KCB Lions Den Review: Flawed, but Worth the Watch

The KCB Lion’s Den is the local take on the highly successful ABC reality TV show Shark Tank. The Lion’s Den presents budding Entrepreneurs with the opportunity to pitch their business ideas to a panel of successful business personalities with the hope of being funded in exchange for equity stake in their companies. The panel consists of Kris Senanu, Wandia Gichuru, Myke Rabar, Darshan Chandaria and Olive Gachara – all very accomplished in their various industries. Similar to the Shark Tank, the investors use their own money to invest in the businesses.


I religiously watch the Dragon’s den as well as the Shark Tank and I was more than elated when this show was first announced. I believe the shows often perfectly recreates the board room drama that entrepreneurs have to face in their pursuit of business success.


First, I believe that the KCB Lion’s Den is well made, perfectly produced, and edited in line with international standards which is quite refreshing for a local reality TV Show. On the other hand, I also feel that the show has some major shortcomings that make it less of an entertaining reality TV show and more of a dull presentation of rushed and half-baked business ideas.


Here are some of my thoughts on the Lion’s Den:


The Entrepreneurial Spirit is Alive and Well in Kenya

I was pleasantly surprised when the first few episodes featured some companies and ideas that left me beaming. Some of my favorite ideas on the show include echo mobile, Bamba Systems, Tosheka textiles – I was very impressed by so many ideas that I had to highlight my top 5 Lion’s Den ideas or products on this post.
Some of the entrepreneurs such as Bentos Fuel have very good margins, even in niche markets. Tech ideas such as Echo Mobile and Bamba Systems are very revolutionary and bound to excel. Mdundo, the popular music download site, also made an appearance at a valuation of Sh.2Bn. I will also definitely try out some of the products pitched such as locally manufactured chocolate by Chocolate world.

I will also definitely try out some of the products pitched such as locally manufactured chocolate by Chocolate World and the motorcycle tracking technology developed by BTrack global should come in handy.

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The Lion’s are Surprisingly Poor Investors

After watching most episodes of the Lion’s Den, I could easily pick out the Lions as the show’s greatest weakness. Can’t say I didn’t see this coming since the Lions are either working as corporate employees or working only within certain industries. Additionally, it appears as if the panel does not really understand it’s role on the show, and you should be able to note this too, especially if you have ever watched the Shark Tank or the Dragon’s den.

Additionally, it appears as if the panel does not really understand it’s role on the show, and you should be able to note this too, especially if you have ever watched the Shark Tank or the Dragon’s den.
The panel is supposed to be comprised of Venture Capitalists whose main role is to provide capital or support small to companies that wish to expand. The problem with the current panel is that the members are only comfortable investing in companies that they feel is within their current industry or scope – which is really holding the show back.

Chandaria is only interested in manufacturing, Olive only appears to believe that she can add value to a publishing or hospitality business, and Wandia Gichuru is only conversant with the Fashion industries. The same can also be said about Kris Senanu and Mike Rabar.
Without watching the rest of the series, anyone can easily predict that Olive Gachara will most likely leave the den with a handful of publishing companies and magazines, Wandia with a bunch of Fashion companies added to her portfolio and so on.

You would be tempted to think that the lions are only there to expand their current businesses and not to invest like true venture capitalists. Olive Gachara also looks lost half the time, and I suspect she was just brought in to be the pretty face of the den.
On Shark Tank wall street type investors such as Kevin and Robert Herjavec, and Mark Cuban – a tech mogul – often invest in food products, event ideas, fashion companies and other businesses that you wouldn’t expect them to be interested in, but as long as there is an opportunity for growth the sharks are always interested – which I believe should be the case in the Den.

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However, the Lion’s – seemingly unaware of the value their brand has – tend to back out of investing in  good businesses simply because they believe they can’t ‘add value’.


Where is the drama?

The key ingredient for any successful reality TV show is drama. Sadly,  Lion’s den does not appear to be able to replicate the drama that you would normally find on similar shows. Again – I blame this solely on the panel – they are just too nice, often misinformed about most things and lacking a TV presence.

The key selling point of Shark tank is that it successfully and perfectly recreates the drama that occurs during pitch meetings between investors and hopeful entrepreneurs. The primary reason I watch shows such as Dragon’s den is to listen to the investors as they pick apart business models while highlighting potential problems that might impede growth/make it not an investable business – something which the Lion’s Den is lacking.

The Lions rarely ask informed questions and over the course of the season my initial excitement over watching the show has slowly dissipated. Over the course of 9 episodes, the most intelligent -albeit overdone – question often asked in the den, besides financials, is whether the business has any intellectual property – even when it is entirely unnecessary.

The lion’s den needs a ‘Kevin’. By this, I mean that one of the lions on the show has to take up the role of the protagonist in the den. Every reality show needs one. Picture ‘Ian’ in Tusker Project Fame or Simon Cowell in American Idol. At least one lion has to be tough on the entrepreneurs, and frankly some of the businesses pitched in the den need to shot down by a straight talking lion.

If you want to understand what I am talking about then you should watch the UK Dragon’s Den. None of the investors pretend to be nice and often tell it like it is to the investors. It isn’t uncommon to find the dragon’s throwing products at the entrepreneurs, unfiltered criticism, and unlike the shark tank irrelevant personal stories meant to soften the investors are often frowned at. Sadly, the lion’s are trying too hard to appease the audience and entrepreneurs, losing Genuity in the process.

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Too many Ideas, Sadly Very Few Businesses

As much as I proclaim to like some of the ideas pitched, most of what is shown on the Lion’s den can be described as half-baked ideas that are bound to fail. I don’t know if this is done intentionally to increase the number of appearances, but some of these ideas don’t deserve to pass a vetting process. For instance, this idea of a car that runs on air that was pitched on episode 2.

On the surface, this might sound like a very brilliant idea, but an engineer friend who saw the pitch with me burst out laughing. First, the pitcher has no background in engineering, and expectedly has no clue what goes into car design. The engineer pointed out thousands of reasons why the idea is absurd including how global companies have injected billions of dollars in similar projects with limited success. To top it off, it requires millions just to purchase software used in mechanical design.

There has been a similar pattern across most of the episodes with the show featuring too many startup ideas as opposed to functional business which should be the focus of the den keeping in mind that the Lion’s Den is not a startup incubator.

Have you watched the Lion’s Den? What are your thoughts?

  1. Dan
  2. Dan, Director, QBF www.qbf.co.ke
  3. Just an observer
    • A fan
  4. Teresa

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