In 2008, BrewDog applied to Dragons’ Den and got as far as the final screen test before the BBC1 TV show’s producers rejected Watt and business partner Martin Dickie.
Watt said: “They deemed Martin and myself not investment worthy. We were totally crushed.”
He explained the pair were prepared to offer the Dragons 20% of their business for £100,000 and, based on BrewDog latest valuation, that investment would now be worth more than £300m, meaning “the Dragons missed out on, by far, the best deal in Den history”.
“We always look to find opportunity in adversity so spurred on by the rejection, we came up with a brand-new plan to grow our business and involve our fans as investors,” Watt said.
After launched Equity for Punks in 2009, BrewDog’s business model provided funding by members of the public and helped build a global community of more than 220,000 investors.
Rejection was best thing
“Our Dragons’ Den rejection turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to us,” he said.
But the Den still held a longer story because Watt said he was on the final shortlist as a Dragon “a couple of years ago” and despite being sat next to Dragon Deborah Meaden assessing a business for potential investment as a final screentest, rejection struck again and Watt narrowly missed out on fulfilling one of his lifelong ambitions.
He added: “However, just as in 2008, I decided to use the rejection as a catalyst to try and create something better. Just as the 2008 rejection helped us a whole new business model, I have used the most recent rejection to come up with a brand-new concept when it comes to raising start-up finance. It launches Thursday.
“With BrewDog we have been fortunate enough to build a unicorn, now I want to help others do exactly the same. Watch. This. Space.”
Last year, Watt admitting pushing his staff too far when Dragons’ Den entrepreneur Steven Bartlett quizzed him in a podcast titled The Diary of a CEO.
At the time, Watt received a letter from BrewDog staff addressed from ‘Punks with Purpose’ on their treatment while working for the Ellon-based business.
He said: “It [was] hell. This is my life’s work and some of that feedback was fair and valid, some of the feedback was disingenuous but we took the approach of whether we agree with it or not, we took it as an opportunity to get better.”
Chief supply chain officer role
Meanwhile, BrewDog has appointed Chris Fielden as its first chief supply chain officer. The new role will cover all aspects of sourcing, production, packaging and distribution for BrewDog beers and spirits from mid-May.
Fielden joins BrewDog from Warp Snacks and prior to that he spent more than six years at Innocent Drinks.
“I am very excited about joining BrewDog,” Fielden said. “It’s a company that wants to do business the right way and that’s really important to me. I love the product and I love the company’s ‘people, planet, beer’ ethos.”
James Watt added: “We’re really lucky to have someone of Chris’s calibre and experience join us. This is a new role, reflecting the continuing growth of the business and the ambitions we have for the future.”