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Kicking themselves for rejecting these companies on Dragons’ Den…

by on June 18, 2012 in Gadgets, Latest News, Marketing, Nuggets, Retail News, Small Business, Startups

Dragon’s Den …we take a look at some of the “reject” products that have seen international success.

1. SuperKneeS

“Please don’t tell me that you’ve given up your life to develop SuperKneeS,” Peter Jones begged of orthopedic entrepreneur Stipan Saulich. Saulich had spent six years researching “kneeling activities” and producing SuperKneeS – strap-on roller skates designed to help users swirl seamlessly around on their knees. Despite Jones’ scorn, the SuperKneeS website now has recommendations from satisfied kneelers from Spain, Israel and even the Ukraine.

Entrepreneurs looking to ape Saulich’s global triumph should take the time to research the Spanish market. Although the country’s economy has been weak of late, it has grown dramatically in the past few decades, and the Federation of International Trade Associations (FITA) has reported several encouraging signs in this market.

2. The StableTable

Andrew Gordon’s gadget, the StableTable, stops tables wobbling. Gordon appeared on the BBC2 show two years ago but his invention was derided as a “ridiculous idea” by Rachel Elnaugh. Although the Dragons thought that a beer mat could do the same job of stabilising a table, global bar-goers disagreed: Gordon recently signed a deal to distribute the StableTable in the US.

As the world’s largest importing economy, America’s sophisticated trade system offers vast opportunities for savvy entrepreneurs from across the globe.

3. Magmatic

Rob Law runs Magmatic and is the brains behind the Trunki. When he faced the Dragons in 2006, Law had already spent more than £17,000 refining his wheelie suitcase, which doubles as a child’s ride-on toy, and secured distribution in several countries, including Japan.

Although the Trunki impressed consumers in one of the world’s most sophisticated manufacturing nations, Theo Paphitis managed to pull off one of the case’s straps during the pitch. After fixing that flaw, Law went on to sell 150,000 units across more than 60 countries.

4. Road Refresher

Natalie Ellis always had international dreams for her non-spill dog bowl, and she appeared on the show specifically to ask for an £120,000 investment to export her idea to the States. The Dragons were unimpressed and declined to invest, with James Caan calling America the “graveyard of British business”.

However, Ellis has since taken a £60,000 slice of profit from the $10.5bn (£7bn) US pet accessories market, and been hailed as “doggone brilliant” by US newspaper The National Enquirer. The US is fiercely focused on entrepreneurship and there are huge marketing opportunities – including the world’s most developed media network and a population of more than three million people.

5. The Swimfin

This child’s buoyancy aid, which is shaped like a shark’s fin, was laughed off the Dragons’ Den show in 2006, and was deemed by the Dragons to be “dangerous” and “silly” in equal measure. But inventor Kevin Moseley ignored the advice of the Dragons, registering worldwide patents and starting Swimfin Ltd from his garage at home.

In its first year of trading in 2009, Swimfin sales topped £70,000 across nearly 50 countries. Australians love the invention, which has been exhibited at the nation’s prestigious AustSwim Conference. Reforms implemented since the 1980s transformed Australia into an open, internationally competitive economy. Key economic reforms included unilaterally reducing high tariffs and other protective barriers to free trade. Now, with an affluent population of 22 million and high standard of living, Australia’s open economy is a great place to do business.

Neil Kuschel is an expert in SME exporting and importing at DHL Express.

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3 CommentsAdd yours

  • David Hellard - June 20, 2012

    So other than Magmatic, which the dragons recognised as a good company, the others have not had substantial success. SuperKneeS has three reviews on its website from different countries and could be making a huge loss, StableTable has a distribution deal, which suggests no sales yet and no guarantee of any kind of success, after several years Road Refresher has made a modest profit, probably still not justifying the investment of £120k, which would value the company at far higher than the profits justify and three years after the show Swimfin has a turnover of substantially less than the the investment asked for, which could be at a substantial loss.

    You’re right the dragons must be kicking themselves

  • Will Corry - June 20, 2012


    Thanks for this insight,

    Will Corry

  • Sven Henningsson - June 21, 2012

    StableTable® is not the same company as Andrew Gordon’s that appeared on Dragon’s Den. We are a Swedish company producing and selling unique patented self-stabilizing table bases for the hospitality industry. I.e. we solve the same problem but with a totally different approach that solves it once and for all.
    We purchased the domain from Andrew Gordon and our TM StableTable® is registered all over the world. We also market and sell our products in UK and this spring we won the prestigious Innovations Award at the Hotelympia show in London.
    Instead of having to fiddle around with wedges, coasters or folded napkins our system is built into the table base itself. Just place a StableTable® on any uneven ground be it tiles, wooden floor, plaster or cobble stones in- or outdoors and it fully automatic self-adjust and stop all the wobble. Pull or lift the table and place it in a new position and it readjusts without any manual action and manages height differences of up to 20-25 mm.

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