BrewDog CEO James Watt

Source: The Next Unicorn

James Watt’s new investment scheme The Next Unicorn is open to European entrepeneurs in any industry

BrewDog CEO James Watt is offering to invest £5m in three companies he thinks are set to become the “next billion-dollar brand”.

Watt has partnered with crowdfunding platform Crowdcube to launch a new investment model that aims to create “the next generation of unicorns” – and is aptly named The Next Unicorn.

The scheme is not specific to food and drink brands as European entrepeneurs from any industry can enter. Watt said he was passionate about helping to grow community-focused businesses.

The Next Unicorn said: “It’s important that the business showcases themselves as a force for good, focused on purpose, have a clear vision and want to do good things from a sustainability point of view.” 

The submission window for pitches has gone live on Crowdcube today (30 March) and will remain open until Friday 14 April. Entrants must submit a 10-slide deck in support of their application. 

After the closing date, Watt will whittle down entrants to a shortlist with the help of an expert panel including Crowdcube CEO Matt Cooper and Evelyn McDonald, CEO of funding competition Scottish Edge that helped kickstart BrewDog 16 years ago.

Read more: Why BrewDog’s Chinese adventure is good for British craft beer

Finalists will be invited to pitch live to Watt and his panel in London. The three winners will then be invited to BrewDog’s rooftop bar in Las Vegas, where they will receive an initial £1m cash injection.

They will also spend a day with Watt, fishing on his grandfather’s boat, planting trees in BrewDog’s Lost Forest or pulling pints in BrewDog’s Camden bar “to test their personal relationship and adaptability in unexpected circumstances”.

Following the Vegas announcement, the three winning businesses will launch on Crowdcube for further public investment. 

An additional £4m in funding will be available to each business as they reach milestones determined by the BrewDog boss.

Watt said he had been spurred on to launch The Next Unicorn following a double rejection from Dragons’ Den. He sought funding from the show for BrewDog in 2009, but BBC producers rejected his application. More recently, Watt was approached and shortlisted to become a ‘dragon’ himself, but didn’t make the final lineup.

“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,” said Watt.

“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.”