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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Tycoon: Do They Think They've Already Won?

Tycoon's Eaten By A Dragon!As I warned in a previous post about Tycoon there are some interesting businesses being worked on over, possibly, the next 10 weeks.

The show is very Apprentice like: pictures of smart suited men in Bentley's, images of London and quick cutting between sweating "apprentice entrepreneurs" maybe we should call them "appreneurs"?

The appreneurs seemed to have thought they'd already won the competition by getting into the final 10 companies. Certainly that was the initial smug expression the competitors wore when they started the program. By the end of the first 2 weeks they looked distinctly more frazzled as Peter Jones looked worriedly at them and asked slightly searching questions in a Dragon's Den like meeting at the end of two weeks so he could decide which companies to invest a further £20,000 in.

So far it's a bit like The Apprentice and a bit like Dragon's Den...

So here's my twopence:

Tom Thurlow

Tom Thurlow seems to have taken a leaf from Richard Branson's book by starting a student's newspaper. Tom's vision was that the newspaper would be free to the customer and paid for by adverts. He managed to impress initially by calling the newspaper "Snap."

What he knew but didn't tell Peter Jones were:

  • Piers Morgan, probably the most famous news editor known, was starting a paid for newspaper for kids
  • Tom's printer wasn't getting a newspaper mock-up to show when he'd expected

Also the newspaper turned out to be a folded A3 flimsy piece of paper which looked to be uninteresting. And yet Tom claimed to be proud of it.

My Advice: Don't invest any more money in Tom and sack him because he obviously doesn't understand business yet.

Elizabeth Hackford

Elizabeth Hackford decided to go down the Innocent fruit drinks route but with a dash of Vodka in hers. So isn't that an alcopop?

Peter Jones wielded a bottle of drink that was exactly like hers. She claimed hers wasn't from concentrate, the one Peter had said "not from concentrate." So nil points for market research.

Peter advised her to come up with a great name to get attention for the drink - rather like "Death" as a name for cigarettes. So she came up with some really pedestrian names and after talking further with Peter decided on something that wouldn't sound too good in a bar, you know, "could I have a Fruka please?"

I noticed that she's got an equally insane name now on her web site: VTox. If you're an extreme sports junkie (like Elizabeth) and you know mountaineering terminology you could translate VTOX when ordering a drink as "can I have a Very TOXic drink?"

There's nothing wrong with a me-too product but there has to be something interesting about it - as Peter says - a good name.

All in all I was under impressed with Elizabeth "make it happen" Hackford. Particularly when she tearfully exclaimed that she would move mountains for Peter.

My Advice: Rename the drink, something like "Mule Kick." Also give her some more rope to hang herself with next week.

Iain Morgan

Iain Morgan actually seemed reasonably clear as to what he was doing: importing and selling radio-controlled toy helicopters.

Other than a few brief glances that's all we say of Iain until presentation time to bid for money from Peter to go forward.

So he produced a presentation that showed exactly why he needed every last penny of the £20,000 Peter Jones had to invest this week.

And of course he got it, because without further investment to import the helicopters he'd have nothing to sell!

My Advice: Seems to know what he's doing from the ordering point of view. My only thought is the quality of the helicopter.

Lauren Pope

Lauren Pope was producing "thicker, longer" hair extensions. To me they looked like nicely packaged hair extensions. I don't claim to be an expert in the product though. Peter thought that they would go well in Top Shop. Great...

Lauren wanted to go to China (I think) to investigate sources of hair for the extensions. She was disappointed when Iain won all Peter's investment money.

Again Lauren didn't really feature too much in this episode.

My Advice: Use the phone and ask for samples from a select few suppliers!

Justin Chieffo

Justin Chieffo is producing an environmentally friendly carrier bag dispenser. My wife immediately said, "that would be really useful." My thought was - isn't it just a carrier bag stuffed with more carrier bags?

Still it's certainly an interesting idea. It should mesh well with "bags for life".

That said I noticed that local Sainsbury's had a day when you could take as many "bags for life" as you liked. All the bags went and Sainsbury's didn't need anymore old throw-away bags? Well certainly all the "bags for life" went but I've not actually seen anyone using one. Even I have two in my car and haven't actually remembered to take them out to re-use.

So an interesting concept and one that all us environmentally concerned people are interested in...but we don't often do as we say do we?

That said whenever Justin is talked at by Peter Jones he gets very tense, anxious and looked incredibly worried. Rather like a tailor who's made the Emperor's new clothes and doesn't want to get found out.

He also tried to go for £15,000 investment for no other reason than to get rid of Ian. What a stupid thing to do when you consider the winner gets the profits of everyone else! So he's trying to cut his profits by getting rid of one company!

My Advice: Really hit all the supermarkets with the concept. But first actually target a few stores and ask if you can try it out there. Then present the results to the supermarkets. If the idea is going to work the supermarkets have the biggest vested interest (reduced costs) in getting it going. Then if the supermarkets show no interest bin the idea.

Helen James and Cathy Caudwell-Todd

Helen James and Cathy Caudwell-Todd had come up with a fun name for a range of gardening garments aimed at women. A good idea but one that was only hitting part of a big market. So Peter Jones suggested that they rename their range so they could take in men and kids gardening garments. The pair were most put out but on mature reflection realised Peter had a point and renamed the clothes SOD for men and SOD for women. They also paid a fair bit for some well produced polo shirts that looked fairly classy.

In fact they then went on to sell over a £1,000 worth of clothes from their web site in the week. The winner so far!

Peter had a lot of praise for them, particularly as they'd taken onboard what he'd said and made money too.

My Advice: These two are ones to keep. They're doing well we just need to see that they can capitalise on their early lead without having to pay for advertising and I can think of lots of different ways you could get PR for fashionable gardening clothes.

Is It Worth Watching?

I found the opening episode interesting.

My main concern is that Peter Jones is not great as a "balls of steel" entrepreneur's presenter. Maybe he'll grow on me but at the moment I believe he should have sacked Tom and didn't and going on what Elizabeth thought was OK with a name given her more of a hard time.

The other concern I have is that you didn't see any interaction with the businesses customers or suppliers.

Still it is week one, so like Tom and Elizabeth I'll see what happens next week.

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