Dragons’ Den viewers were left shocked after a team of entrepreneurs turned down four separate investment offers of £100,000 on last night’s episode.
Entrepreneurs Paul Varga, Tolulope Ogunsina and Matthäus Ittner, appeared on the BBC show to pitch Playbrush, a mobile app that transforms a toothbrush into a video game controller to make the experience fun for children.
The Dragons were impressed by the London-based company, which has already secured a deal with Unilever and sold 100,000 products in the last 18 months.
But they were turned off by the request for a £100,000 investment in exchange for a meagre 1 per cent stake.
After hearing more about the business, Dragons Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Touker Suleyman and Tej Lalvani all made offers of the total £100,00 but asked for a much larger stake in return.
The Playbrush trio, who met at University College London, chose not to compromise and walked away from the process with nothing – much to the disbelief of many viewers.
One wrote: ‘Fools for not taking one of those offers.’ Another agreed, posting: ‘Why did they even bother?’
The Playbrush founders came up with the idea for the business after Paul saw how little his young godson wanted to brush his teeth.
The game aims to encourage children by transforming a toothbrush into a gaming controller.
Parents attach a small device to the end of a toothbrush which connects via Bluetooth to a phone or tablet where the game is played.
What is Playbrush from Dragons’ Den and how does it work?
Entrepreneurs Paul Varga, Tolulope Ogunsina and Matthäus Ittner came up with the idea for Playbrush after Mr Varga noticed how much of a struggle it was to get his young godson to brush his teeth.
He turned to his two friends, whom he met at University College London, and together they came up with the idea for the game. Together, the friends began building the business in Vienna and designing the product in London.
Mr Varga, who originally studied biotechnology in Vienna, is responsible for business development.
Mr Ogunsina is responsible for the development of the games and Matthäus Ittner, who studied business administration and international management in Vienna and also attended the IE Business School in Madrid, looks after the marketingand finance side of the start-up.
Playbrush consists of two separate parts. The first is the hardware attachment with a coloured rubber toothbrush holder, which attaches to any manual toothbrush and converts it into a game controller.
This connects via bluetooth to a games app that can be played on either a phone or an iPad, which can be attached to a bathroom mirror for ease.
There are currently four games to play. Children aged three and above can fight green decay monsters, save the Tooth Fairy, fly planes and even paint pictures.
The game is controlled by the movement of the child’s toothbrush and built-in motion sensors measure toothbrushing positions, speed and duration.
A cleverly designed algorithm measures brushing and ensures that the mouth is cleaned for long enough and thoroughly, and real-time feedback in the form of statistics and a reward system give children extra motivation.
After a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014, Austrian business angel investor Hansi Hansmann and venture capital firm Speedinvest invested €700,000 (£620,000) in the young company.
This launched Playbrush to the point where around 100,000 Playbrush devices have now been sold to children in more than 25 countries – including Germany, Austria, Switzerland, UK and France.
The trio appeared on Dragons’ Den to ask for £100,000 to expand their marketing in Britain.
Helping them on their journey to transform oral health were renowned dentists, including Dr. Paul Ashley, Head of Paediatric Dentistry at the Eastman Dental Hospital in London.
He said: ‘It is important that children learn the right brushing technique early. Playbrush is a great way to encourage teeth to be cleaned regularly, at the right speed and area of the mouth. The idea is very clever.’
Each brushing movement moves the character on the screen and the two-minute long game setup encourages children to brush for the correct amount of time.
They had already agreed a corporate branding and licensing agreement with Unilever, allowing them to sell the game with high quality toothbrushes.
The company had a turnover of £1.2million in 2016 and was at £2million turnover at the time the show was filmed.
They were seeking a £100,000 investment to help boost marketing in the UK.
Tej Lalvani was the first to make an offer for the full amount, initially asking for a 10 per cent stake before lowering it to 6 per cent in a bid to woo the entrepreneurs.
