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World's largest beer company AB InBev has ‘mindset of a startup', seeking to disrupt business with accelerator program

Mary Ellen Shoup

By Mary Ellen Shoup+

17-Oct-2016
Last updated on 18-Oct-2016 at 15:01 GMT2016-10-18T15:01:07Z

AB InBev partnered with Techstars Connection to scout innovative startups that can help the company leverage new technologies and disrupt the status quo.
AB InBev partnered with Techstars Connection to scout innovative startups that can help the company leverage new technologies and disrupt the status quo.

After three months of vetting nearly 1,000 entries to a joint accelerator program funded by AB InBev and Techstars Connection, ten startups have been selected for the 17 –week program where each team will be connected with mentors and advisors to help grow and scale their early-stage businesses.

The partnership between the world’s largest beer corporation, AB InBev, and Techstars Connection grew organically, according to Techstars managing director Eamonn Carey.

AB InBev x Techstars Connections Teams

AB InBev x Techstars Connection Teams:

1. Afineur 

2. Analytical Flavor Systems 

3. Drinkeasy 

4. Intelligent Layer 

5. NaCa Fermentation 

6. Paranoid Fan 

7. Party with a Local 

8. PlanSnap 

9. Quantac 

10. GoNative 

“AB InBev has a venture capital firm called ZX Ventures, so there was a lot of very natural conversations about what we’re [Techstars Connection] doing with other corporate partners and how that was working and benefitting those big corporates,” Carey told BeverageDaily.

“We looked at a couple of different opportunities, and the theme that we kept coming back to was this idea of connection.

"Whether that be with connecting people with one another, connecting people with products, all of these types of connections that startups and big corporates like AB InBev can foster.”

Drinkeasy fosters spirited connections

Among the final ten companies chosen for the accelerator program was Drinkeasy, a startup aiming to connect people with craft spirits tailored to their drinking preferences.

This concept takes place entirely via text message to facilitate a personal connection between the user and one Drinkeasy’s spirits connoisseurs. 

“As spirit enthusiasts and cocktail lovers, we found it really difficult to buy craft and premium spirits,” co-founder Drinkeasy Harry Raymond told BeverageDaily.

“Our local liquor store didn’t really carry things from out of state, their inventory changed rapidly, and there wasn’t someone behind the counter who usually knew a lot about spirits.”

Raymond and his business partner, Nick Manning, believed they could fix the problem and launched Drinkeasy - a concierge service via text message. Users text the phone number and are paired with a drink expert, once that expert learns the user’s tastes, they will send the “story of a great craft or premium spirit that we think you’ll like based on your tastes,” Raymond said.

“We come from the app world, but with building apps, you just don’t have that same connection that a text message can have.”

If the user is interested in buying the recommended, they reply “Hell yes” and the spirit will be shipped directly to the customer.

“We started with spirits partly because we see there’s a ton of interest in spirits and it’s a very fragmented market that’s still maturing and still growing,” Raymond said.

Disrupting the status quo while building enhancing business

According to Carey, AB InBev approaches running their business with a startup-like mentality by seeking out ways to disrupt its own business model.

“They’re constantly looking at new opportunities and new areas in which they can grow and scale. And one of the biggest opportunities that’s there is partnering with new and innovative companies and hopefully being one of the early adopters of their technology in a way that can potentially can make a pretty significant impact on their bottom line,” he said.

At the end of the accelerator program, each of the ten startup companies will present in front of a room of hundreds of investors at Webster Hall in New York City, Carey added. 

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