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CASE STUDY

How The Intuit Prosperity Accelerator Helped Small Businesses and Consumers

When COVID-19 became a growing pandemic, the financial pressures faced by small businesses and consumers became apparent. At the onset of COVID-19, half (49%) of Canadians report that they are $200 or less away each month from insolvency, according to the latest MNP Consumer Debt Index. CFIB reports that 48% of small businesses are making half or less their normal sales, with 50% stating they are most concerned about their business cash flow.

Intuit’s mission is to power prosperity around the world. They are a global financial platform with products including TurboTax, QuickBooks and Mint, designed to empower consumers, self-employed, and small businesses to improve their financial lives. Their platform of products help customers get more money with the least amount of work while giving them complete confidence in their actions and decisions.

At the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, David Marquis, Country Manager of Intuit Canada, saw an urgent need to do even more to solve financial prosperity challenges for consumers, self-employed and small businesses. This presented an opportunity for the Intuit team to test a bold, first-of-its-kind ‘One Intuit’ program that invested in accelerating adjacent-to-Intuit innovations through the startup ecosystem, powered by our customer-obsessed employees and a partnership with a venture studio and capital fund, Highline Beta. Our shared mission led to a corporate-startup collaboration in the form of a pilot program accelerator model: the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator.

“We saw an opportunity to tap into the energy, passion, and talent of the startup ecosystem in this time of uncertainty to help solve real challenges for Canadians. Highline Beta was an ideal partner to launch the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator because of their expertise designing programs, sourcing and selecting the right startups, and ensuring we provided meaningful mentorship and support to the startups along the way.”

– David Marquis, Country Manager of Intuit Canada

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 Intuit Prosperity Accelerator Works


The Intuit Prosperity Accelerator was launched on July 13, 2020. Working closely with Highline Beta, Intuit Canada focused on 6 challenges for startups to solve with innovative solutions, three related to consumer opportunities and three related to small business and self-employed opportunities:

Consumer Opportunities:

Eliminate Debt

The number of Canadians who are anxious about their financial situation has more than doubled from 19% before COVID-19 to 46%. These money worries were identified as the largest source of stress. Example solutions:

  • Understand, manage, consolidate, and pay off debt
  • Become aware of cashflow and spending habits
  • Commit to a debt paydown
Build Savings

COVID-19 has upended financial health with half (49%) of Canadians reporting that they are $200 or less away each month from insolvency. Example solutions:

  • Save money and spend wisely
  • Maximize tax refunds and government incentives
  • Increase future savings through budgeting
Enable Financial Literacy

40% of Canadians are ready to start thinking more proactively about their finances, yet 57% of them fail a basic financial literacy test and only 1-in-3 actively use a financial advisor. Example solutions:

  • Understand financial status and wellbeing
  • Curate actionable steps to help reach financial goals
  • Provide insight based on progress and steps to course correct

Small Business and Self-Employed Opportunities:

Improve Cash Flow

Since the inception of COVID-19, 48% of small businesses are making half or less their normal sales. When asked what worries them the most during COVID-19, 50% said business cash flow (getting paid, meeting payroll, paying rent/bills). Example solutions:

  • Access sources of funding
  • Pay bills on time
  • Get paid anyway, anywhere, and immediately
Get Customers

52% of small business owners cited a decrease in customer demand for products and services, and 37% are worried that consumer spending will be reduced, even following the COVID-19 crisis. Example solutions:

  • Acquire more customers
  • Leverage new channels to access alternative streams of revenue
  • Change business model to adapt to shifting demands
  • Hire and onboard employees as customer demand grows
Get Help

Asking for help is an inherent part of being a successful small business owner. During these challenging times, it’s important to seek reliable advice and support. Example solutions:

  • Access advice from domain experts
  • Stay compliant with changing rules and regulations
  • Stay compliant with changing rules and regulations
  • Get work done in the best way possible during COVID-19 and beyond

The program received 225+ applications, out of which 8 startups were selected to participate.

