Turning Heads in the Dragons' Den - Toronto Star

"Caddle was developed by Symetric Prodcutions inc." View the Caddle App

It’s hard to imagine any animal emerging victorious against a den of dragons.

Just don’t tell that to this rare breed of Caddle. The founders of Caddle, Inc. — a digital couponing app — appeared on CBC’s Dragons’ Den on Oct. 12. And they certainly had their fairy-tale ending.

“They were very receptive to the platform,” Caddle CEO Ransom Hawley says of the five business gurus who hold court on the CBC reality show. “I have watched every scene of Dragons’ Den. I have dreamed of being on the show . . . entrepreneurship runs in my family.”

Caddle was seeking $125,000 for a 15per-cent stake in the company. After two dragon offers that included $120,000 for 20 per cent, the startup tried to lure all four dragons into their lair. In the end, four out of the five dragons came together to make a deal — offering to invest $125,000 in Caddle for 28 per cent of the company. The reality TV icons set the price higher given the group commitment.

Hawley believes they could have had a five-headed dragon on their side, but venture capitalist Michele Romanow had to abstain due to a noncompete with her former e-commerce company SnapSaves.

Hawley admits being nervous going into the den. Given Romanow’s experience in the sector, he felt she breathed the most fire.

“She is fierce,” he says. “She knows the space and I knew she was going to ask the toughest questions.”

Caddle CMO Mick Higgins had a different take.

He cited Manjit Minhas, co-owner of Minhas Breweries and Distillery, as the toughest foe in the studio, and praised her skills as a negotiator.

They were both in agreement on the most affable dragon.

“I think we’d both like to have a beer with Michael Wekerle,” Higgins says of the charismatic financial guru.

Since the episode aired, the dragons and Caddle continue to negotiate a potential partnership.

No matter the outcome, Hawley and Higgins already feel like knights in shining armour.

Higgins says the national appearance has a marketing value of approximately $1million, and will attract new clients and investment. Given the two men personally risked $200,000 on their digital venture, that’s already a major victory.

The perks of a dragons’ deal coming to fruition are numerous. The biggest opportunity is access to their diverse and massive networks, Hawley and Higgins explain. For example, Minhas could connect them with the beer and spirits industries, whereas Jim Treliving could help Caddle access the food (Boston Pizza) and service (Mr. Lube) industries.

Caddle hopes to grow its herd. The big draw of the national couponing app? Its users can save and earn money at the tap of a smartphone (app is available on all major devices). All they need to do is watch ads, answer short surveys and questionnaires and post to social media. They’re paid for their opinion. In a digital age where everyone seems compelled to share every thought, it’s almost like earning money to breathe. An era of instant gratification needs instant awards.

Hawley says Caddle gives coupons a new, “dynamic platform.” Users receive savings and cash back through a combination of engagement, feedback and purchases. Unlike traditional coupons, the app’s weekly offers aren’t just for consumer-packaged goods. They also cover food, retail and entertainment. As Hawley puts it, users can save money “in all aspects of their life.”

The company’s site claims users can earn roughly $20 per hour of engagement, but they must watch full ads and complete questionnaires (e.g. 10 cents cash back for a pumpkin spice survey). They need to earn at least $20 before they get paid. By purchasing a product and uploading their receipt they receive higher savings.

Higgins says Caddle also eliminates the “stigma of cutting out a coupon.” Users just need to take a picture of their receipt for reimbursement. He says Caddle is also a win for advertisers because it provides a rapid way to connect with consumers and get feedback on products. The app elim- inates the need for increasingly outdated tools such as expensive, timeconsuming market research, including focus groups or telemarketing.

The coupon may “predate all modern advertising,” as Higgins puts it, but it has a new medium and message. Engagement with brands is the name of the game. The app isn’t designed for a passive audience. Caddle’s message to potential users: throw out your flyers, put down your scissors and pick up your smartphone.

The app officially launched in late 2015 but, after battling the dragons, who knows what adventures lie ahead. If Hawley and Higgins have their way, everyone will soon be joining the herd.