CASE STUDY

How AB InBev Developed the Award-Winning 100+ Accelerator Program

100+ Sustainability Accelerator

AB InBev is the world’s largest brewer with 260 breweries and operations in 50+ countries. The company is constantly looking to grow the beer category and deliver long-term sustainable top and bottom-line growth, with a focus on consumer-centricity, operational excellence and innovation.

One of AB InBev’s stated missions is to build a company that lasts. And to do so, they recognized the importance of supporting a healthy environment and thriving communities. The company set out ambitious sustainability goals for 2025, aligned with UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whereby AB InBev committed to creating a better world for all stakeholders, while also creating value for the business.

The goals AB InBev set out to achieve by 2025 include:

Climate Action

100% of global purchased electricity volume will come from renewable sources and 25% reduction in CO2 emissions across their value chain

Circular Packaging

100% of their product will be in packaging that is returnable or made from majority recycled content

Water Stewardship

100% of their communities in high-stress areas will have measurably improved water availability and quality

Smart Agriculture

100% of their direct farmers will be skilled, connected and financially empowered

AB InBev mapped these goals to key UN SDGs including: Good Health and Well-being, Gender Equality, Clean Water and Sanitation, Affordable and Clean Energy, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production, Climate Action and Partnerships.

To achieve these goals, AB InBev knew they had to look outside their own organization to startups with specialized experience, technology and innovation. The company had the idea of launching a startup accelerator that could help them solve pressing sustainability challenges. This brought them to working with Highline Beta and implementing a pilot program accelerator model for the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator.

Helping Companies Grow Beyond their Core


Highline Beta helps large corporations identify new opportunities to grow their business through internal and external innovation. We help companies build new ventures, partner with startups and co-invest in growth opportunities.

One of our key approaches is our pilot program accelerator model, which is focused on creating successful pilot opportunities for startups to work with our Fortune 1000 clients. Through decades of experience with startup accelerator models, we’ve designed a tailor-made pilot program accelerator that helps attract and source the best startups, and then accelerate partnership opportunities with corporates.

Each pilot program accelerator is based on a core 6-month program, designed to address the key concerns that both corporates and startups have when engaging in partnerships. Highline Beta provides the framework — customized to the specific needs of each corporate — that increases the quality of startups identified and the speed of successful pilot execution.

How the 100+ Accelerator Works


The 100+ Sustainability Accelerator was first launched in late 2018, as an annual program that identifies the best global startups with solutions that AB InBev and its partners can implement quickly, in order to make progress on the company’s sustainability goals. The first cohort ran in 2019, with 21 startups sourced from 700 applications, and the second cohort in the subsequent year saw 15 selections from 1,200 applications. AB InBev is aiming to help support and accelerate 100 startups by 2025 through the program. The startups that have been selected represent 16 different countries, demonstrating the truly global nature of the accelerator.

In our two cohorts we have accelerated:

Program Design

Each year, Highline Beta and AB InBev tweak the program design, based on learnings from the previous cohort. Although the high-level sustainability goals remain the same each year, the specific challenges put into the startup ecosystem do vary. AB InBev designed challenges with the support of Highline Beta that are detailed enough, but also open-ended, in order to attract the highest volume of quality startups. Each challenge, such as Every Single Drop (which focuses on Water Stewardship) provides startups with a list of problems and potential solutions that AB InBev is interested in piloting. This provides startups with the necessary detail and guidance to determine if their solution is a fit.

With AB InBev, we developed a mentorship and training program for the startups, which goes beyond the pilot efforts. Mentorship and training are provided by Highline Beta, AB InBev domain experts and external mentors.

Design

2 months

Align on challenges and program structure

  • Install ops team
  • Core program design
  • Support procurement and compliance streamlining
  • Define startup selection criteria
  • Define deal terms and requirements for executing pilots
  • Map out key milestones & internal stakeholder engagement

Build / Launch

3 months

Launch applications, source startups

  • Launch pilot program accelerator website & applications
  • Develop and implement marketing and PR/media strategy
  • Source startups
  • Engage internal mentors and stakeholders on vetting
  • Rigorous vetting and filtering of applications
  • Final selection of cohort

Run Pilots

6 months

Launch pilot projects & provide active mentorship

  • Onboard all startups into program
  • Identify key pilot milestones and KPIs for each startup
  • Implement programming (webinars, mentorship, etc.)

