20/20 Armor

Sponsored Content with: BDC

​Ali Ghafour and William Sexton are former members of the Canadian Olympic Taekwondo team who are taking their knowledge from the mat to the world of business.

Taekwondo, a Korean martial art characterized by its combinations of kicks and punches, made its Olympic debut at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. A few years later, the sport moved away from points awarded by human judges to points awarded by electronic sensors on athletes’ equipment.

The change was made to remove human error and bias that occurs from such a swiftly paced sport. However, this new system is far from perfect. It’s hard for spectators to understand, and it tends to favour a limited body type (tall and lean) and limited techniques.

Teaming up with Tony Kook, vice president of Taekwondo Canada, Ghafour and Sexton founded 20/20 Armor with an eye to revamping the sport’s scoring system. The company developed an electronic chestguard that not only overhauls scoring but also enhances training for people of all levels and ages in a range of martial arts, from boxing to karate. The device essentially brings the Street Fighter video game to life.

With the innovative product under their belt, the 20/20 Armor team members recently found themselves facing an altogether challenge: pitching their product on Dragons’ Den. The trio earned interest from three Dragons, ultimately opting for a royalty deal with Michael Wekerle and Arlene Dickinson.

Helping the team find success in the Den was Ghafour’s preparedness and his previous entrepreneurial background—he has founded four tech companies.

“As this pitch began, I was envisioning an incredibly difficult sales process - especially in terms of what would need to go into convincing the taekwondo federation to change its approach,” says Robert Duffy, Vice President, Growth & Transition Capital, BDC. “It’s always significantly harder to sell when you first have to convince a potential customer that they need your product, especially if it’s a customer with a complicated path to making such purchasing decisions. Needing that buy-in from the federation would have almost absolutely been a deal breaker for the Dragons.

“But as we listened to Ali, we learned the business actually isn’t dependent on that and there are several potential sources of revenue that they’ve already started to execute a growth strategy on. From that point on my confidence really grew in Ali and his team. He was anticipating the difficult questions and he was very well prepared which helped to mitigate concerns raised by the Dragons.”

Helping entrepreneurs like the 20/20 Armor founders enhance their company’s reach and profitability is sales process consulting offered at BDC. The only bank dedicated exclusively to entrepreneurs also helps ventures flourish with business growth loans.

Another reason the 20/20 Armor trio won over the Dragons, Duffy says, was the way Ghafour talked about his background as a serial entrepreneur. His straightforward approach earned the Dragons’ respect.

“He admitted to a failed venture, but acknowledged how much he learned from that experience,” Duffy says. “As a capital provider this doesn’t scare me off. It actually gave me confidence that he’s a better business person for it.”

“He’s likely put a lot of thought into his growth strategy, so I give him kudos for being patient and staying true to the hard work he’s put in so far,” he says. “Ali managed to keep his equity and leave with a great deal—definitely a win-win for 20/20 Armor.”

This is paid content provided by or produced on behalf of BDC.

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