A quartet of teams went into the Dragons' Den Friday afternoon, each one dreaming of seven-figure investments from venture capitalists from across Canada.
The teams, made up of recent business school graduates from the University of Manitoba and schools from Boston, Louisville and Arkansas, took part in one of the signature events at the biennial meeting of the Young Presidents' Organization.
Brett Wilson, one of the panellists on the popular CBC show, in which aspiring entrepreneurs appear before venture capitalists, pitch their business ideas and answer questions in the hopes of landing financial backing, brought the television concept to real life at the Manitoba Club.
Angad Singh, program supervisor with the Stu Clark Centre for Entrepreneurship at the I.H. Asper School of Business and one of the organizers of the Dragons' Den event, said a $5,000 prize will be awarded to the best-performing team. But the prize money is a pittance compared to what they're hoping to win.
"The teams are looking for $1 million to $5 million (from the venture capitalists)," he said.
All four groups of entrepreneurs have well-researched products they're ready to market. They were given 10 minutes in front of 80 YPO members/venture capitalists Thursday afternoon.
The pitch from the team of U of M alumni and their company, A2K Technologies, was for ColoSpec, a colorectal cancer-screening tool with the ability to detect the disease in the early stages in a non-invasive manner. There were two other pitches in the medical field and one in the solar industry.
Derek Johannson, chairman of Carlyle Printers Service and Supplies in Winnipeg, a YPO member and day chairman of the business-plan competition, said just like on TV, Thursday's event was about exposure.
"On the show, the (participants) might cut a deal with one of the five "dragons," or because of the exposure on TV, an investor who saw the show might call them. The same thing will happen here. There will be opportunities for individual (YPO) members to hook up with each of the four business plans," he said.
"It will be the first step in them getting the funding they're looking for. The teams won't walk out (of the Dragons' Den) with a million-dollar cheque, but they'll have had the exposure to be introduced to the kind of investors that write those kinds of cheques."
Attendees at the three-day AGM have come from coast to coast, primarily to network and talk shop. It is an exclusive club, however. You can't become a member unless you are the president, CEO or chairman of a company that has more than $10 million in annual revenue and more than 50 employees. More than $12.5 billion in annual sales is represented at this year's meeting. YPO has 40 members in Winnipeg.