A couple of years ago I got offered what was, and I think still is, the best deal ever seen in the den: all five dragons came in for the original equity offered. We've been on twice again since, and I'm happy to answer questions on the subject.

Episode: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP5bEPZLjCM General: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k4oYmmdaVrw

EDIT: Photo: http://twitpic.com/btbxyz/full

EDIT 2: Thanks to everyone who asked interesting and/or challenging questions, offered support, feedback or advice. Sorry to the people who asked about poo - YKINMK.

EDIT 3: Final Edit! Promise! I'm very surprised this has reached the front page and, at risk of getting in much trouble for hijacking my own thread: I am doing some work supporting two other (UK) charities at the moment. If you have £5 you can give, share it with one of these guys. Thank-you.

www.buzzbnk.org/irreverentdance www.justgiving.com/Amanda-thon

Comments: 811 • Responses: 59  • Date: 

NoizeUK453 karma

Hi, great pitch and I remember watching this (I like to think that I could make a difference somehow one day).

I have run a quick search and I didn't see anyone mention kickstarter. Reddit is a great community and I'm sure if investment is needed, some people could scratch a few quid together for a great cause. I'm not well versed in how KS works but I think it would be great if it was done on a giving basis (are there other charity based alternatives like Doctors without borders thing that went around about a year ago?)

Keep it up!

Manda_Jones55 karma

That could be very interesting. Based on the comments in this thread we could probably fund a decent sized deployment. Redditers, do me a favour and vote NoizeUK's comment up if you'd like to see a crowd fund go live for this?

Danpa436 karma

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DP5bEPZLjCM&t=13m41s <- Direct link to your part in the episode.

Manda_Jones98 karma


GrapeJuicePlus81 karma

Wow! You two absolutely killed it in that presentation. Really lovely.

Manda_Jones52 karma


h_p_bitchcraft286 karma

For those of us who are too lazy to click links, what was your product, why did you go on DD and how has it changed your life?

Manda_Jones292 karma

A water purifier on wheels; because I was young(er) and thought it was a good idea, which it mostly was; and very little :)

After a short time it became clear that the 'Dragons' could offer no support to such a specialised product and market, and raising our profile in the uk was mostly a vanity exercise.

h_p_bitchcraft126 karma

Why couldn't they offer support? You dont have to answer. It just seems odd for them to take percentage and offer nothing in return.

Manda_Jones253 karma

Don't worry, they were fairly bought out! Though their general advice was helpful and shaped my ideas of business to this day, they knew nothing of the humanitarian industry and had no connections there. The time they were spending with us could have been more value to another start-up and we got more value from our, to be, later investor.

eoJ19 karma

That later investor - if you could change the past, would you have still gone with them? Or would you have taken a loan from a bank? And why?

Thanks very much for doing this AMA :)

Manda_Jones22 karma

No worries! I don't think I could be sure that I would have had the confidence and connections to have accessed the other investor without them / the show - so I don't think I would change it, no.

febreezeman94 karma

I remember seeing you on telly. Possibly the best product I have seen because of the potential to save lives. The dragons all got on board for a reasonably low share in the company.

Manda_Jones118 karma

Thank-you and, yes, they did. 2% each.

j_t_h22 karma

I like your product. But how are you making any money of that?


It could be a humanitarian business that makes little to no profit.

j_t_h9 karma

It could and there is nothing wrong with that. I was just asking if it is.

Manda_Jones53 karma

It is a humanitarian business, yes, so our margins are a constant battle between keep-the-business-alive-because-it-does-good and keep-the-price-low-so-it-is-accesible-to-as-many-as-possible our current margins come from licensing the design, previously (when we were manufacturing ourselves) we took a margin on the product as per any business, just .. much lower!

thedigitalg265 karma

I'm guessing you chatted to them after the show? Were any of them enormous cunts?

Manda_Jones436 karma

Yes, and yes ;)

thedigitalg159 karma


Manda_Jones565 karma

James Caan was a total diva drama-queen and a breathtaking misogynist. The rest of the boys were true to their on screen personas whereas Deborah is MUCH warmer in person. Mr Caan excepted, they're actually really good fun to hang out with; lots of playful insults and good natured banter.

blacknight90 karma

Why do you say Caan was a misogynist? He seemed to be one of the nicest dragons on screen and it makes me sad that he actually was an asshole. What did he say or do that makes you feel this way?

DarcyHart34 karma

I've heard that's why he was thrown from the show.

Manda_Jones65 karma

I understand the production team had dealt with similar scenarios.

