At the intersection of a Venn diagram covering reality television, craft beer, and investment opportunity is BrewDog. The Scottish brewery, funded entirely by its loyal fans and subject of the Esquire Network show Brew Dogs, is coming to America with a sparkly new facility and taproom in Columbus, Ohio.
James Watt, who co-founded BrewDog with Martin Dickie, recently sat down with Fortune to detail the process behind his brewery’s move into the U.S. market. The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which set guidelines for equity crowdfunding and was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, was a significant factor.
Watt explains that when he and his partner decided to get into the beer business in the midst of a global recession, capital was hard to acquire. Rather than making compromises to venture capitalists or other potential investors, they instead looked to craft beer fans for their startup money.
A minimum purchase of two shares is required to gain a stake in the company, and Watt says the average individual claims "between four and 500" shares, which go for $47.50/per and come with lifetime discounts at BrewDog bars around the world. As for the potential risks that come with crowdfunding from the general public, he notes that United States law protects the brewery.
"What I like about how things have been done with the JOBS Act, everything has to be signed off by the SEC, everything has to be audited, everything has to be verified," Watt says in the video. "So the fact that there’s that process in place, it’s almost the same as any company going for IPO. There’s those kinds of protections in place for the investors."
BrewDog expects to be selling its beers in 10 states by 2017. Watt and Dickie considered a few destinations for their first American outpost, including the craft beer hotbeds of Asheville, N.C.; Richmond, Va.; and Philadelphia. How did the brewery end up in Columbus?
"Every time I landed, I would put out a tweet on my phone: ‘Hey, I’m in this city; where should I go for a beer?’" Watt says. "And when I did that in Columbus, Ohio, my phone just exploded with people tweeting me back, so it felt like home. I was there for 12 hours, and off of that 12-hour visit, I decided that was where home was going to be in the States."
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