British Columbia

Juno Award winner Dan Mangan took his Side Door project to the Dragons — and got an offer

Vancouver singer songwriter Dan Mangan made an appearance on CBC's Dragon's Den, asking for an investment in his live music platform.

Entrepreneur Arlene Dickinson offered $500,000 in financing

Laura Simpson and Dan Mangan
Side Door co-founders Laura Simpson and Dan Mangan pitched their platform on CBC's Dragon's Den. (CBC)

B.C. musician Dan Mangan and his business partner, Laura Simpson, appeared on CBC's Dragon's Den last week asking for an investment in their house concert project, Side Door.

And they got it. 

VenturePark CEO Arlene Dickinson offered $500,000 in financing.

"I think a lot of us have watched the [Dragon's Den] before and imagined ourselves in that position, and Dan and I have pitched a lot, but being under the TV lights and facing six of them all at once, kind of drilling you for 45 minutes was quite the trip," co-founder Laura Simpson told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko. 

Singer-songwriter Dan Mangan co-founded Side Door, a platform to make it easier for artists to book shows. (Jonah Atkins)

Dickinson's offer was made in the form of a convertible note, which according to the Business Development Bank of Canada, is a form of financing used for rapidly growing, but early stage companies. It starts as a loan but the investor can turn it into equity, depending on the deal's terms.

The concept

Simpson, a music promoter from Halifax, and Mangan, a singer songwriter who lives in Vancouver, noticed that artists were struggling to make a go of their music careers, partly because of the lack of suitable venues. 

"We were both experiencing difficulty finding shows that were meaningful and profitable for the artist," Simpson said.

"What we were finding is that these low overhead and high engagement, easy going DIY venues were the best situation for everyone."

Laura Simpson speaks with Gloria Macarenko about her company Side Door and the investment made by dragon Arlene Dickinson.

They founded the company in 2017, and after two years of working on the project, the pair launched Side Door in 2019, about a year before the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe and forced events to be put on hold until gatherings became safe once again. 

The idea was to bridge the gap between people who have space for artists to perform and artists who need a venue.

Hosts post availability on the Side Door platform, including what the space has to offer, and artists can match with suitable spots — sort of like a dating app, but for performers.

Both the artist and host are paid automatically through the platform. 

They've done more than 2,000 shows since launching the company.

Laura Simpson co-founded Side Door in 2017 with Vancouver artist Dan Mangan. (Brooklyn Currie/CBC)

The pitch

Mangan played his 2018 song Peaks & Valleys in a living room set during the pitch to explain the concept to the Dragons, who cheered him on with enthusiasm.

From there he explained that although he's been fortunate to play on international stages, he started his musical journey playing in living rooms and backyards. 

"The challenge right now for artists is incredible," he said.

"There are actually just fewer venues to play in than ever before."

They explained the concept, and explained their transition to online shows during the pandemic, attracting internationally recognized artists such as Vance Joy — a name that seemed to impress the Dragons.

After the other five Dragons bowed out, Dickinson made her offer. 

WATCH | See Side Door's full pitch below:

Side Door

1 month ago
Duration 8:20
Laura Simpson and Dan Mangan from Halifax pitch their online platform that connects musicians with hosts.


Courtney Dickson

Broadcast and Digital Journalist

Courtney Dickson is a journalist working in Vancouver, B.C. Email her at with story tips.


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