Deborah Meaden and Peter Jones both offered £100,000 in exchange for 5 per cent while Touker Suleyman wanted 10 per cent for his money.
Jenny Campbell was the only Dragon not to offer any money, saying part of her reason was because she felt brushing teeth should have an element of seriousness.
The Playbrush team discussed briefly before putting forth a counter offer of 1.25 per cent.
They also tried to offer Meaden an advisory position before being cut short by Jones, who explained: ‘You’re in here for investment. You’re not here for advice.’
The exchange ended with the Playbrush trio thanking the Dragons for their time before leaving the Den. After their departure, the Dragons admitted that they had expected the entrepreneurs to be more flexible in the negotiations.
Who are the most successful rejects of Dragons’ Den?
The Playbrush trio are far from the only contestants to walk back out of the Den empty handed. But an unsuccessful pitch does not always mean the end of the road. Indeed so-called rejects have gone on to achieve great success.
Like the Playbrush team, some are brave enough to reject the Dragons’ offers, believing they deserve more. Other future success stories were simply dismissed out-of-hand.
Here, we take a look at the ones that got away…
Best friends who rejected Peter Jones
Friends who appeared on Dragons’ Den had the last laugh after turning down Peter Jones’ paltry offer and turning their firm into a multi-million pound business.
Jonny Pryn and Alex Somervell were told they were ‘about to make a big mistake’ by media tycoon Mr Jones, after bravely refusing his offer of £60,000 investment.
Appearing on the BBC show earlier this month, the pair turned down Jones’ demands for 20 per cent of the business, causing the other dragons to snigger in disbelief.
But Mr Pryn, 25, and Mr Somervell, 27, soon proved they had made the right decision, after their company One Third Stories rose in value to £2.6million.
The hairbrush entrepreneur who is worth millions
He was famously turned down in the Dragons’ Den, but former hairdresser Shaun Pulfrey continues to have the last laugh by raking in millions from his Tangle Teezer hairbrush.
Figures filed for his company in March last year showed sales soared by a massive 22 per cent to £28.6 million in the year to March 31, 2016, while pre-tax profits grew from £7.4 million to £8 million.
Pulfrey, who remortgaged his home to launch his business, did not take a dividend during the year but was paid £2.7 million in royalty payments.
The success of Tangle Teezer – which was described on BBC TV by Dragons including Peter Jones and Deborah Meaden as ‘hair-brained’, ‘a waste of time’ and ‘like a horse brush’ – has been phenomenal with 20 sold every minute globally.
The wine pioneer whose idea was snapped up by M&S
James Nash first took his Cup-A-Wine idea to BBC’s Dragons Den in 2009 only for it to be rejected out of hand.
The invention – a single-serve plastic glass of French wine with a tear-off lid – solves the problem of feeling like a glass of wine but not having a glass or a corkscrew.
He asked the Dragons – then Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis, Duncan Bannatyne, James Caan and Deborah Meaden – for £250,000 for a 25per cent stake in his business, Wine Innovations Ltd.
However, they gave him a torrid grilling and bowed out because they were unconvinced anyone would be interested.
Duncan Bannatyne was particularly dismissive, saying: ‘People don’t want to buy wine in plastic glasses like that with a seal on top. For that reason, I’m out.’
But M&S were a fan of the concept and adopted it as part of its Food on the Move section. It has proved hugely popular with commuters and picnicers.
Businessman whose bottles are sold around the world
Guy Jeremiah originally presented his collapsible water bottle idea to the BBC’s five dragons in 2010.
All five dismissed the idea, and even by the standards of the notoriously tough show, they gave Mr Jeremiah a grilling. Theo Paphitis even told him he’d rather stick pins in his eyes than back his idea.
But Mr Jeremiah went on to great success and his invention is available in 16 countries.
And if that was not enough to convince the Dragons they had missed a trick, he has also signed a distribution deal with Marks & Spencer.