Evaluate

1 month

Evaluate and scale collaborations

  • Design and run a “Demo Day” experience for final presentations to key stakeholders
  • Evaluate and support scaling of successful pilots
  • Evaluate potential to co-invest in startups

Startup Sourcing & Selection

The startup recruitment process lasts 2-3 months. AB InBev and Highline Beta use their extensive networks of investors, founders, collaborators and more to identify potential startups. Startups are shortlisted for review, and we receive feedback to constantly improve our targeted sourcing efforts.

Each startup is assessed on a number of criteria to determine their fit for the program. These criteria are based on Highline Beta’s and AB InBev’s experience as accelerator operators and investors, along with specific criteria focused on measuring the potential of a startup piloting successfully with AB InBev.

AB InBev’s communication team, with the support of Highline Beta, works to generate buzz and awareness in-market, which helps attract startups and overall industry awareness.

Program Execution & Demo Day

The 100+ Sustainability Accelerator runs for 6 months, from kick-off to Demo Day. During the program, startups are provided with a series of webinars and workshops that cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • Branding
  • Marketing, advertising & PR
  • Navigating procurement
  • International expansion
  • Raising capital
  • Pitching & storytelling
  • Metrics (Lean Analytics)
  • Validating business models

These webinars and workshops are conducted by Highline Beta, AB InBev employees (including senior leaders) and external domain experts. Additional office hours and cohort-based activities are included throughout the program to foster further connectivity between participants and AB InBev. Startups are partnered with 1 or 2 internal AB InBev experts that serve as their implementation guides throughout the program. These become key contacts for startups working with AB InBev to ensure that startups and AB InBev have what they need to be successful. Highline Beta provides mentorship training to the internal experts to bridge the divide between how big companies and startups operate.

The internal experts, 100+ team and startups work together to design their pilots and create a statement of work (SOW), which provides the framework for how the pilot will function, key KPIs, etc. The goal of the SOW is to get everyone aligned on what will be done during the pilot, who are responsible and initial timelines.

“We had an idea for a new kind of corporate accelerator and Highline Beta helped bring it to life. They work with us to make sure the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator is world-class, sourcing and selecting great startups and providing mentorship and guidance throughout. Highline Beta understands how corporations and startups work, knows how to set up winning conditions, and measure progress. They’ve proven to be the ultimate universal translator to ensure success all around.”

Maisie Devine,
Global Director, AB InBev’s
100+ Accelerator

During the program AB InBev leverages a variety of marketing channels including social media, blog posts and live streams to promote the startups and amplify their messaging with the support of Highline Beta.

The program culminates in a demo day event where startups present their pilot progress to relevant stakeholders, investors, other potential partners, clients and more.

For the 2nd cohort’s Demo Day event, over 300 participants attended the virtual event (limited to virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions), which led to over 100 introductions going directly to the startups. Each startup presented their overall company (i.e. problem they’re solving, solution, market potential, traction, etc.) along with progress on their pilots with AB InBev.

Success Metrics for the 100+ Accelerator


The past two cohorts of the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator have been incredibly successful. Beyond making significant progress towards AB InBev’s sustainability goals, the company looks at three additional measures of success, including:

Efficiencies gained through startup pilots & ongoing commercial deals between AB InBev and the startups

Fundraising secured by startups to help them scale

Brand lift for AB InBev, its brands and the startups

1. Efficiency Gains & Commercial Deals

To-date, AB InBev estimates that the startups it has worked with are on track to help the company save up to $80M per year by 2025. This clearly proves that sustainability is good for business.

Furthermore, over 50% of the startups have gone on to secure commercial deals with AB InBev, which represents a high success rate from the initial pilots. This is a critical metric that demonstrates how the pilot program accelerator model works to increase the speed of evaluation, and clarity around how a commercial deal can be designed and delivered.

