Anheuser-Busch InBev Launches Internal Accelerator Program to Create New Ventures

AB InBev’s global growth and innovation group, ZX Ventures, partnered with Highline BETA to design and run an annual internal accelerator dedicated to exploring new ideas, products, brands and business models in the food and beverage industry.

AB InBev

In 2016, the team at ZX Ventures decided it needed a program for accelerating internal ideas to complement its efforts in startup partnerships, venture investing and acquisitions. The goal was to leverage Lean Startup and Design Thinking principles, ambitious employees and external talent from startups and top universities to take ideas to launchable new businesses in 11 weeks.

Highline BETA Founding Partner, Ben Yoskovitz, worked with the ZX Ventures team to design and deliver the first ZX Ventures internal accelerator in the summer of 2016 with 16 teams and 50+ participants.

The accelerator culminated in a Demo Day where participants pitched their new ventures in front of a panel of investors including AB InBev’s CEO, board members and leadership team. Several of the ventures from the 2016 cohort are now live in market, including Canvas, Beer Box and Golden Era. Having successfully wrapped-up this first accelerator, ZX Ventures and Highline BETA got to work learning and iterating on the model.

CO-CREATING ABI’s ACCELERATOR MODEL

In summer 2017, ZX Ventures and Highline BETA ran the internal accelerator a second time. A new batch of entrepreneurially-minded employees and students got together on 14 opportunities, and began the 11-week journey of going through problem, solution and business model validation.

The internal accelerator starts with a 2-week bootcamp, where teams are introduced to the core principles of Lean Startup, Design Thinking and how new ventures are established and measured at AB InBev. The bootcamp is an intense, entrepreneurial experience for participants, pushing them to work and think differently.

Highline BETA provided the overarching methodology and structure for the bootcamp, along with training materials and tools to guide participants. Beyond the bootcamp, Highline BETA was consistently involved, on a weekly basis, providing coaching, mentorship and support to move participants and their ventures through research, experimentation, prototyping and validation.

RESULTS

Many of this year’s ventures from the internal accelerator have gone on to receive funding from within AB InBev’s core business or from ZX Ventures itself, and will continue forward to validation and market launch. This is a testament to the structure, process and intensity of the internal accelerator. Ventures were measured against the problem/solution fit they’d discovered, along with the early traction they’d achieved. Participants acquire new skills, capabilities and confidence in pushing innovation forward in a new way throughout the company.

“We fundamentally believe in the power of creating new ventures and the internal accelerator model to drive growth for AB InBev. Highline BETA has helped us immensely in designing and delivering the program, guiding teams on using a rigorous validation approach to new ideas, and providing an entrepreneurial perspective that helps our new ventures succeed.” — Alastair Kenvyn, Global Director ZX Ventures

Through the internal accelerator model, ZX Ventures and AB InBev are able to validate (or invalidate) new product, brand, business model and venture opportunities faster and more effectively than was ever possible before. In a short 11-week time frame, AB InBev is able to take control of their innovation pipeline, invent new businesses and pursue growth-oriented innovation in an effective way.

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