Our Lions Den Experience with Cloud9xp

The KCB Lions’ Den is Kenya’s biggest business reality television show. The series is modeled around a TV production which originated in Japan as Money Tigers or Tigers of Money. The TV format has since been customized and successfully launched in over 20 other countries globally with versions being shown in UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Netherlands, Finland, Middle East and Canada. I believe the name Lions’ Den is meant to be relevant and appeal to local market in official affiliation with the US and UK versions of the show which are called Shark Tank and Dragons’ Den respectively.

In each season, around 72 Kenyan entrepreneurs get to pitch their business to a panel of five of the country’s most dynamic and adventurous investment leaders; Darshan Chandaria – a manufacturing dynamo, Olive Gachara – a publishing and PR expert, Myke Rabar – Event Management and Corporate entertainment expert, Kris Senanu – Tech Investor, hospitality and serial entrepreneur and last but not least, Wandia Gichuru – A Fashion Designer and retail heavy hitter.

In season one, the show attracted close to 5 Million unique viewers in the 12 weeks of airing on NTV Kenya and trended No.1 on Twitter every Monday during the airing period. We featured on the fourth episode of the Season two. I cannot tell how much traction this will provide yet, but I will share my top 3 learnings from the nervy experience.

Leading Up

Launched in 2015 by fourth-year college friends Emmanuel Miriti, Tesh Mbaabu and Mesongo Sibuti, Cloud9xp is an online retailer and booking service for leisure experiences. It started off a retailer of “High On Life” apparel, and pivoted into an experience/leisure company one year later, as we looked to assist positive, fun-seeking free spirits like ourselves in looking for amazing experiences all over the continent.

The show! We literally applied less than 24 hours to the application deadline. I was scrolling down my twitter feed when I saw a promoted ad by KCB Group urging budding entrepreneurs to apply. I quickly noted this to my co-director, and this is how the conversation went:

Tesh: “Boss. What do you think about applying for KCB Lions Den. Should we try?”

Imma: (Holds chin) Hmmm… What would we possibly have to lose?

Tesh: Aight, I’m on it!

Yes, that little spark there got us going. It took me about 10 minutes to complete, review and submit the application. We forgot about it. Weeks later, I received an email that our business had been selected for stage two of the application. We breezed through this too, and the processes there after – including hours of preparation for the pitch – and these would be my key advise points for anyone looking to apply:

1. Look Past Failure

The fear of failure, especially on national television, can drive away entrepreneurs in droves. Entrepreneurs must overcome this fear if they ever hope to grab on to great opportunities that would possibly lead to success.

Watching entrepreneurs being turned down on the show won’t inspire much hope. However, investors have time and time again said that looking past fear is crucial to winning.

 “It’s not about money or connections – it’s the willingness to outwork and outlearn everyone…and if it fails, you learn from what happened and do a better job next time.” – Mark Cuban 

The best way to overcome fear of failure is through failing itself. Take the first step and fail once, twice or as many times as needed to find your success.

Failures become less scary the more you experience it. Eventually you will see failure as a necessary learning experience on the road to success.

2. Understand your business 

Lions Den investors hear countless pitches and only offer deals to a fraction of the entrepreneurs they listen to. Most pitches fail because of a lack of preparedness.

The first step in a successful business plan is to identify your market. No investor cares how amazing your product is if no market is willing to purchase it.

Next, run every single number associated with producing your product. You’ll need sales goals, direct and indirect costs, knowledge on competitors, expected investments etc. to win over investors. They want to know that your plan is bullet proof.

It helps to consult experts like accountants and other business owners when attempting to run your numbers. They have the experience to help you make sense of your numbers. But don’t take anyone’s advice for gospel. Only you know the ins and outs of your own business.

You don’t want to become one of the almost 50 percent of entrepreneurs who fail because they don’t heed this advice. Incompetence is the fastest avenue to failure.

3. Believe in Yourself and Your Product

Sixty-six percent of entrepreneurs say their reason for becoming entrepreneurs was to capitalize on a business plan (the money), but only eight percent of people who made pitches made them successfully.

How did the majority of people fail to convince investors of their product’s worth? It’s simple, people are fixated on the monetary gain and not belief in their product.

Entrepreneurs that pitch to investors only looking for an end profit often give up easily on their product. After all, the product is only a business plan devised to make money.

It’s imperative to believe in the long term potential of your business (and product), and look beyond immediate finances. You must truly believe that your product is a winner. 

Most times, Investor Darshan Chandaria will offer the entrepreneur capital for 30 to 50 percent ownership in the company. That amount of relinquished equity is enough to scare off many entrepreneurs. However, as much as you believe in your product/idea, please remember that it takes more than a brilliant idea to be successful. With this in mind, understand what your company is truly worth in order to strike a balance on what you are willing to actually give up.

Wrapping Up

Entrepreneurs looking to pitch successfully to investors need to remember the three main aspects to my Lions Den formula: conquer fear, understand your business and believe in your product.

If you combine these three key pieces, your chances of being successful skyrocket!

Cloud9xp has already managed to cover the majority of Kenya’s leisure options, and is now looking to expand to East and Southern Africa within the next year. Darshan and his team at Chandaria Capital are currently discovering ways for us to optimise our current business model.

I would love to thank the entire Cloud9xp team for the effort and extra time you put into making our appearance at the den successful. I would like to specially thank our Head of Marketing, Jamil Alibhai with whom we spent a couple of days scripting and preparing for the pitch. He felt sick on the morning prior to the pitch but braved through it as we delivered the pitch. You won’t even tell!

Thanks for taking the time to read about my experience, and I look forward to sharing new developments about Cloud9xp with all of you!

You can watch the full pitch here!

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