Homewise (Toronto, ON) is a digital mortgage provider that uses machine learning and automation to enable home buyers to get their best mortgage from over 30 lenders with a simple, full-service digital experience.

Emma (Quebec City, QC) is a family-centric life insurance platform that makes buying life insurance easy, affordable and accessible. Their solution leverages big data to underwrite their insurance, and a proprietary chat function that allows customers to get on-demand advice from experts.

Willful (Toronto, ON) is an estate planning platform that makes it easy, affordable, and accessible for Canadians to plan for and deal with death in a digital age.

Paper & Coin (Toronto, ON) aims to transform the way young adults think about and handle their money through financial coaching, courses, and content that helps millennials eliminate debt, build wealth, and live the life of their dreams.

Dryrun (Edmonton, AB) is a sophisticated cash flow management tool that pairs automation of intelligent financial forecasts with scenario planning and modelling, assisting businesses of all sizes to make better informed decisions about their present and future direction.

Otis AI (New York, NY) is an AI-powered app for businesses that strive to connect with customers and generate results. Their solution allows anyone to launch data-driven digital ad campaigns on Facebook, Instagram and Google in minutes.

Rivvi (Toronto, ON) is an autonomous payroll platform that incorporates AI to remove manual processes and enables small businesses to offer their employees the benefit of choosing when they get paid, depending on their own personal circumstances.

Sparcblock (Toronto, ON) streamlines B2B transactions, reducing data entry and paperwork and eliminating reconciliation that helps small businesses reduce processing time, increasing efficiency, and save money through invoicing approval posting and payment

Program Design


The key to a successful accelerator program is in its design. Highline Beta’s pilot program accelerator starts with a standard 6-month approach, customized for the specific requirements of each client and the participating startups.

Highline Beta worked with Intuit Canada to design a robust mentorship and training program. Due to COVID-19, program delivery was done remotely. The mentorship and training program was uniquely curated for the needs of the startup cohort. For example, many of the startups were interested in understanding how to track the right metrics, and so we delivered two webinars on Lean Analytics.

Additional programming, provided by Highline Beta and Intuit Canada employees included:

5 webinars:

– How to conduct user research interviews

– Accelerated learning through experimentation

– Customer acquisition (from demand generation to conversion and onboarding)

– Raising Capital & Fundraising

– How to hire top talent

9 all-hands meetings:

– Included product feedback sessions for each startup

– Active collaboration between startups

One of the key highlights of the programming was Design for Delight (D4D), Intuit’s take on customer-driven innovation methodology, refined over years and initially developed by Intuit’s co-founder Scott Cook.It’s rooted in three key principles:

Design for Delight

#1 Deep Customer Empathy: Fosters shared understanding, insights, and motivation to improve the lives of customers. You gain empathy by observing people where and when they are experiencing pains or problems.

#2 Go Broad to Go Narrow: Focuses one’s energy on what is most important. You “go broad” by using your creativity to explore a variety of potential solutions. You “go narrow” by focusing on bold solutions most likely to delight your customers.

#3 Rapid Experiments with Customers: Test solutions with customers quickly. When you run experiments with real customers, you quickly learn what works and what doesn’t, saving valuable time and resources when making your next decision.

The programming and training was designed to cover as many key topics as possible to help the startups succeed beyond the scope of working with Intuit Canada.

Startup Sourcing & Selection


The startup recruitment process lasted 2 months. Highline Beta used their extensive network of investors, founders, collaborators and more to identity potential startups. Startups were shortlisted for review, and we received feedback frequently from Intuit Canada to constantly improve our targeted sourcing efforts.

Each startup was assessed on a number of criteria to determine their fit for the program. These criteria are based on Highline Beta’s experience as accelerator operators and investors, and Intuit’s assessment of each startup’s adjacency to their products and compatibility with their values. Together with Intuit’s internal experts, the final selection of eight startups was made.

A concerted marketing effort was executed with Intuit Canada to generate as much awareness and buzz in-market as possible, which helped attract startups and drive applications.

