TV review – Dragons’ Den SA is surprisingly awesome

2014-10-21 10:00

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Dragons’ Den SA

Mzansi Magic

Tuesdays, 7pm


The reality TV entrepreneurship trend went pear-shaped in 2005 when Tokyo Sexwale, as our version of Donald Trump, in The Apprentice SA could not ­decide on who to hire between finalists Zanele Batyashe and Khomotso Choma.

Almost 10 years later, we’re trying again with TV shows like Rise Mzansi (SABC1), Big Break Legacy (SABC2), Think Big (SABC3) and Mzansi Magic’s latest project, Dragons’ Den SA.

All of these shows attempt to find and support local entrepreneurs who have innovative business ideas. But South Africa has had minimal ­success with TV shows aimed at ­unearthing and moulding young ­people to become ­creators of employment, rather than jobseekers.

In Dragons’ Den SA, veteran broadcaster Xolani Gwala as host and a group of five established venture capitalist “dragons” – Lebo Gunguluza, Vusi Thembekwayo, Polo Leteka Radebe, Gil Oved and Vinny Lingham – put enthusiastic entrepreneurs under severe scrutiny in their “den”.

I didn’t think Dragons’ Den SA could pull it off, but the show is ­perhaps more interesting than its UK counterpart because the dragons go into more depth about the risks and calculations that go into investing in a new venture.

This makes the show valuable for any would-be entrepreneur.

The personalities on the show are also strong in their own right.

Identity Partners chief executive Leteka Radebe is the pragmatic voice of reason, Creative Counsel chief executive Oved is excitable and fiery, and motivational speaking magnate Gunguluza adds humour to the show by being game for anything – including sporting a wig pitched by one of the contestants.

On the downside, it becomes ­almost embarrassing to see contestants pitch average business ideas, hoping to get funding running into thousands of rands without having a solid, investable and innovative business model.

The producers should be more strict about the calibre of entrepreneurs allowed on the show.

Though it seemed Jaco de Lange and his Prop Care metered solutions app, which seeks to enable homeowners to manage renovations, ­repairs and décor from one simple portal, was biting off more than he could chew, he eventually managed to convince internet entrepreneur Lingham to part with R300?000 for a 35% equity of his solutions-driven business model that had other dragons pulling out in quick succession.

Of all the contestants last week, De Lange was the most prepared, and his model was the most solid and well thought out. With Lingham’s guidance, De Lange is on the right path.

Though the show succeeds in balancing the race factor, with both the dragons and contestants being representative of the country’s demographics, the show loses an opportunity to address gender balance.

There’s only one female dragon – Leteka Radebe – to five male. But perhaps this is a sad reflection of South Africa’s greater business world.

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