Rise of the Anti-Business
The key to Brewdog’s success, apart from having a great differentiated product and an eye for publicity (including brewing beer at the bottom of the ocean), is down to their engagement model. Brewdog was one of the first to realise the power of crowdfunding. Two years after startup they had leveraged as much personal debt as they could but instead of taking the corporate funding route, they chose to engage the people who really mattered – their customers. Hence in 2009 they started their first crowdfunding round, called it Equity for Punks and raised so much money that they were able to open their first permanent bars. The rest, as they say, is history.
Crowdfunding is a well know route for start-ups, with sites like Kickstarter in the US and Crowdcube in the UK. But few of these are tech specific, possibly because it’s more difficult to convey the essence of a complex tech idea in a very short pitch. Also, many tech businesses are b2b rather than b2c so the advantages of having clients as shareholders are less. There are also obvious drawbacks to the crowdfunding route, such as handling so many shareholders, high rate of failing to achieve sufficient investment (around 80%) and difficulties in moving to later stage funding or exit. Even so, disruptive anti business models continue to prosper. No coincidence then that Brewdog chose Tech City centre in Shoreditch as the location for their flagship London bar.