DownDiggyDown125 karma

I remember seeing this product, and being amazed that every single Dragon invested.

How's things now? How many purifiers are being used around the world? And in which countries?

Manda_Jones201 karma

Things progressed, but not as we expected. After 2 years of trying too hard to guarantee quality and comply to the multitude of medical, health, food safety, ethical manufacture &c regulations we decided to open source the design for not just the product, but all components. As a result use and manufacture devolved and design diversified. They are now being made close to our original design in 3 African countries (which we know of) and I suspect many more that we don't! We dispatched several thousand from our manufacturer prior to this.

In many ways the product was a success where the business model wasn't. NGOs and charities were just not ready to move away from the $0.40c a day model to the capital expenditure of £65 now for a lifetime saving of £250-500.

Secret_Medicine79 karma

To be fair, NGO's are often reluctant to do so for several reasons. 1. There's no guarantee that a given community will accept the technology (for whatever reasons...religious, cultural, they don't perceive a need, don't trust the device/organization/person, etc.); 2. NGO's often require a community or family to put forward a small amount of money or labor towards the service to ensure that it's something they honestly want and will use. £65 (or a portion of that) is simply too much to ask; and 3. your product probably lacked the network infrastructure (community contacts, etc.) at launch that other, etsablished programs already had. Those on-the-ground contacts are the #1 factor that contributes to a project's success.

Tl;dr: There's more to development/service projects than a product.

Manda_Jones31 karma

Yes. Mainly your 3rd point tbh, as we had a microfinance org willing to support individual loans

MSaadJilani105 karma

What's your favorite color?

It's an AMA, I ask what I damn well please.

Manda_Jones160 karma

Either a mossy green or red-wine red.

And yes it is, and you do. Well done you.

Ooer78 karma

Please may you provide proof of who you say you are either in the body of the text or through a message to the mods. Thank you.

Manda_Jones71 karma

Happy to do it in the body of the text if you could suggest how I can prove it? :)

C0mmun1ty54 karma

Timestamped picture of yourself would probably do.

Manda_Jones39 karma

Edited and added to OP - hope that suffices!

JSterling833 karma

It's 2013...

Manda_Jones78 karma

DAMMIT! ... Yes. Yes it is... I could never take hostages, could I?

carrickature13 karma

Tweet from your Twitter profile of the same name? (ps I know you!)

Manda_Jones15 karma

Done! (Hello!)

robroe71 karma

What was your primary motivation for going on Dragons' den? Investment, exposure, advice?

Manda_Jones102 karma

I thought the publicity might lead to more and better connections for us as we outgrew our uni and postgrad business support networks. I wasn't expecting an offer!

robroe48 karma

I've often thought publicity is the main objective for many pitches. Thanks for at least partially reinforcing that ;) Great idea btw, best of luck with your current and future ventures. Much actual karma.

Manda_Jones30 karma

Thanks! :)

Sophira19 karma

Did the publicity plan work out?

Manda_Jones46 karma

Yes, we got a huge amount of technical and industry specific support via the show - it's these connections that ended up out-performing the 'dragons' themselves!

Moh759 karma

What happens in due diligence?

Manda_Jones87 karma

Your business and marketing plans, references and CVs are requested in full, you and your business are credit scored and generally checked up on, contracts exchanged and solicitors appointed. From there details about spending limits and board presence are hammered out. Over MONTHS!

Moh718 karma

Did they find anything in your case?

Manda_Jones28 karma

The only suggestion was that we strengthen our board, which we completely agreed with.

AdmiralPellaeon54 karma

Thanks for the AMA, I wanted to know how much face time the dragon actually has with you. do they remain being a key figure in your business or do they pass you off to a one of many staff members they have.

Manda_Jones76 karma

For us, very little after the initial due diligence dwindling to nothing and a peaceful separation within a year. It became very clear that the 'Dragons' could offer no support to such a specialised product/market so they went to focus on things they could better influence and we were ultimately funded/supported elsewhere.

Kratzyyy44 karma

Kinda funny since Debra said in the video "we're going to be on your back to get this product out there for two years".

Manda_Jones59 karma


iiChickeN51 karma

I have to do an elevator pitch dragons den style for a uni project next week, any tips?

Manda_Jones205 karma

Yup. 1) Make your opening sentence the TL;DR something like "this is X, it does Y for Z" - and expand from there 2) if there is allocated time for questions pitch the bear minimum - people will ask about the things they want to hear more about 3) If you're a nervous speaker take a bottle of water and have a little sip to buy yourself time and calm yourself if you have a blank. 4) Don't be afraid to show your passion for the project 5) But don't necessarily expect other people to share your passion!

