Steven Bartlett, 29, wrote to Dragons’ Den hoping to pitch to the dragons aged 18 and never heard back. Ten years later, he’s now the youngest-ever dragon on Dragons’ Den.
However, Steven Bartlett was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
When Steven Bartlett dropped out of Manchester Metropolitan University after his first lecture at the age of 18, his mum refused to speak to him for two years.
Bartlett told the the Times: “Looking around in my first lecture and seeing everyone hungover — no one actually cared about business, they were there because they didn’t know what else to pick. The lecturer at the front was handing out felt tips to make a poster for a hypothetical business. I just thought, ‘This is awful and a waste of money’.”
After dropping out of university, Steven Bartlett resorted to shoplifting from corner shops to stop himself from going hungry or stealing leftovers from local takeaways. And, if the takeaway had the bonus of a sit-in area, he would rummage down the back of seats for loose change.
‘The show is a big platform … there’s not been a young, black man on that show’Steven Bartlett on Radio1Xtra
Bartlett described himself at that time as a “broke, lonely, insecure university drop-out from a bankrupt family”.
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Today, Steven Bartlett is a multimillionaire whose personal fortune has been estimated at £50m.
He started social media marketing agency Social Chain, from his Manchester bedroom aged 21. Social Chain is currently valued at over £400m having gone public. Steven Bartlett is now host of one of Europe’s biggest podcasts The Diary of a CEO, which brings in £1m a year in advertising. His book, Happy Sexy Millionaire, became a Sunday Times bestseller. His investing has led him to join the board of meal replacement company Huel and to become an advisor for Atai life sciences, a company working to cure mental health issues.
Recently, Steven Bartlett launched two new businesses, Flight Story and Thirdweb.
Flight Story focuses on building retail investor communities around great public companies, while Thirdweb creates blockchain-based applications.
Bartlett is still scathing about learning to become an entrepreneur through an academic course.
“University is a total scam for the vast majority of people,” he told the Times. “You walk away with a £50,000 debt if you’re lucky — and for what? A piece of paper that is less relevant than ever before. It’s archaic in a world where everything is on a screen in the palm of your hand to think that the best way to learn is from textbooks written decades ago and from someone standing at the front of a room flicking through slides.”
He is still astonishingly driven, only getting between four or five hours sleep a night, and going to the gym nearly every day since March 2020 to “work on my body image”.
Ahead of filming last year, he told BBC Radio 1Xtra’s If You Don’t Know podcast that he was determined to join Dragons’ Den as there “has not been a young, black man on the show” and he wanted to be a role model for others.
Bartlett told Radio1Xtra: “Much of the reason for me wanting to be a dragon and wanting to do the show is because I know the show is a big platform and I am not represented on that show as an entrepreneur. There’s not been a young, black man on that show.
“I feel like I have a responsibility to do this because it will show 12-year-old Steve, or other 12-year-old Steves, that they too can be business people.”
When does Dragons’ Den series 19 start?
The new series of Dragon’s Den will start on Thursday, January 6 at 8pm.
Steven Bartlett will take over from departing entrepreneur Tej Lalvani and will join existing dragons Deborah Meaden, Peter Jones, Touker Suleyman and Sara Davies.