Innovators need support says Dragons’ Den winner Rob Kinna

Since attracting investment of £60,000 from Richard Farleigh and Duncan Bannatyne on BBC show Dragons' Den, entrepreneur Rob Kinna's phone has barely stopped ringing. The trouble is, the people who are so keen to talk to him now are the very same who turned down his earlier requests for help.

Kinna’s invention, Bak-Jak, is designed to help those performing maintenance jobs support their weight while they work. It has sold over 200 units since Farleigh and Bannatyne invested last year. But when Kinna first approached distributors, he was rebuffed.

‘It was obvious they hadn’t even read my letters,’ he says. ‘But now there is the chance of a bit of publicity, they want to get their hands on it.’

In Kinna’s view, there is a general lack of support for small-scale but potentially profitable innovations – not only from established companies that might benefit from strategic partnerships, but from financial institutions too.

‘I was talking to one [potential investor], who said they were always interested in innovative ideas as long as they were going to make profits of £100 million,’ Kinna recalls. ‘I thought, “That may be small money for you, but for a lot of growing businesses it’s off the scale.”’

The problem begins with education and is exacerbated by television, Kinna believes. He says that while schools push children towards IT as opposed to ‘getting their hands dirty and making things’, TV focuses on a ‘mad inventor’ stereotype, apparent in the choice of contestants for Dragons’ Den, which does nothing to help innovators with more practical ideas.

Marc Barber

Marc Barber

Marc was editor of GrowthBusiness from 2006 to 2010. He specialised in writing about entrepreneurs, private equity and venture capital, mid-market M&A, small caps and high-growth businesses.

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