Hope that helps!

dhagey47 karma

How "real" is it? Did they know what you were promoting before the show or was this the first time they heard of your product?

Manda_Jones63 karma

It's pretty real, they had no clue who we were or what we were pitching until we walked up the stairs and we weren't allowed to see them until that moment either.

dhagey26 karma

In response to that then. How nervous were you? How long did it take from an idea to going on the Den?

Manda_Jones36 karma

Very nervous! (see reply to HumphreyRocks below) We had the idea in development for about 14 months before applying to film and that was pretty soon, tbh. Another 6 months wouldn't have hurt.

mr_manager2239 karma

I would imagine a lot of the interview is cut to fit on T.V. How long was the actual process and what did you discuss with the dragons that didn't make it on T.V.?

Manda_Jones74 karma

13 mins aired from almost 2 hours of conversation, they cut almost all the actual financial and technical details - I guess that wouldn't make good telly!

MattyFTM38 karma

I imagine that having five dragons on board actually leads to more of a headache. Five dragons means five sets of lawyers and five due diligence processes and whatnot, making everything five times more complicated. Is this the case, and in hindsight, do you wish you had just received investment from one or two dragons?

Manda_Jones60 karma

You're quite correct and, in actual fact, the only was it was bearable was to nominate one point of contact on either team so, after initial negotiations, we dealt only with Deborah. That said, we still parted ways within a year. Ultimately not a workable arrangement.

HumphreyRocks34 karma


Manda_Jones53 karma

Petrified. I was also pretty damn confident otherwise I wouldn't have agreed, but I knew my business partner wasn't so sure we were ready to showcase the product design and I felt a great deal of responsibility for urging him otherwise. Still, nothing prepares you for being face to face with those 5, surrounded by cameras, with nothing but your own brain and a few pictures to help explain yourself!

HumphreyRocks22 karma


Manda_Jones32 karma

There's a written, phone and screen 'audition' over the course of a few months.

okem32 karma

Unless you can describe your product in song form, preferably in a reggae style, I'm afraid I'm out.

Manda_Jones39 karma

Damn. My other pitch is interpretive dance, not song.. Oh well. Maybe next time?

crundy27 karma

When it was the last day of school, and you were allowed to bring in your own board games, what game did you bring in?

Manda_Jones24 karma

We never got to do that! I feel cheated...

(It would have been escape from atlantis though)

ChipsAndCurrySauce26 karma

Is the cash on the tables real?

Manda_Jones29 karma


karlrocks2324 karma

thanks for the AMA! What advice would you give to someone wishing to start up their own business?

Manda_Jones115 karma

If you're trying to decide whether to do it, you probably shouldn't do it. If you're trying to figure out how to do it, get a bigger team. If you're trying to figure out what to do, join someone else's start up. And in ALL cases it'll take longer and cost more than you think. And then again!

Also LISTEN TO DATA. Survey and prove EVERYTHING. TWICE! :)

rborob23 karma

Has this made you well off? or are your dreams of riches quashed by overheads and other unknowns?

Manda_Jones99 karma

Riches weren't my dreams, thankfully. It gives a few people, myself included, a modest livelihood and many more a life. I still get a kick out of that.

thombudsman19 karma

Would you explain how the peaceful separation came about? Whose idea was it? How did it work?

Manda_Jones27 karma

After a time both camps realised that the time they were spending with us could have been more value to another start-up in a more traditional industry and we got more value from our, to be, later investor who took over the original deal and contracts as was.

SuperSheep300013 karma

So did you have to pay them back for the investment? or do they still own a piece of the company?

BadNeighbour46 karma

The contacts where passed on...so another investor has taken over the dragons part That investor owns the shares and debts the dragon had with the company likely the 3rd party gave the dragon money

Manda_Jones21 karma

Yes, this. upvotes

chadcf18 karma

I've read that on the US version, the contract requires you to give up either 5% of your company or 2% of all future earnings to the show, regardless of whether you accept an offer. Is this true on the BBC version as well? It seems like on the US version this has caused some issues, notably people on the show will pitch a spinoff of a successful existing business and refuse to name/include the existing business to avoid having to give up any part of it. Just curious what you thought about this, it seems pretty hardcore to have to give up part of your company just to appear on the show.

