Startup Q&A: James Watt, Co-Founder, BrewDog
James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog, the UK’s fastest growing drinks company, took some time out from his ongoing punk-business revolution to answer AGENT’s questions about his startup story.
Tapping into the insurgent, establishment-storming principles of punk, BrewDog, the startup brewery founded by James Watt and Martin Dickie in 2007, has become the fastest growing drinks company in the United Kingdom.
Anyone remotely interested in exploring how the DIY ethos of a youth-culture revolution can be turned into a viable business model should read fascinating book written by James Watt, Business for Punks: Break All The Rules — The BrewDog Way.
If you’re still looking for actual results, then check out this brief video tour of the cavernous BrewDog eco-brewery in Ellon, Aberdeenshire that the company driven by these rebellious business instincts has created.
James Watt and Martin set up BrewDog in 2007, with two employees and two shareholders (and a dog, as the BrewDog website points out).
By the end of last year, BrewDog had an workforce of 540 (and one dog), 44 bars, brewed 134,000 hectolitres (hl) of beer, and HAD 32,000 shareholders, following what BrewDog proudly declares to have been the largest equity crowdfunding scheme in human history—Equity for Punks IV.
James Watt took some time out from BrewDog’s self-declared “assault on humanity” to take to the AGENT Startup Hotseat, and field our questions on his career to date.
1. Very simply, what does your company do?
Very simply, we produce some of the best craft beer in the world, and we are firmly on a mission to make as many people as passionate about beer as we are. We’re giving fellow beer-geeks across the globe front row seats to the craft revolution; to strap in, and get a glimpse of what beer should taste like.
2. What was the ‘Eureka!’ moment?
A chance meeting with the legendary beer writer Michael Jackson led to Martin (Dickie, BrewDog Co-founder) and I deciding to take the plunge, follow our dreams and start our very own brewery. Upon tasting one of our early brews, Michael told us to quit our jobs and start brewing beer—it was the last bit of advice we ever listened to.
In 2007, bored of the industrially-brewed lagers that were dominating the UK beer market, we jumped in headfirst and BrewDog was born. Personally, the big moment for me was my first taste of Sierra Nevada Pale: the quality and taste was, at the time, unrivalled. That singular sip continues to drive me to make the best beer I can. Our punk revolution shows no sign of slowing: we’re doing things on our own terms and continuing to make our missions a reality.
3. What were you doing before starting?
After turning my back on a legal career, I found my legs on the high seas of the stormy North Atlantic, starting on the deck of a deep-sea trawler and eventually becoming a fully qualified captain. Spending five years working in one of the toughest environments on earth taught me everything about people, leadership, risks and teamwork; enough to take BrewDog’s craft revolution global.
4. How are you funded?
Our record-breaking crowdfunding scheme Equity For Punks tore up business convention in 2010, recruiting more than 46,000 likeminded beer-fans, and, to date, raising more than £26m over four rounds—more than any other equity crowdfunding effort on record.
5. What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs starting their own company?
Be selfish, do what you want, and ignore advice.