$80M

savings per year by 2025

50%+

of the startups have gone on to secure commercial deals

$200M

in financing raised

2. Startup Fundraising

In total, the startups participating in the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator so far, have raised over $200M in financing from a variety of top-tier global investors, niche sustainability funds and angel investors, including Sofinnoa, Greycroft, Barclays, Sound Ventures, Bluewater, Emerson Collective and more.

Highline Beta invested in BanQu after the conclusion of the program’s first cohort.

3. Brand Lift & Media Attention

The 100+ Sustainability Accelerator has become a platform for brand building and growth, both for AB InBev and the startups. A variety of marketing efforts throughout the course of the program lead to increased earned media. For example, the accelerator was recently named one of the 10 most inspiring accelerator programs in the world by Clique AI.

10+

of AB InBev’s brands have worked closely with the startups

Additionally, more than 10 of AB InBev’s brands including Goose Island, Bavaria, Leffe and Corona, have worked closely with the startups, increasing the importance and potential of the partnerships, as well as generating further brand lift, media attention and awareness.

Amplification of the startups’ involvement with AB InBev, and their commitment to sustainability, demonstrates a collective commitment to what consumers care about, bridging the gap and catering to major behavioral trends (i.e. recycling, lower consumption, etc.), while also tying back to AB InBev’s ethos of “We Dream Big.” The accelerator program links directly into AB InBev’s core business and messaging.

“Being a part of the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator with AB InBev and Highline Beta has been a fantastic experience. As a Canadian green-tech startup, the opportunity to work on multiple global pilots with AB InBev, has brought us one step closer to launching truly sustainable eco-friendly plastics that perfectly fit into AB InBev’s production and supply chains. The mentorship and support we’ve received from Highline Beta and AB InBev throughout the experience has helped us build a more scalable product and the 100+ Accelerator program kept us all focused on delivering great results.”

Nuha Siddiqui
CEO, erthosTM

Accelerator Program Accomplishments


There have been numerous pilot and partnership success stories emerging from the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator. We’ve shared a few below.

OKO — Bringing crop insurance to small farmers in Uganda

60%

subscription rate

38%

of subscribers benefited from the insurance plan

OKO — Bringing crop insurance to small farmers in Uganda

Challenge: AB InBev works with 9,500 farmers in Uganda and is committed to ensuring that 100% of farmers receive the proper training, connectivity and financial empowerment to be successful. OKO provides farmers with access to easy-to-use parametric-based crop insurance through their existing phones, to protect against insufficient or excess rain, which leads to crop damage or loss.

Pilot Achievements: 60% of barley producers exposed to the program subscribed, of which 38% benefited through financial compensation for crop loss due to heavy rain. In addition, farmers participating in the pilot program with AB InBev and OKO were provided with preferential rates for micro loans to grow their businesses.

OKO is currently expanding their pilot in Uganda, and looking at additional countries in Africa, in partnership with AB InBev.

Read more

ZoomAgri — Improving crop delivery and acceptance process

99%

time saved

85%

cost reduction

ZoomAgri — Improving crop delivery and acceptance process

Challenge: The testing, inspection and certification of agrifood supply chains is a massive market. There are 3 billion tons of grains & oilseeds produced yearly, which need to be tested and inspected at each step of the supply chain.

This process hasn’t changed dramatically in the last century, done manually with little to no technology. ZoomAgri is digitizing the testing, inspecting and certification of grains through the supply chain using sophisticated vision technology and AI. This results in a more accurate quality analysis, in real time, at a lower cost.

Pilot Achievements: Cost of analysis dropped from $200 to $5 and time for analysis dropped from 5 days to 3 minutes resulting in 99% time saved and 85% cost reduction.

These improvements resulted in positive impacts for AB InBev’s breweries, which had increased confidence in the quality of barley being received, but also could adapt their production plans to a speedier supply chain.

Read more

EW Tech — Utilizes green tech in the cleaning and sterilization of brewing lines

60%

reduced water consumption

70%

increase in productivity time

EW Tech — Utilizes green tech in the cleaning and sterilization of brewing lines

Challenge: Typically breweries use harsh chemicals and immense amounts of water to clean and sterilize brewing lines. The process is time-consuming because the chemicals need to be closely monitored and controlled. EW Tech utilizes a green technology solution in the cleaning and sterilization of brewing lines that reduces the use of harsh chemicals and water.