Manda_Jones32 karma

Nope, nothing like that. BBC own the rights to your image and everything you say, including the worrying right to recombine the two but your business an IP stays yours. I can see why that'd've cause problems - that's ridiculous!

InsaneLampshade7 karma

They'd be a bit shafted if they couldn't recombine the two, we'd be back to radio shows and silent movies. :/

Manda_Jones15 karma

Yes, but the aspect (for example) of showing my reaction to one question while the voiceover/cutaway plays the audio of a different question is a little on the dubiously-ethical side, no?

king_walnut18 karma

What are the negotiations after the show appearance? Presumably you have to prove your figures etc..

Also, how often are you in contact with the dragon?

Manda_Jones24 karma

A large proportion of due diligence occurs before they let you on set. Everything you could want to say has to be vetted in advance otherwise you are not permitted to use it in your pitch / it cannot be broadcast. After the fact lawyers talk to lawyers as per any business investment with the exception of additional paperwork regarding publicity and ownership purporting to the BBC.

Arghgonaut17 karma

I remember the episode well. Brilliantly simple yet life changing.

My question would be if you could pick any past or present 'captain of industry' as a partner who would you pick and why?

Manda_Jones37 karma

Thank you! That'd have to be Barabara Frost from WaterAid, partly because she is someone we have not yet met / partnered with and largely because her knowledge in this area is unparalleled and her work over the last 8 or so years has been hugely inspiring.

Eriot16 karma

Is the place where you guys get interviewed after the pitch by the host really downstairs from where it's delivered? Is it a real warehouse or just a well-designed studio?

Manda_Jones22 karma

Yes it is, and it is a warehouse but no longer a standalone building, it's now an old storage space at pinewood

sickoldman12314 karma

Was it as awkward as the edited version looks?

Usually, you get 10 second gaps with nothing said and just the Dragons staring blankly. I assume/hope this is just the editing?!

Manda_Jones18 karma

I can't say for sure in other's pitches - but I recall our conversation being pretty free flowing.

Gavalar13 karma

Why do they set it that freaking warehouse with hooks hanging from the ceiling and stuff?

Manda_Jones10 karma

Your guess is as good as mine...

DudeWherezMyCar13 karma

I love your nose! :)

Manda_Jones16 karma

Somebody has to!!

Steiner11 karma

Don't you think that the dragons really just signed up because of the charity aspect and the help you provide to the people rather than the business opportunity? I think turning you down would make them look like cunts. In worst case they could have written off their investment as a charitable donation of some kind. Edit: not knocking you, I just think they did not take this on as an investment at all, no matter what they said.

Manda_Jones19 karma

I am certain it was at least part of it, and that knowledge was a significant consideration on our agreeing to go on the show. As I said above: "I was expecting a decent portrayal because we were young, broadly speaking knew our shit, and it was a social venture."

cplpike8 karma

Has the experience changed your life? What would you do differently if you could go back on the show?

Manda_Jones17 karma

Not really. It's tempting to say I might wait an additional 6-12 months if I were to do it again because a year after the show my confidence and maturity had grown leaps and bounds - but who's to say that isn't a result of the show!? Impossible to say, really :)

Bardorba8 karma

Just wanted to say, proud of you guys as a fellow Glasgow Uni alumnus! I was in first year when this aired, I'm pretty sure I remember meeting Nicky Pang in the QMU.

Manda_Jones6 karma

Heh, probably! and Thanks :)

abx427 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA, and you also deserve congratulations for pitching a product that actually helps people rather than just makes money. I have 3 questions .

  1. Would you recommend Dragon's Den to an entrepreneur or do you think a more traditional way, such as pitching to potential investors without the aid of a broadcaster and production company is more effective?

  2. Did the production company or broadcasting side of Dragon's Den give you any requirements that you felt got in the way of your pitch, or was it just like a real pitch except with tv cameras there?

  3. What was Evan Davis like?

Manda_Jones17 karma

  1. If you just want investment, the latter. If you need connections and publicity, are a confident speaker, and are in an industry well suited then the former is an option.

  2. A real pitch would usually have more conversation and pre-reads would have been sent out in advance. This aside it was pretty similar experientially. Not so much as it is cut and broadcast - we had over 2 hours there in the end for 13 mins of screen time..

  3. We barely got to see him but he was generally a reassuring and affable chap!

slamalamafistvag6 karma

How helpful were the Dragons in moving your idea and company forward? Are you still working together? Finally, have they recovered their initial investment?

Manda_Jones11 karma

I think most of this has already been answered - so forgive brevity. Not hugely as we slowly realised it was industry specific knowledge we needed. No and n/a as they got bought out.

