Our Journey to the Dragons’ Den

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The last 2 months have been quite an adventure. At the last minute, I decided we should audition for CBC Dragons’ Den (Canadian version of Shark Tank). I was planning to run an ultra marathon the day the auditions were in Vancouver, luckily they had auditions in Abbotsford the day before. We had a few days to plan a pitch and we came up with a fun idea, and hoped the producers would like it.

They did, 2 weeks later we got a call saying we had been selected to go to Toronto to pitch to the Dragons. As a fan of the show, I was really excited but I wanted to show RunGo in the best possible light. We had spent a few months on market validation and research, and were planning to start a marketing campaign. I realized the reason we weren’t growing as expected was because people didn’t know about us. It’s something I think a lot of startups don’t focus on, and it’s actually much more important than features. We had been adding features thinking that that would promote growth, the “if you build, they well come” approach rarely works, and didn’t work for us.

With Dragons’ Den only a few weeks out, it was the perfect time to start our marketing and advertising campaign, so we made ads on Google Adwords, Facebook and Twitter. Facebook was OK, but our ads kept losing reach after a few days. Sometimes you just need a little help. As a Founder, I’ve become good at asking for help when needed, I would much rather ask for help than waste time and money, especially when it’s my money in the company.

I was at the Running USA conference a few weeks earlier, and met a Facebook advertising guy, Brian from AdvertiseMint. He has an agency that only does Facebook ads. I called them up and told them, “Help, we are on Dragons’ Den in a few weeks and our Facebook Ads aren’t working!”, by the end of the day, they had setup a Facebook campaign for us. Our goal was to build our brand, find our CPI (Cost per Install) and boost downloads a little.

The campaign went really well, within a few days we got our CPI down to about $1, and we could see the data that directly correlated with our research and confirmed our target demographic. Not only were runners downloading RunGo, but they were sharing, commenting and liking our ads. Most the comments were really supportive and downloads were skyrocketing.

In addition, we decided to launch RunGo on Product Hunt. We got ready for the launch, and at midnight on Tuesday we attempted to submit RunGo on Product Hunt, only to find out that we were already on Product Hunt. Another user has posted RunGo on the site 9 months earlier, and with no promotion, it only had a few upvotes. I was able to post just our iPhone and Android App links, but not a link to our main landing page. We got a few upvotes but didn’t make it to the featured page. I sent a message to Product Hunt explaining that another person has posted RunGo earlier without our knowledge.

Our downloads continued to increase, running clubs were now posting their routes on RunGo, it was great to see the growth and made me feel much more confident going into Dragons’ Den.

After practicing our pitch and demo multiple times with Alicia and Paul, we made our way to Toronto ready for our big day. Of course, I went for a run, and found a great route on RunGo along the waterfront.

The day after we arrived, I saw a tweet from Product Hunt. They had just reposted and featured RunGo on Product Hunt. In a day we received over 100 upvotes, and even 2 weeks later, we remained one of the top health and fitness products. I felt like the stars were aligning for RunGo: in the 2 weeks leading up to our pitch to the Dragons, our average daily downloads were up by 1000%, and the day before our pitch, our daily download went up by 2500%.

We were told to arrive at the CBC Studios at 1pm, so at 12:45pm, we arrived at the studio: I didn’t want to be late. After waiting for at least 1 hour in the lobby, we went upstairs to the holding area, where you wait for a while before pitching. Alicia and Paul thought it would be great if we went first, I on the other hand was looking forward to a few more practice pitches. Alicia and Paul got their wish, as soon as we walked in we were told we were up. They were behind schedule, we got to see the stage, told them our demo plans, and they setup our demo. Next, someone was putting mics on us, and then it was time for us to walk into the Den. The Dragons’ Den stage is really cool, and it was amazing to be there. I can’t say what happened, and I don’t even remember exactly what we said. We are looking forward to seeing it when it airs sometime between October 2016 and April 2017 and of course will let everyone know as soon as they tell us an air date.

I would recommend any startup to go on Dragons’ Den, it really forces you to know your numbers, prepare a strong pitch and if you get on and they air the show its give a company amazing exposure regardless of the outcome.

We’re not waiting for Dragons’ Den to air, we are continuing with our growth and marketing strategies. We have some big goals and have the confidence we can achieve them now.

If you have a startup, don’t wait to market your product or service, even if it’s not ready, we waited much too long, start marketing on day 1 or earlier.

RunGo is the first navigation app for runners, with turn-by-turn voice navigation on running routes worldwide. If you are a runner and want to discover running routes without getting lost, you can download RunGo for iPhone or Android.

I also want to thank the entire RunGo team for all their help and hard work, I couldn’t have done it with you.

Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse.

Author: Craig Slagel