How Intuit Prosperity Accelerator aims to help small businesses in the wake of COVID-19

Program Execution


In order to facilitate a strong working relationship and engagement with the startups, Intuit paired each of them with two Innovation Catalysts (ICs), employees at Intuit trained to champion and implement the Design for Delight (D4D) principals. These ICs worked closely with the startups to help them design experiments and apply a test and learn mindset to their businesses. The ICs met regularly with the startups and provided ongoing support and mentorship throughout the program.

Along with regular webinars, Highline Beta and Intuit Canada created an office hours program. Office hours were held monthly with Highline Beta’s founding partners and senior Intuit managers. Startups signed up for office hours to dig deeper into key topics such as fundraising, scaling internationally, hiring and sales. 

Each week, the cohort got together as a group to meet, discuss challenges and share progress with each other. This is a key component of a successful accelerator program because it provides the startups with opportunities to learn from and help each other. Numerous introductions, ideas and collaborations emerged from these all-hands meetings. For example, Willful and Emma partnered in order to provide Willful with exposure into the Quebec market, prior to their launch.

Willful and Emma partnered in order to provide Willful with exposure into the Quebec market

“I love solving problems through design. And this was a great opportunity for me to bring that element and make a difference for a startup. It’s been a fun ride with lots of new challenges and excitement for me. I loved every moment of mentoring the Homewise team. It’s all about working and learning together. Jesse and the team are so motivated and open to learning.

– Sanjay Sen, Senior Product Designer

Throughout the program, Intuit and Highline Beta worked to promote the startups. When the startups were initially announced, we drove media attention through a variety of channels.

Several startups had an opportunity to present at CIX 2020 (Canadian Innovation Exchange) alongside David Marquis.

We created two videos highlighting the SMB startups and the Consumer startups, and promoted them on social channels.

Intuit Prosperity Accelerator: Startups Helping Consumers in the Wake of COVID-19
Intuit Prosperity Accelerator: Startups Helping Small Businesses in the Wake of COVID-19

We shared parts of the journey publicly, such as the kick-off week, to highlight how Intuit Canada and the startups were collaborating.

In every pilot program accelerator, it’s important to encourage successful relationships between corporations and startups, as well as tell their stories to the broader audience and community.

“I found this program to be an amazing step towards streamlining the vision and product development strategy for our company. From the office hours with Highline Beta’s founders, to working closely with our corporate partner’s Innovation Catalysts on experiments and testing, to getting advice on raising, pitch decks, and investment rounds, it was a valuable time of learning and growth for myself and my team. We’ll definitely be taking everything we learned during our time in this accelerator on to future endeavours for our company.”

– Octavia Ramirez Co-founder Paper & Coin

Demo Day


The Prosperity Accelerator Demo Day was done in partnership with TechTO, a media company focused on building the tech and startup ecosystem in Canada. Highline Beta and Intuit saw the opportunity to work with TechTO to increase exposure for the startups and share our collective learnings gained throughout the accelerator program.

Scott Cook, Intuit’s co-founder, participated in the Demo Day through a fireside chat with David Marquis. Scott shared a number of incredible stories from the early days of Intuit, and how he adapted to different circumstances while growing the company.

Each startup had three minutes to present their business and share their experiences participating in the accelerator. The startups did an incredible job explaining their businesses, with a focus on the problems they’re solving, their solutions and traction.

The entire event was made available on video to watch:

Intuit Prosperity Accelerator Demo Day — March 2, 2021

Over 380 people attended Demo Day on March 2nd 2021, and were able to see the startup presentations, network and celebrate the incredible work put in by everyone involved in the program. Additional key metrics: 360 networking sessions took place between participants; and 68 introductions (to the startups) were requested.

A public Demo Day is an effective way to generate attention for the participating startups, and interest in meeting the startups was captured throughout the event.

David Marquis also announced plans for a second cohort, with more information coming in the next few months.

“When the playbook is not working, you’ve got to find a new play, and that means you’ve got to learn something new. So go find the best wheel maker and have them teach you. That’s one of my key learnings on resilience and adversity. I wish we had an accelerator when we started. One of the great benefits of a program like this one, and Highline Beta, is that it provides ‘experts on tap’ so you can be learning the next play you need to master.”

