KCB Lions Den Review: Flawed, but Worth the Watch

11 mins read

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.


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.

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.


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?


I am a web developer most of the time. I enjoy writing about online work, business, travel, and technology.


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  2. Hello, I do not agree with the Lions are poor investors point.

    1. On all the other global versions of this show, Shark Tank and Dragons den, it is the exact same scenario. Over 95% of instances, they only invest in the industries they can add value to, and even often mention ” I wont be able to help you, as my skills and industry expertees lie elsewhere”.

    SO this is the same of every variant of this show.

    • Not always, Kevin has his hands in almost everything. So do the other Sharks even when they believe the business will be profitable for the short term.

  3. Great article. We’d have called it… Flawed yet Worth the Watch.

    The first of its kind in Africa, is it not?
    These are its humble beginnings. The brand is growing, entrepreneurs are learning. That someone (after hearing my pitch) would actually want to offer me capital and help me grow my business is a new concept here. We are slowly trying to wrap our heads around it.

    Imagine how hard it is to get a youth fund here in Kenya. This-this right here is revolutionary! It will change the way we look at our ideas, it will change the way we view our potential. It redefines the phrase ”I can be whatever the heck I want to be! I can do whatever I set my mind on doing!”

    It’s a no-brainer that future episodes will be much better. Over and above that is a non-issue. Production/Editing/Low ratings/the Investors these are variables that can & will change with time. We are all learning- they are also learning.

    How about cutting them some slack already.
    Besides there’s a reason they are on our screens and we’re here writing artcles about them for a living. How about celebrating people who are thinking outside the box? Companies that are doing more than just availing loans to SME’s. We don’t always have to be cracking the whip against ourselves, we can leave the rest of the world to do that.

    Why do you even compare a program like this that has run for what 2years, to Shark-Freaking-Tank! That’s absurd! You forget we are a 3rd- Freaking- World-Country!
    Ya’ll are busy whinning and sweating the small stuff…editing/production, your missing the darn point! And Dan- you the director of QBQ, I doubt this author has your best interest at heart. So no need of telling them how hard ya’ll are cracking your heads to get a good show.

    The school of thought that such articles will get you more visibility- is what is flawed. This is simply scooping down too low.

  4. Had a good look at your site. How much are you being sponsored by the all important and noble Sports Betting fraternity?

  5. Thanks for your kind words about our efforts! Lions Den season two is indeed under way and will be premiering on the 5th of September, the promo can be seen here:


    Really hope we enthrall you as much this time, if not more, than we we did last year! I’m sure you will be letting us know. We are working really hard to try and bring it up to the standard of other locally produced shows!

    Kiqwai, do you produce any TV content, or anything beyond this blog? Would love to have a look and let you know my thoughts 🙂

    Cheeers 🙂

  6. I agree. There is no way that such a panel (with the exemption of Mike Rabar) know the struggle that goes into building a company from the ground. That is the key characteristic of Shark tank and the likes. The entrepreneurs have more or less been there. They do build companies from the ground up.

  7. As a participant I can tell you that the drama was plenty during filming – but the editing and direction is very, very, sub-par and shoddy. It completely cuts out the entertaining / confrontational parts to present someone’s or some panel’s reserved view of what a “business show” looks like. Not surprising given the “too many cooks” involved in decision making (KCB, KTN, Production company & the Lions themselves).

    What you are seeing is discussions that took about 15mins to 1.5 hours butchered by very poor river-road-style editing into 3-7 minutes. The entertainment aspect is very low with poor choice of music, sfx, tension, story progression etc and low tolerance for spontaneity.

    Any part where the Lions are challenged or made to look like they are out of league is cut out. What you see as the final cut is an overzealous attempt to prop up the illusion that Lions are sophisticated “investors” that know what they are doing – an attempt, as many have observed, that fails miserably.

    As a viewer, I agree that it is an excruciatingly boring show (and I blame it on poor casting of the VC panel, shoddy direction and horrendous editing). The investor panel not only lack VC credibility as you and many others have independently pointed out, but are not taken seriously by successful entrepreneurs (the only exception being Mr. Rabar who is the only Lion with solid credibility as a true entrepreneur – though not as an investor) .

    I and many others (including those that sent their Business Dev teams) were aware of the weak panel and we were not really interested in getting a deal from them because the reasons you have pointed out were already apparent to us. We only went there for publicity, not investment.

    In Season two (if at all it gets greenlit – which is doubtful given the low ratings) we need to see real billionaires / VCs. Big league business leaders like Chris Kirubi , Manu Chandaria, Vimal Shah, Atul Shah, SK Macharia, James Mwangi. People who have been there and done it themselves and who have real money to invest. Not jokers/wannabes who fight to get 40% of a business worth 500,000/- and call that a deal worth airing on National TV.

    No credible entrepreneurs will seek an investment from a well paid employee or mommy’s girl who has never started a business from zero and made it into a success (Rabar & Wandia exempted – but they should be pitching to VCs at their level – not investing). They will not understand the ups and down and will hound you for returns until you regret the day you met them.

  8. Spot on! Creativity and originality lacks in this program. Once you get gist of how the story should go after watching shark tank, you realize its a failed case of copy pasting.

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