Wipebook cuts a deal in the Dragons' Den

There was plenty of fire in the Dragons’ Den when a couple of Ottawa entrepreneurs made their pitch on the popular CBC program Wednesday night – most of it directed right at them.

Thankfully for Frank Bouchard and Toby Maurice, they escaped unscathed, and got a healthy infusion of cash to boot.

The founders of local startup Wipebook scored a deal with dragon Arlene Dickinson, who liked their portable, reusable notebook idea so much she agreed to invest $300,000 in the fledgling firm in exchange for a 25 per cent stake in the company.

The University of Ottawa grads were originally asking that much for a 10 per cent share, but they happily shook hands on Ms. Dickinson’s offer.

“She’s an awesome lady,” Mr. Bouchard said Thursday afternoon while answering texts and e-mails from people who saw their prime-time TV appearance.

“She’s an amazing person to talk to. She gave us tons of really great advice.”

Ms. Dickinson, the CEO of Venture Communications, couldn’t say enough about the Wipebook product on Wednesday night’s segment, calling it a “fantastic idea.”

Her fellow dragons, however, were far less enthusiastic. The other four VCs all passed on a chance to invest in Wipebook, with Wealthy Barber author David Chilton seeming to relish his role as sceptic the most.

“I’ve never disagreed with Arlene more strongly,” he told the young founders. “I think tablets are gonna blow it away. She’s very smart, but holy smokers, I don’t see it.”

Difference Capital CEO Michael Wekerle wasn’t much kinder.

“I think that this is going to go the way of velcro,” he said before rejecting his business suitors.

The other two dragons, Jim Treliving and Vikram Vij, also declined to make an offer, arguing the company was overvalued and dismissing its original crowdfunding campaign, which raised more than $400,000, as mostly a result of hype.

But Ms. Dickinson waved off the doubters, saying she thinks the $30 Wipebook, billed as a “marriage between a wipeboard and a notebook,” fills a niche in the market.

“Every reason you guys hate it, I love it,” she told her fellow dragons.

The whole exchange was actually tamer on TV than in real life, Mr. Bouchard said, suggesting some of the juicier parts were left on the cutting room floor.

“That was the PG-13 version,” he said with a laugh. “(The producers) made us look pretty good, I think. In a way, I was relieved that they didn’t make us look like total fools, but it would’ve been awesome to keep some of that spicy kind of back-and-forth between us and them.”

Mr. Maurice was quick to jump to his product’s defence in the segment, firmly telling Mr. Chilton tablets “aren’t there yet” as a notebook replacement. Now, more than a year after the episode was filmed, he said the dragons were just doing their jobs.

“That’s part of their strategy,” he said. “They’re looking to test your entrepreneurial skills. They know that you have a game plan coming in, so obviously they’re going to try and throw you off.”

Since landing the deal with Ms. Dickinson, which is still going through due diligence, Wipebook has surpassed the $1-million mark in sales, and Staples outlets in the Toronto area and western Canada have begun offering the product on a trial basis.

Other retail deals are also in the works. Mr. Bouchard said he hopes the Dragons’ Den appearance gives the firm even more momentum, but he already feels like Wipebook has proven its naysayers wrong.

“When we were watching this (Wednesday) night, we were looking at our phones and looking at the sales at the same time just explode,” he said. “That was like, ‘All right, this is validated.’ We know what we have here.”