does it feel to be a Dragon?
It’s a huge honor to be asked. It's a big responsibility as well because I’m representing future Steve Bartletts who are sitting on the carpet at home looking up at the screen and getting a lot of information about what they can achieve in their lives someday. They are seeing someone who looks like them with the same curly hair and the same skin color looking back at them. I see it as a responsibility to show those people that they can be a Dragon too someday.
What sort of Dragon are you?
I’m just very honest. For me, honesty comes first, even if that means being honest about how I feel about a business. I care most about the entrepreneur getting good feedback. If it’s a bad idea, I don’t want them to waste their life on something that I think will suck their most precious currency, which is their time. If I believe an entrepreneur is going to waste three years of their life and a lot of money pursuing an idea that’s not going to work, I will tell them.
What sort of entrepreneurs are you looking for?
I’m not looking for great business ideas, but great entrepreneurs. A great business idea with a bad entrepreneur is a bad idea as an investment, but an okay idea with a great entrepreneur behind it is a good investment. The entrepreneur is the single biggest predictor of success or failure, so I’m just looking for competent, honest, and smart entrepreneurs who show a degree of resilience because I know the journey will require resilience.
Would you invest in something that is completely different from your field of expertise?
If there’s a really remarkable entrepreneur who walks into the Den and they are clearly super smart and resilient and they know their stuff, it’s likely that I will invest in them even if I don’t get the idea or I’m not as experienced in the field that they are operating in, Good ideas are a dime a dozen, they are everywhere, but you have to look at the entrepreneur and think is he capable of doing it?
Have any of the Dragons given you any advice?
All of the Dragons gave me the most helpful and amazing advice before I started filming, and then during filming, they would give me advice and I would ask them for feedback. I pretty much went to dinner with nearly all of them before I became a Dragon so I was able to chat to them about their experiences and their advice was so helpful. I’m so grateful for it.
What does it feel like to be the youngest ever Dragon?
I think a certain type of entrepreneur might be able to relate to me more because of my age and the world I live in. But I think it might work against me, too, because there will be some entrepreneurs who walk through the door and will relate to Deborah more or to Sara more, or maybe Peter or Touker. Your demographic and where you come from has a certain allure to people who see themselves in you.
You don’t wear traditional business attire in the Den. Why is that?
I wear a cap and a hoodie every day and I have done for the past 10 years so that’s what I wear in the Den. I just want to represent a more modern era of business and a modern type of investor who looks like me. I wear hoodies. I wear jeans. I wear trainers and T-shirts. I don’t wear suits. I know I’m probably speaking to some kid who wears a hoodie and doesn’t think he can be a Dragon because they wear fancy shoes and suits, but I want them to know that regardless of their outfit or the color of their skin, or how broke they are that they can be a Dragon too someday.
How does it feel when you win an investment?
Maybe relief for saying the right things and winning the business I wanted. Also, happiness, because I just invested in a business I really believe in and entrepreneurs I want to work with. I immediately start thinking about the ways I can help. The minute they walk out I’m thinking about calls I want to make and people I want to speak to.
What can you tell us about this series?
One of the things that really surprised me was it was a really emotional series and I do wonder if that’s because of the pandemic and the struggles that business owners are experiencing in this country. There were lots of tears. Someone would say something and you would realize the magnitude of the situation in their life and how hard they’ve worked and how much it means to them. I cried! I didn’t anticipate that!
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