Behind the scenes at Dragons’ Den: How we pitched a multi-million dollar startup to Canada’s fiercest investors

Pitching your business on national television can be a make it or break it opportunity. In the spring of 2017, Moka (previously known as Mylo) was invited to pitch on CBC’s Dragons’ Den. When our CEO Phil Barrar and Executive Chairman Liam Cheung faced the Dragons, we were already pitching investors to raise seed funding for our fintech app, but Dragon’s Den proved to be a pitching experience unlike any other. To celebrate the release of their episode, Phil and Liam take us behind the scenes and share some of the insight they gained from appearing on the show.

Lesson #1: Expect the unexpected. If you’re well prepared and can adapt to change, you’ll be able to make the most of any surprise opportunity.

Phil Barrar:  Pitch day started really early at 6:30 a.m., although that didn’t really matter since we were so excited it was impossible to sleep the night before. We grabbed a coffee across the street from the CBC studios in Toronto, where the show is taped, and we saw the other invited entrepreneurs in the same cafe, gearing up for the show.

Liam Cheung:  There was a lot of nervous energy in that coffee shop!

Dragons’ Den has two taping sessions in a day: one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It’s a really well-oiled machine. Everyone goes to a staging area on the seventh floor of the building, sets up their station, and rehearses their pitch in front of one of the show’s producers.

Phil: After our dry run, they brought us to a waiting room. We were scheduled to face the Dragon’s in a few hours, so we thought we had time to relax before showtime, but we were unexpectedly bumped to an earlier slot at the last minute! The told us we would be on in just 30 seconds! We were hurried up the stairs at the back of stage and told to follow a big yellow line to centre stage. That’s where we came face to face with the Dragons.

Liam: The producers are trying to stoke nervous energy because it makes for good TV, and they do it very well! Luckily, we were so prepared for the pitch that the last-minute schedule change didn’t really phase us. Everything flowed as planned.

Lesson #2: Dragons are human, too. Successful investor relationships rely on seeing past titles and public personas. Focus on making human connections.

Phil: My memory of our three minute pitch is a blur, but I remember the Q&A with the Dragons that followed much better. We fielded questions in the Den for an intense hour and 45 minutes.

Liam: The pitch is a blur for me, too. What I remember most clearly is how professional and genuinely nice all the Dragons were. I’m an active investor, so I’ve listened to many pitches. I have to say that the Dragons’ interview was one of the best I’ve ever experienced from either side of the table.

On TV, you often see conflict in the Den, especially when the Dragons hear an idea they don’t like, but when you meet them person, it’s clear that there isn’t a mean bone in their bodies. They aren’t contentious at all. We actually ran into Jim Treliving in the hallway before the pitch, and he was very polite and soft-spoken. In that moment, we saw a glimpse of the person underneath the TV persona.

Lesson #3: Relationships matter. The people you know and the connections that you nurture can be valuable even if they don’t offer a direct investment.

Phil: At first, the Dragons gave us really positive feedback. They seemed to like our business model and our social mission to make saving and investing accessible for all Canadians. They even said things like, “Everyone needs Mylo.”

Then they started voicing concerns around issues like our need for capital, the competition we would face and whether or not our valuation was too high. It felt like there was skepticism from the Dragons.

Liam: Then Joe Mimran, who hadn’t asked many questions, suddenly said, “Yes, I’ll do it.”

Phil: His offer felt like an immediate win. Not only did we get an offer, we got the amount we asked for at the valuation we wanted and that the business deserved.

Then there was a moment of quiet where I thought: What do we do now? So we asked if any other Dragons wanted to join the conversation.

Michael Wekerle and Jim Treliving both liked the idea but had conflicts of interest because of  other businesses they were invested in.

Manjit Minhas said she would download the app but bowed out of a deal, explaining that her area of expertise isn’t technology.

That’s when Arlene Dickinson and Michele Romanow started talking about the possibility of investing. So Joe had a deal on the table, but Michele and Arlene were also interested.

In the end, all three of them agreed to be partners in a deal to invest in Mylo.

Liam: I thought Mike Wekerle, a financial industry veteran, would be the toughest to win over, but he immediately saw the value in our company and even helped make the case for Mylo to the other Dragons.

Mike and I both worked in finance in Toronto in the 90s, so we have mutual professional acquaintances. I think that gave us credibility in Mike’s eyes, and his words of support gave Mylo credibility in the other Dragons’ eyes. So even though he didn’t offer us a deal, he still contributed to our win.

Lesson #4: Your success as an entrepreneur depends on your ability to convince others that your dream is achievable. That means you have to wholeheartedly believe that you can bring your vision to life and perfect your ability to communicate that vision to others.  In the beginning, you are the business.