Scott Cook, co-founder at Intuit

Success Stories


There were many success stories that emerged during the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator. We’ve shared a few below.

Homewise — The easiest way to get the best mortgage

Tested different integrations with Mint to evaluate segmented customers’ interest in a mortgage. Goal was to determine if they could identify when a user would be looking for a mortgage, and how they might want to receive recommendations through a Homewise integration.

$3M

Seed financing raised during the program

100%

of users said they would recommend Homewise

“Working with Intuit Canada was great. They were open-minded and flexible as we navigated how to collaborate with t hem in the best way possible. Their willingness to test new ideas with us, and the way they challenged our assumptions, really allowed us to think and act quickly to improve our company.”

Jesse Abrams, Homewise

Emma — Life insurance for moms and their families with no medical exams, blood samples or urine tests

Leveraged their Baby Names tool to assess whether expecting parents would also be interested in learning about personal finance and insurance. Designed a “Money Cheat Sheet” to help expecting parents better plan for their financial and insurance needs.

500%

MoM growth throughout the program

800 ↗ 2500

total customer growth

Dryrun — Cash flow forecasting for accountants

Built a cash flow scorecard feature and tested it with CPAs. The feature was rated 10/10 by CPAs, which helped Dryrun better understand this key target market, as well as provide value through integrating the cash flow scorecard into their core product.

Launched a full insights tool for CPAs

Got into Connection Silicon Valley: Access to Global Capital program during the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator

“The insights panel we developed during the program was huge for us. It was a problem we were thinking of in the back of our minds and we said let’s try to figure it out during the program. And it went from something that was just an idea to a beta to now something that is actually in Dryrun today, this was a bit of a surprise but a super welcome surprise, We weren’t expecting this to come all the way through and activate like that so that was terrific.”

Blaine Berscht, CEO/Co-founder Dryrun

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 Intuit Canada’s overall corporate mission and vision, and demonstrated real results.

Many of the personal and professional relationships that emerged from the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator will continue beyond the program. And throughout, everyone learned a great deal, which is paramount for growing and succeeding in the future.

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.

Download a copy of the case study


Case Study

How American Family Insurance Partnered with Highline Beta to Build Relay Platform

Relay Platform

American Family Insurance (AmFam) is a Fortune 500 private insurance company. It focuses on property, casualty and auto insurance, and also offers commercial insurance, life, health and homeowners coverage, as well as investment and retirement-planning products.

When Ryan Rist, Director of Innovation at American Family (AmFam) Insurance, approached Highline Beta, AmFam had already built up a sophisticated innovation team of 20+ employees. This team had a mandate to come up with outside of the core, new business concepts — and they partnered with Highline Beta to leverage our experience helping large companies use their resources to spin out new startups. AmFam wanted to avoid ‘innovation theatre’ and instead, work with a venture studio without ego; a partner whose incentives and goals were perfectly aligned with theirs, that would help them build out high-growth ventures and go after new investable opportunities.

Turning Innovation Challenges into Investable Opportunities


Together with AmFam, we worked towards finding an investable opportunity through:

1. Active Collaboration

Collaborating with AmFam, leveraging our collective industry expertise to uncover 10 early venture ideas that we thought were interesting

2. Ongoing Validation

Narrowing in on a few ideas that we validated as solving a problem in specific insurance verticals

3. Finding the Right Opportunity

Identifying which of those verticals had the most widespread problems and therefore the most opportunity

All of this work led us to focus on the reinsurance industry. As an opaque industry, its problems weren’t easy to identify. But once we dug in, we realized that the opaqueness meant there was untapped potential for something new. From this insight the MVP (minimum viable product) for Relay Platform was co-created by Highline Beta team members and reinsurance experts that were connected with AmFam. Through a process of rapid iteration and testing, we were able to create a focused platform that aimed to solve widespread problems in the reinsurance industry.