Pilot Achievements: Through 100+ Accelerator, EW Tech was able to pilot their solution in an AB InBev brewery in Colombia. Not only was it a better alternative to harsh chemicals, but it reduced water consumption by 60% and, due to a shorter cleaning time, it increased the productive time of the brewery by almost 70%.

Read more

erthosTM — Plant powered materials for our planet

5.2M

kg potential CO2 reduction

150M

litres of potential water savings

3000

tonnes of potential plastic savings

erthosTM — Plant powered materials for our planet

Challenge: erthosTM transforms agricultural by-products into plant powered alternatives to traditional plastic inputs. Its ecoresin is a 1:1 replacement for toxic plastic materials, and can be used within existing manufacturing and production facilities. Working with AB InBev they have been validating eco-inputs and are looking to integrate AB InBev agricultural by-products.

Pilot Achievements: In partnership with AB InBev, erthosTM created the first 100% compostable keg cap and are currently developing 100% compostable 6-pack rings. By replacing just those two products, in one year they will be able to reduce CO2 by 5.2 million kg, save 150 million litres of water and divert 3000 tonnes of plastic (equivalent to 350 million plastic bottles.)

Read more

Nomo Waste — Solutions for Waste Management

100,000

bottles returned

47%

CAPEX savings per bottle returned

Nomo Waste — Solutions for waste management

Challenge: Glass recycling in Colombia (and many parts of the world) is far behind other forms of recycling. The material is more difficult to get (from bars, restaurants, etc.) and often finds its way into landfills. Nomo Waste created a circular packaging ecosystem in Colombia where they partnered with 15 cooperatives and allowed waste pickers to earn double the price per glass bottle, leading to a positive impact on the economy.

Pilot Achievements: Ran a pilot program with Bavaria brewery in Colombia to recover glass bottles. Worked with 1500 waste pickers who recovered 100,000 bottles, saving them from ending up in a landfill. The recovery of these bottles resulted in a 10x reduction in CO2, and a 47% CAPEX savings per bottle returned.

Nomo Waste also partnered with BanQu (from Cohort 1) to monitor and validate the entire circular ecosystem through BanQu’s blockchain technology.

Read more

Greenline Africa — Integrated hardware and software system to capture solar energy

33,500

tons of CO2 emissions reduced in 25 years

Greenline Africa — Integrated hardware and software system to capture solar energy

Challenge: Reaching AB InBev’s goal of 100% of its energy coming from renewable sources requires a significant investment in new technology. Greenline Africa provides best-of-breed hardware and software for capturing solar energy, but leverages an innovative heat purchase agreement business model to ensure CAPEX investments for companies are at a minimum. This “energy as a service” system drives cost savings on fuel and reduces CO2 emissions.

Pilot Achievements: Secured an agreement to install their system at AB InBev’s new Mozambique brewery. The 4400 square meter installation will produce 4413 MWh thermal energy per year, which will save 500,000 litres of diesel per year and reduce CO2 emissions by 33,500 tons in 25 years.

Read more

Awards

In addition to these achievements, the program has also been recognized globally with awards including:

Fortune Change the World 2019
Fast Company World Changing Ideas 2019
FT Intelligent Business 2018
Ethical Corporation Winner 2019
Recognized by Social Good Summit 2019
CDP Double A score for Global Climate for Water Stewardship

A Challenge Worth Accepting


It can be challenging for large corporations to navigate the startup and innovation ecosystems and drive meaningful change quickly. With the right partner, companies such as AB InBev can design, launch and run successful programs that are designed to last.

Working together, we were able to create a program that tied back to AB InBev’s overall corporate mission and vision, and demonstrated real results. With consumer trends moving towards more transparency and authenticity from the brands they buy from, it’s imperative to have public facing programs that align with those demands and drive business results.

AB InBev’s 100+ Sustainability Accelerator is preparing to launch its 3rd cohort, once again focused on providing the best interface for startups to successfully collaborate with their organization.

Is your organization exploring how to improve the way in which it works with startups?

Reach out to us at Highline Beta and we can share more about our pilot program accelerator model and how it might work for you.

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