The Apprentice morphs into Dragons Den Posted In: Business Start-up and Growth, Random 18 Jul 2011

Lord Sugars apprentice was hired last night. Tom the mad scientist type got the positive pointed finger after eleven weeks of random tasks set up for good television.

From several weeks back I thought there could only be one of two winners, the two that had their own businesses.

For those that haven’t been watching I’ll give a quick summary of the final four that were in line to win the chance of a £250,000 investment from Lord Sugar for 50% of their business.

Jim, a talkative salesman from Northern Ireland. When I say talkative, I mean he had an answer for everything with a combination of clichés and vague patter.

Helen, a PA to a CEO. During the last 11 weeks, Helen had won ten and lost one task, a remarkable record even for reality TV.

Tom, an inventor who has already sold his own products (a curved nail file) into both US and UK large retailers.

Susan, the youngest of the four finalists by quite some way – Susan had run a market stool with her own products for the last few years selling cosmetics.

As with previous years at this stage of the apprentice, Lord Sugar invites four of his associates to grill the candidates on their CVs and now their business plans.

True to very obvious form, this is how they faired:

Jim presented a business plan, branded with AMS, focused on elearning at schools. When pinned down by sustained questions he revealed his market research consisted of asking precisely zero head teachers to ascertain that the suggested business would be well received. You’re fired.

Helen presented a concierge type service that she had no experience of and little insight into other then busy people could be helped by paying someone to book their dentist or theatre tickets. You’re fired.

Susan, extrapolated her one market stool business and multiplied up so that after injecting £250,000 it was a £4mn t/over, £1mn profit business. Ridiculous, you’re fired.

Tom, presented a business plan and another invention. This time a chair that measures and then relieves back pain and a consultancy to help companies assess their employees for potential back pain. For what it’s worth, I thought the chair idea was ridiculed too quickly. Large companies do invest in such services and if Tom has invented a potentially market leading chair – it’s probably a very profitable niche to corner.

So what transpired was a £250,000 investment in Tom and his back catalogue of inventions. Don’t forget this includes a product already created and selling in large retailers both sides of the Atlantic. You could picture Tom in the Den, with the Dragons stating how much hand holding he needs to get his business processes in order and Tom skipping out of the Den having sold 40% of his business from an original offer of 3%.

Lord Sugar has a good deal on his hands and of course so does Tom. Confirming his interest in already established businesses Lord Sugar indicated in the after show that “a deal could be done” with Susan and her product range as it fits rather well with a nail file range.

The Apprentice met the Den and its conclusion was great TV and business I sense has real legs to take off.