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 corporate startup creation model, which is led by our Venture Studio team. We work with Fortune 1000 clients to identify new areas of growth, and then collaborate to spin-out a new startup. This provides our corporate partners with access to great talent and new business models, while sharing the risk with Highline Beta, which dedicates resources and capital (through our venture capital fund).

When building a new startup spin-out, we recruit a great Founder / CEO, and surround them with our Venture Studio team. This ensures we can validate the right opportunity, build an MVP and help the new startup secure the funding it needs to grow.

Co-Creation Allowed Relay Platform to Scale Rapidly


In the historically slow-moving insurance industry, co-creation proved itself as a model of success. AmFam’s industry expertise, networks and initial funding, in coordination with Highline Beta’s enterprise experience and agility in the startup space, cut the time from concept to pilot considerably.

Kick Off

1 month

Align on challenges and program structure

Both sides accelerated the path to innovation by bringing essential pieces of the puzzle to the table. Our collective industry expertise unearthed 10 interesting and potentially viable venture ideas.

Validation

3 months

Pressure-test each idea and opportunity

We pursued each idea initially uncovered, and validated whether or not they would solve problems within specific insurance verticals. At the same time, we identified which verticals would yield the most opportunity. Our work led us to the reinsurance industry.

MVP Creation

6 months

Build an initial version of the product

Through a process of rapid iteration and testing, we quickly developed an MVP for Relay Platform; a workflow & collaboration platform that dramatically elevates the level of control, integration and innovation in reinsurance.

Leadership

Continually

Find the right CEO to run Relay and secure funding

To get from MVP to an investable venture, Relay Platform needed the right person at the helm. Highline Beta’s model for co-creation includes hiring a founder, and Greg Boutin was the right entrepreneur with the right experience for the job.

Greg joined very early in the journey, but we had an MVP in place, a team ready to continue working and a partnership with a key insurance and reinsurance company, with American Family. When Greg took over as CEO of Relay Platform he worked quickly to gain traction, build momentum in-market and develop relationships throughout the insurance & reinsurance industry. He was instrumental in setting up Relay’s first pilots and ensured the product was on track, solving real problems and creating value for its customers.

“The beauty of this startup creation process is that it cut the initial exploration and MVP development work by 1-2 years. I hit the ground running. I had a corporate partner, an investor in Highline Beta, a team (5 people), an office and I didn’t have the constant stress of figuring out how to pay the bills. In a model like this, having two experienced partners on each side gives us the perfect quarterbacks to supercharge our growth.”

Greg Boutin,
CEO Relay Platform

Impact: Relay Platform got to its seed round in less than 1 year

Relay was selected by Plug and Play, a well known incubator, for their insurance program and the Global Insurance Accelerator for their InsurTech Week — proof that the insurance industry took Relay seriously.

With that momentum under its belt, Relay recently announced a USD $2M seed round, with investors including NFP Ventures, Highline Beta, AmFam and Plug and Play. Those funds will allow Relay to build out its team and scale in 2020.

$2M

seed round raised

< 1 year

to get to market and meaningful recognition

“Relay originated in a collaboration between our innovation team and Highline Beta. As we realized the potential Relay held to deliver efficiencies and effectiveness gains for the whole industry, we decided to spin it off and are excited to witness the rapid market adoption of this elegant — and now independent — cloud-based solution. There is no question that complex risk transfers, whether in reinsurance or insurance, can benefit from the boost into modernity that Relay offers.”

Dan Reed,
Managing Director
American Family Ventures

The Future is Bright for Relay Platform


Since launching in 2019, Relay Platform has continued to evolve and grow. The company has remained nimble in the market, finding the right customer wedges and product features to have a meaningful impact in insurance and reinsurance. Relay continues to build great partnerships and get recognition in the industry.

You can learn more about Relay through the video below. And please visit: https://relayplatform.com.

Is your organization exploring how to improve the way in which it innovates beyond the core?

Reach out to us at Highline Beta and we can share more about our startup co-creation and venture studio model and how it might work for you.

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.

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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.

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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%.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Download a copy of the case study