BrewDog CEO Watt puts up £5m to find next unicorn

BrewDog co-founder and CEO James Watt

BrewDog co-founder James Watt announced he is putting up £5 million of his own money to launch a competition to find the next “unicorn” company.

A unicorn is a privately held startup firm that achieves a market value of over $1 billion — a landmark BrewDog reached in 2017.

Using a new investment model, members of the public can also back the chosen companies in Watt’s “The Next Unicorn” contest.

The BrewDog boss has partnered with the world’s largest equity crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to receive pitches from a range of European entrepreneurs.

Watt will select entrants with the help of a panel including Crowdcube CEO Matt Cooper — and Evelyn McDonald, CEO of Scottish Edge, which helped BrewDog get started 16 years ago.

Watt also previously sought early funding from Dragons’ Den, but BBC producers rejected the beer firm from entering the Den back in 2009 – denying investors what would have been the most lucrative deal in the show’s history.

Watt revealed that he was actually rejected twice from Dragons’ Den – the second time more recently, when he was approached and shortlisted to become a Dragon himself, but did not get the seat.

Spurred on by his rejection, the Scottish entrepreneur decided to create his own competition, which will see him invest £1 million spread over three firms, with a further £4 million to be unlocked as the winning companies reach certain milestones.

Watt said: “Building and growing businesses is a real passion point for me, and I have learnt so much on my journey getting BrewDog to Unicorn status.

“Given the current economic climate, it’s never been more important to support companies, and I can’t wait to share my experience with some of the brightest business minds across Europe.”

The submission window for pitches opens March 30 and runs to April 14. Shortlisting and judging will take place over a two-week period, before finalists are invited to pitch live to Watt and his panel in London.

The three final companies will then be invited to Las Vegas, where they will receive their funding at BrewDog’s rooftop bar on May 26.

Following the Vegas announcement, the three winning businesses will go live on for the public to invest in the deals.

Crowdcube co-CEO Matt Cooper said: “We’ve transformed retail investing by creating more pathways for investors to invest in high-performing private companies than ever before.

“Now, with our partnership, the public can invest alongside leading entrepreneur James Watt in the search for Europe’s next unicorn.”

Watt added: “What’s truly unique about this competition, is that it’s not just about watching me invest my own money in someone else’s business. Thanks to Crowdcube, anyone can invest in these companies too, and on the exact same terms as my investment.

“The window for entries is a short one, so if you’ve got a business that has potential to reach a billion-dollar valuation, I want to hear from you. All you need to do is head to Crowdcube and submit a 10-slide deck – I can’t wait to see the pitches!”

To find out more, and to enter The Next Unicorn competition, visit: