Brewdog: The £1.4billion Dragons’ Den pitch that never even made it to set

Keir Starmer pours a pint as he visits Brewdog bar in London

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Surprisingly, each and every pitch that goes into the Dragons’ Den has been vetted beforehand by the producers of the show in screen tests. It means many businesses lose in the den before getting the chance to enter, and one such start-up which was sent away was the now multi billion pound company Brewdog.

In early 2007, two friends James Watt, 38, and Martin Dickie, 38, were in search of a better brew and finding nothing on the market, they decided to make their own. 

Banking on loans and savings, the pair started creating small batches of beer, filling the bottles by hand and selling them at markets out of the back of their old van.

By 2008 they were making enough to profit to buy a bottling machine and created what they claim to be the UK’s strongest ever beer; Tokyo, and were subsequently banned from The Portman Group. 

By their second year of business, BrewDog had become Scotland’s largest independent brewery and while everything seemed to be going up, they would find a few downs real soon. 

The pair have noted on the BrewDog blog that they applied to go on Dragon’s Den in 2009, getting through the initial application process and being selected for a screen test in Manchester. 

“Martin and I put on our best clothes, practised our presentation and drove down to the BBC studios where we pitched our hearts out during the screen trial and thought we did quite a good job,” writes Mr Watt. 

However, the producers clearly felt otherwise: “They thought our business wasn’t a good-enough investment proposition for the Dragons and that BrewDog was not unique enough, special enough or with enough growth potential to make the grade and appear on the show. So at the last minute it was decided that we would not get to pitch our business to the Dragons.”

Obviously downtrodden by this development, Mr Watt noted that the feeling of rejection “still burns today”.

The reason the producers gave for declining BrewDog was that it wasn’t a strong enough investment to put to the Dragons. 

Additionally, the pair didn’t do well in their screen test and producers noted they most likely would not be able to deliver a good pitch in front of the rolling cameras. 

However, since that rejection the pair have grown BrewDog to extraordinary lengths and it has now become a multi-billion pound business. 

If the producers had allowed BrewDog to be pitched in the den, and if one of the Dragons had invested the £100,000 for 20 percent of the business that the lads were asking for, it would now be worth £360million.

They added: “It would have been by far the most lucrative investment not only in the history of Dragons’ Den but pretty much in investment history overall.”

This figure officiates BrewDog as the pitch which could’ve been the most successful investment in Dragons’ Den history.

Even more ironically, the founders now head up their own international TV show Brew Dogs and launched The BrewDay Network.

The BrewDog Network is a streaming service featuring almost everything from beer series to documentaries to game shows. 

Additionally, thanks to their large ownership stake in the business, Mr Watt is worth $480million (£349million) while Mr Dickie is worth $400million (£290million).

Astoundingly, this makes the rejected entrepreneurs richer than almost all of the current Dragons on Dragons’ Den, save for Peter Jones who bests Mr Watt by just over £100million. 

The businessman had set up his first business when he was 16, growing it to £150million turnover in seven years.

Currently the richest Dragon, Mr Jones is worth double most of his colleagues with £500million.

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