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The Entrepreneurial Exchange


James Watt

James Watt, co-founder of BrewDog Limited and business partner Martin Dickie were bored of the industrially brewed lagers and stuffy ales that dominate the UK market. In 2007 they decided the best way to fix this was to brew their own beers. The world-leading beer and whisky critic Michael Jackson tasted their prototype and immediately told them to quit their jobs and start making beer for a living. Consequently, BrewDog was born.

Both only 24 at the time, they leased a building, got some scary bank loans, spent all their money on stainless steel and started making some hardcore beers. The company has always had innovation at its heart, developing beers that intentionally destroy preconceptions of beer drinking and craft beer marketing. The company has been on the receiving end of criticism for its packaging, its high alcohol content beers and its unique approach to craft brewing but all of this has only helped to fuel the success of a business that has demonstrated the commercial potential of creativity, individuality and innovation in the sector.

While the beer industry has continued to decline, BrewDog announced a 250% sales growth in 2010, now producing over 400,000 bottles per month. The award-winning BrewDog beers are sold in 17 different territories across the globe and a loyal cult following is being reinforced by a fast-growing audience of mainstream beer-drinkers attracted by its idiosyncratic approach.

A graduate in law and from a background of running the family trawler business, James has quickly adjusted to running a multi-million pound organisation and has become an ambassador for both craft beer and Scottish business. Viral marketing has been at the heart of his success, and BrewDog’s online videos have garnered thousands upon thousands of views that have helped the brand emerge from the shadows of the corporate giants they oppose with just a fraction of their budgets.

James still lives in Aberdeen, where the BrewDog brewery is based, and there are plans to build a larger capacity eco-brewery that will be the first ever brewery to be entirely energy self-sufficient through its own renewable sources. He has branched out into other investments, recently purchasing gastro-gallery Musa in Aberdeen and in Autumn this year BrewDog will unveil its first ever bar premises.

Nelson Gray

Following the sale of his own business became a “hands on” Business Angel investor, mentor, non executive director and Fund Manager.  

He acted as fund manager for Scotland’s leading business angel syndicate and has invested in 21 companies personally. As a UK Financial Services Authority fund manager, he managed two early stage investment funds and was responsible for funding over 50 Scottish SME’s. Presently a non executive director for the Genomia Seedcorn Investment Fund which is targeted the research outputs of a group of public sector research establishments engaged in the animal and life sciences sector, and an advisor to the PSYBT innovation fund and formally the locum Fund Manager for Clyde Blowers Capital IM LLP. 

Nelson is a Director of LINC Scotland, the Scottish Business Angel network. He chairs LINC’s Best Practice committee and acts as a mentor to new investment groups. In April 2008 Nelson was awarded the tile “Business Angel of the Year 2008” by The European Business Angel Network (EBAN).  

He has talked and lectured at a wide range of events across the world, including north and South America, Europe, Middle East, India and Russia 

Nelson was a board member of the Entrepreneurial Exchange for 7 years, and has been a non executive and mentor to a number of high growth companies involved in a range of sectors including recruitment, entertainment, call centres, life sciences and recycling.  

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Venue information

Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Edinburgh 28 Queen Street

0131 220 2044


Nelson Gray, Firth Ventures, www.nelsongray.com


  • James Watt, BrewDog, www.brewdog.com

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Registered in Scotland. Company registration number SC160976.
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