Case Study: Creating a sustainable future with AB InBev through corporate-startup collaboration

Case Study: Creating a sustainable future with AB InBev through corporate-startup collaboration

Case Study

The Story

In 2018, AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer, announced its ambitious 2025 Sustainability Goals. As part of this initiative, they launched 100+ Accelerator, which may sound like a small motorcycle or maybe a battery, but is in fact a sophisticated startup accelerator program that will help them hit their sustainability targets. Powered by Highline Beta, this global program challenges startups to deliver and scale their green initiatives worldwide, AB InBev has raised the bar on being a leader not just in brewing and sustainability, but also the collaborative act of bringing fresh ideas and people together to unlock exponential impact.

The Challenge: Why does sustainability matter to AB InBev?

To thrive as a company for the next 100 years and beyond (which is where the name, 100+ comes from!), AB InBev knows that it needs to make sure the planet thrives, too.

AB InBev needs clean, safe water, naturally farmed ingredients, and healthy, vibrant communities to make their products and keep flourishing as a business. Their goals for 2025, all closely aligned with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, focus on smart agriculture, water stewardship, circular packaging and climate action.

“Sustainability is our business. Beer is all about water and farming products. So if I’m in a community where water is not available or farming is not doing well, I have no way to produce beer.”

— Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser Busch-InBev

What we built: Turning sustainability commitment into action with 100+

As AB InBev applied principles of sustainability to the business of brewing, the company quickly realized that they couldn’t achieve their goals on their own. They needed to summon some of the world’s brightest minds to help solve their sustainability challenges. For faster, better results, they understood that new interface systems were needed to help entrepreneurs tackle these problems where they lived.

When AB InBev came up with the idea to run an accelerator program, they turned to Highline Beta to breathe life into it. Highline Beta became a key partner for the now award-winning 100+ Accelerator, helping AB InBev design and build it.

“It’s incumbent on global businesses to play a bigger role in creating a better world for all. At AB InBev we have a long-term vision to build a company to last for the next 100+ years, which relies on driving sustainability across our business. Our approach is rooted in the communities where we live and work, and we are well positioned to support entrepreneurs who are tackling local challenges. Through the 100+ Accelerator, innovators will benefit from our resources, experience and global reach to speed their progress and scale.”

— Tony Milikin, AB InBev’s Chief Sustainability and Procurement Officer

What is Highline Beta’s role in making this magic happen?

Accelerators, laser-focused on speed to pilot, are truly fantastic innovation instruments, especially when testing new, even revolutionary technologies. It’s not about a press release, but is more the process of alchemy; the transformation of an idea into reality, at scale.

The startups that win the right to pilot their technology with a large corporate client like AB InBev get extraordinary validation and credibility in-market, which in turn leads to bigger business opportunities. In this way, startups that come out of 100+ Accelerator cohort can truly change how industries move forward.

How it all worked

1. Program Design: Align on challenges and program structure

Highline Beta helped AB InBev identify business challenges and opportunities within their sustainability mandate. We then designed and developed the program. We installed an ops team, determined the length and features of the program, supported streamlining procurement and compliance and defined value Highline Beta would provide throughout the program. We defined startup selection criteria, deal terms and speed to pilot, mapped out the key milestones, and engaged all the internal stakeholders.

2. Launch & Build Cohort: Launch applications and source startups

Highline Beta built and launched 100+ Accelerator website, and collaborated with AB InBev on the program’s go-to- market strategy through social, PR, partnerships and media. We actively sourced startups and worked through a rigorous filtering process, alongside key AB InBev stakeholders and experts.

3. Programming & Pilots: Launch pilot projects

Highline Beta’s milestone-driven programming guided all the stakeholders through the process of getting to a pilot or partnership. Our team worked closely with AB InBev to on-board all startups, internal stakeholders and program mentors. We ran multiple webinar sessions and in- person activations to deliver programming to startups beyond their core pilot initiatives and worked to make sure 100+ Accelerator ran smoothly.

4. Evaluate and scale collaborations

As 100+ Accelerator drew to a close for its first cohort, Highline Beta supported a final “Demo Day” experience during Climate Week in New York. AB InBev went through a process of evaluating all of the pilots and determining which startups they would continue to scale with. This was based on pilot agreements and target metrics defined earlier in the process. Highline Beta leveraged its network to connect startups to other potential partners, customers and investors, and continues to provide ad hoc mentorship and support to startups.

