Dragon’s Den fans might have caught Vancouver’s Dan Mangan and Halifax-based Laura Simpson not only taking the spotlight on the show this weekend, but walking away with a $500,000 deal.
The two are business partners in the music-business startup Side Door, which dates back to 2017, but really took off through livestreams when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the world. The platform connects musicians with fans on numerous levels. A big one is that anyone can reach out to a musician—or vice versa—and offer to host a concert in whatever space they happen to have, whether that be a living room, backyard, man-cave, or home-built Swedish sauna.
The seven-minute Dragon’s Den segment started with a pitch from Simpson, and then expanded to include Mangan entering singing with his guitar.
While most of the entrepreneurs praised the two Side Door business partners for their inventiveness—and Mangan for his performance—they chose to pass. The one Dragon who didn’t was Arlene Dickinson, whose offer of $500,000 in a convertible note was quickly accepted.
Reached by the Straight, Mangan described the whole experience as nerve-wracking but fun.
“Some of the Dragons really didn’t understand what we did, but some of them had great questions,” Mangan said. “Our primary motivation was the free advertising and potential exposure. We wanted people everywhere to know that they could sign up as a host and curate shows for their communities. But it was nice to get Arlene on our side. She immediately grasped the need for what we’re doing and the possibility for the business case.”
Along with Simpson, Mangan walked onto the show with a finely-honed spiel.
“I think a lot of folks who go on Dragon’s Den have never pitched to investors before,” he said. “Luckily, Laura and I had spent the previous several years pitching to literally hundreds of investors and so we were pretty prepared. We knew what our weaknesses were and how to address them.”
In total, filming took 45 minutes for the Side Door segment, with that edited down to seven minutes for what fans saw on TV.
“I’ll also add, it was hilarious how they chopped up my song,” Mangan said. “I mean I knew they’d edit it for TV but they sped it up chipmunk-style. Even though we knew that we came out victorious, we didn’t know how they were going to edit the segment. In the end, I think the cut was fairly kind to us, which I appreciated. Reality TV can be sliced up any which way to make people look bad.”
Simpson and Mangan looked anything but. Touring is harder than ever for smaller bands as we continue our return to normalcy. In making their pitch, Mangan noted that he got his star playing in living rooms and backyards by people who were kind enough to host him.
“The challenge for artists right now is incredible,” he told the Dragons. “There are actually fewer venues to perform in than ever before. It is just too hard to book a gig, but there is another way. Imagine you could attend a show one block over in your neighbour’s backyard, or in your local bookstore.”
Dickinson made her offer after praising Side Door for having its priorities straight.
“I love that you have the artist point of view,” she said. “I think that is so important because a lot of time there’s a great business idea but you don’t really represent the people that you’re trying to do business with.”
You can watch the whole clip here.