Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

TV investment Dragon sees self as unlikely guru

Croxon in Winnipeg for event this evening

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Bruce Croxon is OK with the irony that his views on life and business are far more in demand as a TV celebrity than they ever were as a successful entrepreneur.

For the past 21/2 years, Croxon has been one of the stars of the CBC television program Dragons' Den. Before that, he was one of the founders of the online dating service Lavalife, which was sold to a company called Vertrue in 2004 for about $150 million.

"No one really cared too much to hear what I had to say before the show. Now people think I know more than I do," Croxon said in a recent telephone interview. "I was at an event last year and someone asked for my views on the state of the global economy. I said, 'Guys. I started an online dating service... ' "

Croxon is in Winnipeg this evening appearing at an event called the Innovators, organized by the Information & Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM).

He is having fun in his career as a Dragon and he is increasingly impressed with the show's impact.

"I did not realize that there were young children watching it," he said. "I get questions from kids about things like margins and inventory... far more intelligent questions than I would have had at their age."

He said he is also impressed with the quality of entrepreneurs in Canada. And while he recognizes Dragons' Den is a television show -- he says the producers let some presenters on the show that are not investable but make for good television -- he said the calibre of the pitches goes up every year.

He said of the presentations the Dragons agree to invest in, only about 15 per cent of them will actually close.

But he said of the eight deals in which he has invested from the show, he's happy with seven of them.

In addition to his television investing, Croxon is also a partner of Round13, a company that invests in digital start-ups including companies such as 360 Incentives and Sprigg Software.

While he was left with a good stake from the sale of Lavalife to start his own investment firm, he does not take any of it lightly and understands the challenges entrepreneurs in Canada face trying to access the kind of capital growing companies need.

But he does believe in the past few years the scenario of doing early-stage financing -- the riskiest category -- has filled in nicely with many new organized angel investor groups starting up all over the country.

Maybe some of them may have been inspired by Dragons' Den.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 18, 2013 B9

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