Crowd-Sourced Funding for Breweries - BrewDog Case Study
In continuation of his Crowd-Sourced Funding (CSF) for Breweries series, Mark Hubbard, an OnMarket Campaign Manager, brewery founder and former brewery owner, chats with Calvin McDonald, Head of Australian Operations for BrewDog, about BrewDog’s astounding global success and building their organization with CSF as an integral component of their business model.
Scottish based BrewDog opened their first brewery and bar in Australia in late 2019, in Brisbane. Partnering with OnMarket in late 2020, BrewDog undertook a successful CSF campaign in Australia that closed in February 2021. BrewDog now has a brewery and four amazing bars located in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, with plans to open more.
So Calvin, there is probably no business in the world more closely connected to CSF than BrewDog, the world’s largest independent brewery. How does crowd funding fit in the BrewDog business model?
“It is pretty integral to our business and brand. We were one of the first, if not the very first, businesses in Europe, and maybe even the first in the world, to use CSF to access capital, back in 2009. And we are still using it successfully now, even though the market has evolved quite a bit in that time. We have welcomed some 200,000 equity investors into the business through CSF up to now.
Initially, our use of CSF went hand in hand with the growth of our hospitality business. Before our first raise in 2009, we didn’t have bars. We leveraged a CSF raise to open a bar, and investors backed us to create a tangible asset for their community more so than investing for financial return in a company.
Our ethos was to expand as much as we could without debt – to do as much as possible with as little borrowed capital as possible. And our secret weapon was CSF and the transparency of how we used our investors’ capital – which was our venues. We have now grown to 112 venues globally, and unlike say an investment in tech where you as an end consumer may have little visibility of your investment, that is not the case with us.
We were able to create a demand for shareholders by opening venues in communities where they lived! And while we had our product in more shops and so on, creating a BrewDog bar in a community that did not have one before, that a shareholder could visit and get an immediate benefit from their owner’s discount, really drove investment. And this provided a tangible return to the shareholder that was not associated with financial returns. They are investing in the venue, the people, the product – not the stock market. So that has been a nice journey for us over the last 14 years.”
When BrewDog launched in Brisbane, you still went the CSF route, even though as the world’s largest craft brewery and with the maturity that comes with 12 years’ operating on the world scene, you had other options for raising capital. Why is that?
“Yes we did, it will always be about community for us. We only have some 1,000 shareholders in Australia, but they want to become part of our journey, to be kept in the loop, to participate. And that is one of our fundamentals as well – keep it local. We have local venues with local ownership. And we communicate well with our shareholders, because if you don’t, you risk generating negative sentiment among both your shareholders and your consumers. Keeping your owners updated is a crucial part of the process to ensure the success of raising capital in this manner, especially when doing it multiple times. And we engage a world leading share registry to help us with managing our register.
“Debt was never our preferred source of capital. In the early days, we had small business loans of some hundreds of thousands. We realized early on we would never be able to rely on that as a source of capital to fuel our growth, which has been hundreds of millions raised with CSF.
We now have access to private equity as well, and probably as a global entity have nearly outgrown CSF, but it was important to us as we started in Australia to bring the community element that is a cornerstone of our operation into our business here.”
At this stage in our discussion I couldn’t help but point out to Calvin, though he already knew, that OnMarket provides equity solutions for all stages of an entity’s lifecycle, from seed funding to CSF to private placements, venture capital, and IPOs.
So what is next in your capital raising journey, Calvin?
“Crowd-sourced funding still has a place for us in terms of our sustainability initiatives. Originally, CSF was all about funding expansion and growth – selling the dream. Now, with our Equity for Punks Tomorrow program, it is about sustainability. We are investing in initiatives for zero waste, carbon neutral, electric delivery technologies, solar power, recycling, people and other similar programs to improve environmental sustainability. Our CSF campaigns contribute to these programs.
Our current focus is about how do we make what we have work better – innovation, franchising, licensing and so on. Capital expenditure for expansion isn’t top of our list now. IPO has always been a specific ambition of ours, and we will get there. Working out the timing, especially in light of the pandemic and Ukraine/Russia situation, is a work in process.
An IPO will be an exciting outcome not only for the business, but for all of our shareholders that came aboard via CSF and have stuck with us.
That is indeed quite a journey – from a world first Equity for Punks crowd funding program to listing with an Initial Public Offering as one of the world’s foremost breweries. Thank you Calvin, I appreciate your time and this insight into BrewDog, truly a pioneer in both independent craft brewing as well as crowd sourced funding. I look forward to meeting up with you at your Melbourne Pentridge venue to sink a few BrewDogs and explore your amazing facility there!
Whether you have global aspirations like BrewDog or simply wish to be the best brew pub in your village, crowd sourced funding could help you get there.
Is CSF right for your brewery? Let’s start a conversation to explore it. Contact me at email@example.com – let us help you fund your ambition.