Recent BCom graduate Paul Davidescu stepped up his pitching game on last night’s episode of Dragon’s Den, as viewers across the country got to hear about his venture, the Tangoo pocket concierge.
Tangoo is a new app that plans an evening out, tailored to a user’s mood. The app recommends a curated selection of restaurants and bars to make an evening that’s romantic, adventurous, or whatever fits the mood.
For their pitch, Davidescu and his colleague, UBC engineering grad Jonathan Hill, simulated what the app can do by setting up a “date” between two Dragons, Arlene Dickinson and Michael Wekerle. Perhaps taken by the romance of the evening, Dickinson was the one Dragon who offered to invest in Tangoo. But Davidescu and Hill couldn’t accept her offer.
“It was an aggressive offer, and we were confident we could find more suitable investors who’d give us a better valuation,” Davidescu says. “We’re very happy with our decision.”
He says they still gained a lot from being on the show, as it helped get them funding from other sources – more funding than they’d even asked for on the program.
Plus, while famed restaurateur Vikram Vij, one of the Dragons, initially turned them down on the show, he clearly took notice of them, as he’s now on their board of directors and his flagship restaurant can be found on Tangoo’s app.
"What Tangoo is going to be able to do for the people is to showcase the passion of the restauranteur quickly... giving you those choices by flipping a few pages, and not a book," Vij says in a testimonial on the Tangoo website.
Bringing people together
Davidescu came up with the initial idea for Tangoo as a Sauder BCom student on exchange at Barcelona’s ESADE Business School. The brand has changed a lot since then, but Davidescu kept Tangoo’s core goal of bringing people together through social events.
“It started out when I was away, because that whole exchange was about doing cool things in completely unfamiliar territory,” Davidescu says. “Entrepreneurship is all about uncertainty, so it got me started in the right mindset.”
After being inspired by the strong community feel when Vancouver lit up for the 2010 Olympics, the team partnered with Vancity Buzz to launch Tangoo Nights in 2012. Staying true to their core goal, they brought together groups of strangers on prepaid nights out at two or three restaurants hand-picked by Tangoo staff.
The path to the Den
The following year, Davidescu surprised David Chilton, one of the Dragons, with an ad-hoc pitch at a CBC media junket. Chilton encouraged him to audition for Dragon’s Den, and gave him helpful advice that contributed to Tangoo’s reimagining as a pocket concierge.
The current business plan was developed in an overnight revamp the night before the Tangoo team pitched their start-up at Demo Day, an entrepreneurship competition at leading incubator Launch Academy. They won top honours; according to Davidescu, it was the high stakes and pressure that pushed them to succeed.
“When people expect more from you, you work a lot faster and smarter,” he says. They continued that pattern after successfully auditioning for Dragon’s Den in January, and were tasked with preparing to pitch for the Dragons in April.
Davidescu says the lead-up to pitch day was “extremely intense” as they did all they could to prepare, including practicing their pitch in front of a business writing class at Sauder. The topic of Lecturer Frederick Fajardo’s class that day? How to pitch like on Dragon’s Den.
Davidescu says the pressure of pitching to the team of powerful venture capitalists on national TV made his company move faster than ever before.
“We had this huge deadline and we had to make sure we rocked it – I think that having those big tasks might be the biggest value of the show,” Davidescu says.
The viewing party
Davidescu says he saw the episode airing as another opportunity to do what Tangoo does best: bring people together, this time by taking over a downtown Vancouver nightclub for a viewing party.
They had some other Dragon’s Den veterans on hand to share their experiences, including UBC MBA graduate Dustin Sproat whose pitch landed offers from all five Dragons for his venture – a social app for hockey enthusiasts called Shnarped. Sproat, who by coincidence shares office space with Tangoo, had previously helped the team prepare for their big pitch.
Guests at the viewing party were each given a name tag with a certain mood, and were supposed to seek out others with that same mood as the night went on. Davidescu said his team made an effort to match up strangers who they thought would get along smoothly. “It’s all about connecting people,” he says, adding that other Sauder alumni also set up smaller viewing parties across the country.
While the party guests didn’t get to see Tangoo emerge from the Den with an offer they could accept, Davidescu and his team remain upbeat about the attention their growing company is getting.
“Being seen nation-wide will help us do well no matter what,” Davidescu says. “For us, it’s still a win.”