The Swedish start-up is celebrating a round of investment with fellow entrepreneur Jon Widegren of Stockholm’s Fippin’ Burgers restaurant as the main supporter.
Akuō is a functional beverage brand which offers consumers a healthy alternative to coffee and energy drinks, blending green tea, guarana and ginseng to offer today’s busy consumer a ‘zenlike focus.’
From inspiration to investment
The start-up company, Six Beverages, was formed after the four co-founders met at Stockholm School of Economics.
Three years ago the then-students attended a lecture from Jon Widegren. They heard how he quit his job, travelled the US blogging about burger places, then set up his own restaurant in Stockholm through a crowd-funding campaign.
“With the supporters from the campaign and the followers on the blog he had guaranteed that he had a queue outside Flippin’ Burgers from day one,” explained Fritz Rabeler of Akuō.
“Today you cannot get a burger there without waiting for at least 45 minutes. Flippin’ Burger is a brand everybody in Stockholm knows and one of the most popular restaurants in town.”
The story inspired the students to become entrepreneurs themselves, and it was Widegren they first went to for advice. The relationship continued from there, with Widegren following the brand for a year before deciding to invest.
“When we started talking about numbers Jon had already such a good idea about the business that we did not need to do any convincing,” said Rabeler.
Dubbed as a ‘drink to think,’ Akuō’s target market is people who want energy while they study or work – standing for ‘a lifestyle where you work with real focus.’ Co-founder Lukas von Grebmer was voted BeverageDaily.com’s Personality of 2014.
‘He went to sell the product to his favourite café’
Widegren now drinks two bottles of Akuō a day. “The other day, he picked up a box of Akuō and went out to sell the product to his favourite café,” said Rabeler, adding that it’s this kind of ‘action-orientated enthusiasm’ that a beverage start-up needs.
Rabeler also emphasises the investor and entrepreneur need to be a good fit for each other.
For example, a beverage brand the size of Akuō cannot expect a huge return within a short period of time, said Rabeler.
And shared visions and values ensure that both parties are working from the same page.
“An investor is, of course, a source of money, but I think there is much more to it,” said Rabeler. “Cultural fit and an alignment of vision and goals is important too.
"If you want the same things, it generates a level of trust and smooth communication. Both make it more likely that your relationship will have fruitful strategic output.
“But an essential aspect is the strategic input the investor can give. We would hate to have stupid money in the business. Imagine you have a stakeholder that has a voice but is not saying anything of value. And of course there is a benefit in having an investor with a great network.”
Picking up speed
“Jon has already been a great help and we really benefit from his experience in building a great brand and business,” continued Rabeler. “Being an entrepreneur himself, he has been through many of the struggles that we are facing, and advises us on key aspects.”
The investment will allow Akuō to build up speed, and it is using the summer months to prepare wide distribution of its drinks and negotiate with potential partners.
“Before we got to this first investment round we had to improvise on all fronts,” said Rabeler. “Our offices and our own apartments were our warehouse, we often carried boxes to sales points with public transport and we bought second hand fridges online.
“It often felt like we were ready to run, but someone was holding us back by our wallet. Now we can pick up speed.
“We are working with an amazing design agency, our communication and shelf impact are finally playing catch-up with our brand story and product quality. So we are dedicating a lot of the money to shouting about our brand.”
"I would suggest looking for money in unconventional places"
Fritz Rabeler, Akuō
Top tips for beverage entrepreneurs
So what are Rabeler’s top tips for fellow beverage entrepreneurs?
“I would also suggest looking in unconventional places for money,” he said. “There are certainly business angels that are interested in young, exciting brands, but there might also be successful entrepreneurs or businesspeople who have money set aside and are ready to be convinced by an inspiring pitch.
“Make sure that you have a story to tell and that you know how to tell it. And make sure that you have a spot-on answer for any question they might ask.”