“Highline Beta has been instrumental in designing and delivering our 100+ Sustainability Accelerator. They help us make sure the program is world-class, sourcing and selecting great startups and providing mentorship and guidance throughout. Highline Beta understands how corporations and startups work, know 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

Do the startups feel the same way?

“I think that we may be standing on the precipice of world- wide change. I am excited to be a trigger for this, and I am exhilarated to be partnering with such a dynamic and creative group of people from a truly committed powerhouse company.”

— Ari Kaufman, CEO, Spout

“Our goal is to strengthen this partnership across multiple crops and countries setting up a long-term, sustainable and responsible supply chain. AB InBev benefits when farmers are skilled, connected and financially literate. It couldn’t have been a better fit.”

— Ashish Gadnis, Founder and CEO, BanQu

“AB InBev’s 100+ Accelerator has provided the perfect canvas for accelerating impact for Earthly Labs’ goal to capture 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions — the equivalent of 26 billion trees.”

— Amy George, CEO and founder, Earthly Labs

Dream it. Do it. 100+ Accelerator startup stories


BanQu joined 100+ Accelerator with the goal of giving disenfranchised, unbanked populations in developing countries the ability to build a financial identity through its blockchain-based software. BanQu allows people who would otherwise not have access– from a refugee to a small- scale farmer– the ability to build a financial “credit score” and participate in the global economy. Armed with a financial identity, individuals can transact more easily, and also track their goods and transactions throughout the supply chain, creating new economic opportunities for small-scale producers. This technology isn’t simply a fascinating theory. BanQu proved incredibly powerful, even at pilot stages.

Through 100+ Accelerator, AB InBev partnered with BanQu to help them reach over 4,000 of their cassava producing farmers in Zambia, Uganda and India. These farmers were able to create a transparent and traceable record for their cassava crops and get paid directly through the platform. A simple and efficient way to keep track of this key starch ingredient in the brewing process. The biggest value for BanQu in participating in the 100+ Accelerator program has been the ability to dive deeper into the value chain when it comes to farmers. The hope is that the partnership will help BanQu accelerate its goal of lifting 100 million people out of extreme poverty by the end of 2023.

“Over the last year, we have implemented the BanQu platform with over 4,000 of our direct farmers in Zambia, Uganda and India. Through this work, we are helping to create a digital ledger of farmers’ transactions that will create an economic identity and enable access to financial services. This will ultimately allow farmers to grow their business and improve the livelihoods of their families and communities.”

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

Earthly Labs

At startup Earthly Labs, CEO and founder Amy George has set out to fight the world’s climate challenge by focusing on carbon capture. To do this, the company developed a plug-and-play carbon capture technology specifically designed for brewers. As beer ferments, it produces gas based CO2 which in a brewery is then often released into the atmosphere.

Using the new technology, brewers are able to convert that gas into a CO2 liquid, which can then be re-used to carbonate beer at a different stage of the brewing cycle. In other words, the technology prevents CO2 from being released and converts it into a useful byproduct for reuse, a win-win for everyone involved.

“AB InBev’s 100+ Accelerator has provided the perfect canvas for accelerating impact for Earthly Labs’ goal to capture 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions — the equivalent of 26 billion trees.”

— Amy George, CEO and founder, Earthly Labs

EW Tech

EW Tech stands for Electrolyte Water Technology, a new and entirely green tech that can be used in the cleaning and sterilization of brewing lines. Before EW Tech, breweries were using chemicals to clean and sterilize their lines. This process was cumbersome because the chemicals themselves had to be closely monitored and controlled, and the full cleaning process required a lot of water in order to be effective. That’s why EW Tech seemed almost too good to be true.

Through 100+ Accelerator, EW Tech was able to pilot their solution in an AB InBev brewery in Columbia. 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%. That time savings represented a profit of nearly $10M. Beyond brewing, EW Tech now has plans to expand into other industries, and because of their pilot with AB InBev, they have the proof to help amplify and accelerate their business.

In short, corporate leadership + startup power = massive change. Imagine what a difference a program like this, designed to solve enterprise challenges and engage with the brightest entrepreneurial minds can make.

Highline Beta has now been engaged to continue this important work with AB InBev. This is how we make change happen.