Brewdog, the Aberdeenshire based independent brewery, announced last week that it wants to raise £25m to build a new brewhouse, open more UK bars and fund a craft beer hotel.
They’re not looking to raise the money from banks or venture capitalists and they aren’t even using an established crowdfunding platform. They are asking individuals to subscribe directly to their equity fund raise through the Brewdog website or in one of their bars. Called Equity for Punks, and with a minimum investment of two shares for £95, the crowdfund is being promoted by traditional media as well as social media, including a video on Vimeo of the owners busking, stripping and do all sorts of other things for money, with a hashtag of #dontmakeusdothis.
Equity Punks get shares (which they can trade in the bars), discounts on Brewdog stuff, and an invite to the AGM which apparently is a total tear-up. I know a few Equity Punks (I’m now one myself and I don’t even like the beer that much) and all of them invested because the idea of sticking it to the Financial Man (inasmuch as you can do without going to live in a yurt and adopting a barter economy) appealed greatly to them.
The crowdfunding market, which is still in its infancy, and generally perceived as alternative and disruptive to traditional forms of business finance, is now itself being disrupted.
That didn’t take long.
The owners say they are ‘tearing up convention’ and ‘redefining business finance’. It looks like they are having a lot of fun along the way.
So what does this mean for our corner of the garden? The pension reforms have proved that the structures of the past are often unsuitable for the present. How many of the product and platform structures we’re building, even if they’re disruptive today, are genuinely flexible enough to cope with a financial environment when up in Aberdeenshire, the fundamental unit of capitalism is now available in bars? How do you deal with an industry where eventually individuals might be able to do a Brewdog and go round the side of everyone, just because they fancy it?
As we’re seeing from the difficulties some providers are having in opening up their legacy products to pension freedoms, business predicated on impenetrable terms and conditions, that tie people in contractually will, eventually, turn and bite you on the ass. In 2015, transparency and simplicity gets rewarded, I think.