The biggest benefit was the confidence boost of having those people want to support us, tbh. That was where the real difference came - our own views on the value of our enterprise.

rborob6 karma

You mentioned you've been on twice since. Was that with a new idea? If so what was it/were they?

Manda_Jones13 karma

Nope, catch-up episodes for the same idea. Once to showcase the new prototypes and once out in Kenya.

NobilityScooter6 karma


I don't really have an outright question, but I wanted to share an observation I've made from watching several series of the show;

I have noticed that the Dragons will often make drastic decisions based on very little information, and very abruptly.

For example, Dragon A will ask the person(s) something like -

Do you have a patent for this?...''No''....I'M OUT!!

Then Dragon B will dig a little deeper, revealing that (hypothetically) not having a patent would be far wiser due to xxx reasons, resulting in much bigger profit margins. Dragon B then looks over to A with a smug grin.

That is just a (very poorly thought of) example, but the number of times I have seen one dragon declare they're out, only have to another dragon unlock some 'new' information that brings a whole new perspective on the business.

What I'm getting at is...is this just the result of having to edit out a lot of 'business talk' to make the show watch-able? Because I find it hard to believe that after nitpicking the business, any of the dragons would have such big stones left unturned for another dragon to capitalise on.

TL;DR: Do they edit out a lot of the actual discussion that takes place regarding your business plan, because it seems like big decisions are made in the blink of an eye, over relatively small details?

Squiddy0075 karma

She answered that above that the show producers cut down two 2 hours of conversation and pitches into 13 minutes of TV so that should answer if the dragons base their decisions on very little information plus there is loads of due delligence done after the show before actual investment is made

Manda_Jones5 karma

As Squiddy007 said - yes, exactly that.

simonforce6 karma

Saw this episode myself, thought you guys deserved it, i mean your product really can and is saving lives! How did you get involved with the dragons in the first place was it a thought out idea? Or a shot in the dark?

Manda_Jones15 karma

Thankyou! It was 50/50% - I was expecting a decent portrayal because we were young, broadly speaking knew our shit, and it was a social venture. I thought the publicity might lead to more and better connections for us as we outgrew our uni and postgrad business support networks. I wasn't expecting an offer!

itsjustausernamelol5 karma

Which, if any, organisations helped you to get to the point you were when you did the Dragons Den and what advice would you give to potential entrepreneurs?

Manda_Jones17 karma

Scottish Institute for Enterprise. They turned us from a student project with absolutely no business aspirations to a competent start-up business and I quite like my advice from above so I'll re-paste down here:

If you're trying to decide whether to do it, you probably shouldn't do it. If you're trying to figure out how to do it, get a bigger team. If you're trying to figure out what to do, join someone else's start up. And in ALL cases it'll take longer and cost more than you think. And then again! Also LISTEN TO DATA. Survey and prove EVERYTHING. TWICE! :)

SaberDart4 karma

Couple of quick questions.

1) Why RO? Why not employ microfiltration? The main contaminant in rural communities will be bacterial, and microfiltration will address that, lasts longer and costs less. It seems like RO is over treating the water.

2) On overtreating, this system treats to the point of un-usability. How would you propose to reintroduce minerals and electrolytes into the treated water in your system? Without those, RO treated water is undrinkable.

3) By what metric do you have an RO system that cost only twenty pound?

4) Or an RO membrane that will last a whole year, filtering 50L per day? That is nowhere near enough for a reverse osmosis system.

5) Is there any pretreatment or screening process before the RO membrane in order to filter out particulate matter that would otherwise punch holes in the membrane? Without that the membrane will be shredded.

Manda_Jones5 karma

Ah, it's not RO and never reached the market with that tech. Early mistake! It's silver-impregnated ceramic.

schnappslola3 karma

I remember your product!

What did you do to prepare for presenting to the Dragons?

What advice would you offer to anyone else considering pitching their product to the Dragons?

Manda_Jones8 karma

We pretty much just wrote and memorised the pitch. The rest was already done as a natural part of starting a business.

I've put a few pieces of pitching advice in the thread above, see reply to iiChickeN in particular. Hope that helps.

ramirezdoeverything3 karma

You have already stated that you managed to achieve your original equity offered, but do you feel that often on that program the dragons really screw the inventor into accepting a bad deal?

Manda_Jones4 karma

I can't possibly tell.. it's one of those "a 3rd of a £1M Company is better than 100% of a £100k company" debates each entrepreneur has to have with themselves..