Phil: It’s been a year since we were in the Den. Today, our pitch to investors focuses on our traction in the market and the metrics behind the success we’ve seen to date, but back when we taped the show, we were pitching an idea and a vision. We hadn’t officially launched Mylo yet, and we went in knowing our episode would probably be airing much later.

We took our investor Jay Ferst’s advice and pitched them the dream.

Liam: I’ve always believed in Mylo, but by practicing the pitch so many times, I actually sold myself on the dream. Usually, when I invest in a company, I look for a revenue model that is really fleshed out, and most of my investments are much later stage. They are usually well established and predictable in terms of the risk and return.

It’s very different with a startup; there are a lot of unknowns and assumptions to be confirmed before you get to market, but I believed so strongly in the Mylo vision that I deviated from my typical investing ethos. Today, the dream is a reality!

Lesson #5: Choose your partners wisely. Sometimes, they’ll be the only person by your side. The best partnerships are made stronger under pressure.

Phil: One of the best things about the experience was getting to know Liam better. This was actually the first project we worked on together following Mylo’s acquisition of Liam’s firm, Tactex Asset Management.  It was an intense way to kick off our working partnership.

Our team spent over 100 hours preparing, collectively. I drove to Liam’s house every day to practice.  We rehearsed our routine on anyone and everyone who would listen.

Liam: My kids knew the pitch really well!

Phil: It’s funny to think we almost turned down the opportunity to appear on the show! We manage our clients’ money so it is very important that we maintain their trust, and if we didn’t nail our TV premiere, we might shake our users’ confidence in the brand.

Liam: You aren’t allowed to bring anyone to watch or support your pitch, so we were really in it together. I’d say we came out on top.

Phil: Definitely! We were thrilled to get a deal in the Den, but ultimately we didn’t take the Dragons’ money. We decided to work with other investors because we were able to secure a strategic offer that made more sense for our company. Overall, Dragons’ Den was a great opportunity and we’re grateful to have had the experience.

It’s amazing to look back over the past year and think about how far we’ve come.  Not only did we launch Mylo in the App Store and Play Store, but we were named one of Apple’s Apps We Love and App of the Year by Notable Life.  We raised $2.65-million in seed financing lead by Desjardins Capital, which has allowed us to accelerate our growth, expand our team and invest in our technology.  

Dragon’s Den was an important moment on our mission to help millions of Canadians achieve their financial goals by investing spare change.

Invest spare change

News Report

The Investing Habits of Canadian Women and Men: A Data Analysis of Mylo Users

This report was published before we changed our name to Moka in July 2020. Learn more about our rebrand here.

Please click to read a PDF of the report or continue reading.

A word from Philip Barrar, Founder & CEO

We started Mylo with the mission of helping Canadians achieve their financial goals, but we recognize that, when it comes to money, there isn’t a level playing field for men and women in this country.

There are a few key factors contributing to financial inequality between men and women in Canada. Perhaps the biggest problem is the serious gender wage gap that exists here and around the globe. In fact, the most recent census shows that Canadian women earn $13,740 less per year than Canadian men on average  That means that women are earning only 83 cents for every dollar that men earn.

What’s more, we see that Canadian women have different attitudes towards investing than men, namely that women favour safety as an investment strategy and are more likely to look for security instead of opportunity when selecting investments. Since riskier investments generally have higher expected returns in the long term, this means that on average, women are less likely to grow their invested wealth at the same pace as men over time.

Lastly, it seems that Canadian women also score lower on a financial literacy test than men. This is unfortunate because other research shows that women make savvy investors. One study found that women who do invest saw slightly higher returns than their male counterparts.

We looked at our Mylo user data, and saw some trends, which we’re sharing here in the hopes that it will further the conversation about equality.

All Canadians should have equal opportunity. For us, the work starts at the office. We are committed to employee pay equity and everyone on the Mylo team is remunerated on the same pay scale based on experience and talent, regardless of gender.

We’re also dedicated to improving financial literacy in Canada. Many of our users tell us that saving and investing spare change towards a financial goal is the first positive step they’ve ever taken towards building smart money habits. Now they are learning about financial concepts such as risk, return, compound growth and diversification for the first time by interacting with the Mylo app (even though Mylo investment accounts are fully managed by our experienced portfolio managers). We’ve also just launched our online magazine, The Roundup, where we will publish a steady flow of educational content and practical advice for Canadians looking to learn more about how to achieve their financial goals.

Our goal is to make investing accessible to all Canadians by removing monetary barriers: For just $1 a month, anyone can start investing with just spare change, regardless of how much they know about finance.

We’re hopeful about the change that we are witnessing, and we’re excited to be contributing to a movement that is leveling the financial playing field by empowering a generation of Canadian women to achieve their financial goals.


