FIRST AND FOREMOST I am a bloke. In fact according to RTÉ I am a hardnosed, fire-breathing Dragon. Also for four years on The Apprentice I have been “the bad cop” interviewer. So why did I cry, almost like a baby, on last Sunday night’s Dragons’ Den?
TheJournal.ie has asked me to explain why or what happened to cause my tears. I will oblige simply because I am a big fan of TheJournal.ie. It is at the leading edge of news dissemination of the future. So here’s my attempt to explain what happened. It can only be an attempt because, I assure you, no one was more surprised than me at how I was affected by Jason O’Reilly’s story.
If you didn’t see the show let me briefly explain what happened. Jason comes into the Den. He is very confident, almost cocky but in an attractive way. It helps that he is also funny. He tells us he’s from Tallaght but now lives in Virginia, which he proudly informs us is the “Malahide of County Cavan” or “V4” as he describes it. He looks like a young Al Pacino but acts like Del Boy; he is selling watches.
We have all seen kids around the globe wearing silicone wrist bands but they are nearly always single colour. Jason has come up with a process where the silicone can be in two or three colours. His idea is a step beyond the wrist band which has no function. He can make silicone watches in two or three colours so the watch can be in the colour of any football team or club.
It is a brilliant idea but we always invest in the person not just the idea. Jason is asked about his background. He leaves us in no doubt despite leaving school at 15 he has educated himself, has always been a hard worker and is genuinely entrepreneurial.
All five Dragons are going to fight for this one. I have stopped listening to Jason and am now working out how I am going to get this deal ahead of my fellow Dragons. I want it – badly. Sean O’Sullivan makes an offer. Niall O’Farrell partners Sean in the joint offer.
Then something extraordinary happens. Normally when someone has got an offer of the full amount they sought in the Den they relax because, in truth, they now have the power, they are in the driving seat to negotiate a deal.
But Jason’s eyes well up in tears. Sitting to my immediate left is Norah Casey. Norah started out life as a nurse and she retains that special quality great nurses have, they can sense other people’s pain and feelings. Norah simply says, “Jason you’re hurting, I sense this has been tough for you?”
Jason literally breaks down in tears. He tells us how he had an investor who promised him €20,000 so he manufactured his first batch of watches and two days before it landed he got a text from his investor telling him he was pulling out of the deal. Jason had to sell their family car. However that only raised €9,000 so he had to beg, borrow and steal from his family and friends a further €11,000. He tells us his family is barely surviving on his back-to-work scheme earnings.
“The only thing I have been ever successful at is learning from my many, many failures”
Suddenly I am crying too. In 1992, I had just started up a new business and the exact same thing had happened to me when I was left high and dry for £27,000. I hadn’t thought about it for years but now it all came back with a bang.
I no longer wanted to compete for this deal. All I wanted to do was help Jason and I asked Bobby and Norah to bow out of the competition with me so we could all back Sean and Niall in helping Jason.
I hear Jason is on this week’s The Saturday Night Show (RTÉ1) to tell Brendan O’Connor all the wonderful things that have happened for him and his business as a result of him coming on Dragons’ Den, sponsored by Bank of Ireland. It is a great story: don’t miss it.
Over 600,000 people watched Jason last Sunday night and his honesty was an inspiration to all. What was remarkable about him is how he was so ultra confident and moments later so emotional. His struggle is Ireland’s struggle. People are hurting badly but feel for the sake of their sanity or maybe for their kids, for many reasons, they have to stay positive but the truth is we are a nation of people on the brink.
I cringe every time I see the start of Dragons’ Den where I am hyped as one of the country’s business successes. The only thing I have been ever successful at is learning from my many, many failures. Jason’s story reminds us all of the fact that when you are going through hell the only thing you can do is – KEEP GOING!
- This episode of RTÉ1′s Dragons’ Den is currently available to view on the RTÉ Player here.
- As well as appearing on Dragons’ Den and TV3′s The Apprentice, Gavin Duffy is an entrepreneur and media coach at MediaTraining.ie