‘Nearly Dragon’ Watt to launch new start-up model

James Watt: almost became a TV dragon (pic: Terry Murden)

BrewDog founder James Watt has revealed he came close to becoming one of the panelists on Dragons’ Den and that he is using the experience to launch a “new business model” for supporting start-ups.

Mr Watt, whose Aberdeenshire brewery was famously rejected by the television show’s producers in 2008, told his social media followers that he was invited back two years ago to audition as a panel member.

He was rejected a second time and now says he will use it “as a catalyst” to create a new model that will help build the next unicorns [firms valued at $1 billion]. He is promising an announcement on Thursday.

Fifteen years ago, he and BrewDog co-founder Martin Dickie applied to Dragons’ Den and got as far as the final screen test when the producers rejected them.

“They deemed Martin & myself not investment worthy,” said Mr Watt. “We were totally crushed.

“We were prepared to offer the Dragons 20% of our business for £100,000. Based on our latest BrewDog valuation, that investment would now be worth over £300m meaning the Dragons missed out on by far the best deal in Den history.”

The pair went on to raise funds the following year through their Equity For Punks crowdfunding initiative and built a global community of more than 220,000 investors.

“Our Dragons’ Den rejection turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to us,” said Mr Watt. “But our Dragons’ Den story does not end quite there.

“A couple of years ago The Dragon’s Den producers were looking for new Dragons and I found myself on the final shortlist.

“Once more I made it to a final screen test as I sat alongside Deborah Meaden as we assessed whether we would invest in a prospective business.

“Once more I fell short at the final hurdle, narrowly missing out on fulfilling one of my lifelong ambitions and becoming a Dragon”.

However, just as in 2008, he decided to use the rejection to create something better.

“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.”

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