Philip Barrar
Founder & CEO, Mylo

P.S. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to help women start investing. Create a new Mylo investment account this March and get $10 towards your financial goal when you use the promocode IWD2018 to sign up.  Start investing spare change today

The Investing Habits of Canadian Women and Men: A Data Analysis of Mylo Users


To better help Canadians achieve their financial goals, it’s important to understand their attitudes about investing and finance. We analyzed our user data to look at how Canadian women and men set financial goals and think about saving and investing.

Our analysis revealed three key differences between women and men:

  1. Women set smaller financial goals.
  2. Women report having less knowledge about investing.
  3. Women display lower risk tolerance and are more likely to select an investment strategy that generates income and avoids loss than a higher risk, higher return strategy.


We ask every Mylo user a standard set of “Know Your Client” questions to learn more about their financial goals, investment knowledge and risk tolerance so that we can select a suitable, diversified investment portfolio for them. We looked at how an anonymized, random sampling of over 15,000 users answered these questions to learn about their approach to investing. For our analysis of financial goals, we looked at data from a random sampling of over 30,000 Mylo users.


Every Mylo user creates a financial goal to invest spare change towards, like buying a house, paying down debt or traveling the world. While an individual’s Mylo goal may not be entirely representative of their overall financial goals, it can perhaps give us a glimpse at possible differences between how women and men set financial goals.

Women set lower financial goals than men.

Overall, women are setting goals that are 52% smaller than the goals that men set.


Women set smaller financial goals across all goal categories except for “Education”, “Health” and “Wedding”, where they set goal targets that are only slightly higher than men.

The top three goals for all Mylo users, regardless of gender, were “Saving”, “Travel” and “Paying for a House”.

It is important to note that our analysis did not compare income level to goal value, so it is unclear if the disparity in goal setting between women and men is a reflection of the widely reported gender wage gap. It is also possible that men simply set more ambitious (or perhaps less realistic) financial goals.



What is your knowledge of investment?

a. I do not know anything about it.
b. Minimal. I am a beginner.
c. I am knowledgeable.
d. I’m an expert.

Women are less likely to claim they are knowledgeable about investing.

In fact, women are twice as likely to say they “don’t know anything” about investing. Only 8% of women said they are knowledgeable or an expert when it comes to investing, whereas a quarter of men said the same.

It’s important to underscore that this data does not measure actual investment knowledge, just the knowledge that users self-report. In the future it would be interesting to compare this self-assessment with knowledge-based questions to determine whether women are accurately judging their own investment knowledge, or are simply more modest about their knowledge than men.



What is your approach to investment?

a. I have a long-term perspective.
b. Highest risk, for potential higher return.
c. I do not want any loss whatsoever.
d. I want additional income.

Women are half as likely to favour high risk for their investment strategy.

Forty percent of women choose an investment strategy that generates additional income and women are about half as likely as men to select a high risk strategy. However, they are twice as likely to decide to avoid loss than men, which suggests that women are more risk averse.

This can have several implications with respect to how much women may grow their investments over time. This data could be a reflection of the fact that women earn less than men on average, or it may simply indicate that women are taking a low-risk approach to investing to favour the achievement of financial goals that have a shorter time horizon.



Your investments have fallen in value, how do you react?

a. Sell everything to stop my losses.
b. No reaction. It happens!
c. I would invest more.
d. Sell some to reduce my losses.

Women are more likely to sell than buy when investments are down.

Over half of women (59%) and 51% of men would do nothing if their investments fall in value, however women who do react to a drop in value react differently than men.

A quarter of women (26%) said they would either sell some or all of their investments while only 16% of men would do the same. On the other hand, only 15% of women would buy more when investments fall in value, compared to 33% of men, who are more than twice as likely to buy on weakness.

These responses suggest that women have a lower risk tolerance and are less likely to take advantage of risky opportunities in the market.


To better understand the attitudes and behaviours of Canadians in relation to investing and finance, further research and analysis is required, but one thing is clear: there are distinct differences between how women and men set financial goals, and how they approach investing in order to achieve these goals.


Mylo is the investing app designed to help Canadians achieve their financial goals by rounding up their purchases and investing the spare change. Spend $3.25 on a coffee and Mylo rounds that up to $4.00 and invests the $0.75 in a fully managed, diversified investment portfolio. Mylo makes investing affordable and accessible for all Canadians, regardless of how much money that have or their level of knowledge of investing.

To celebrate International Women’s Day, we want to help women start investing. Anyone who creates a new Mylo investment account this March will receive $10 towards their financial goal when they use the promocode IWD2018 to sign up.

Start investing spare change today.