From small business to £1 billion: raising the bar for start ups

Growth and strategy

4 July 2017

Scottish craft beer maker BrewDog are toasting a £213m investment from an American stakeholder.

TSG Consumer Partners now have a 22.3% holding in the Aberdeenshire brewery, giving the company a value of almost £1 billion. So how do you go from selling home brewed beer to being a £1 billion brewery in just ten years?

The brewing behind the bottle

Founded in 2007 by James Watt and Martin Dickie, BrewDog started with a £20,000 bank loan. They also recruited 55,000 small investors who contributed to the brewery's crowdfunding campaign. Their first pub opened in 2010, and they now have over 40 “temples of beer” in several countries.

Even as they’ve grown, they’ve aimed to keep their identity as a punk craft beer operation, committed to quality brews sold to discerning drinkers. This investment from TSG will support BrewDog’s ambition to go public eventually, as well as help their plans to expand worldwide.

Raising the bar for start-ups

What can new businesses learn from BrewDog’s success? James Watt writes on their website that: “our biggest mission when we set up BrewDog was to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. And that is still our biggest mission today.”

By keeping the original spark and maintaining a strong identity, BrewDog have become instantly recognised brand. As well as image, they have focused on building a loyal customer base. If you’re considering crowdfunding, really engage with your potential investors. BrewDog’s small investors are called “equity punks”, making them feel part of an exclusive (and slightly anarchic) club.

Like them, you should also be pragmatic: if larger investment is available, don’t dismiss it. It is possible to expand without losing your ethos.

Future hopes for lager expansion

BrewDog’s founders have previously said they’d never sell to a multinational. What caused this change of heart? BrewDog is hoping to turn its beer into a global brand, with a new brewery opening in Ohio, and plans to expand into Australia and Asia. The investment makes this possible.

The brewery’s founders are adamant that being a £1 billion brewery won’t change the most important thing: the beer. Watts told the BBC: “our appeal to drinkers isn't about scale, it's about passion and values.”

So is it possible to be a big-time, punk outfit? We’ll see how this one brews...