New Innovation Brewing: How Beer Garage & Z-Tech brings value to AB InBev and ecosystem partners, while tackling global challenges

Especially over the past year, markets, consumer demands and supply chains have shifted, creating turmoil for AB InBev ecosystem partners. However, our internal innovation supergroups have helped the industry weather a global pandemic, economic downturns and rapid digitalization, plus challenges unique to regions and local economies. 

At the same time, AB InBev has thrived during a period of massive disruption, at least in part to the creative thinkers, big idea dreamers and risk-takers who focus on the future. In Q3 2021, CEO Michel Doukeris reported substantial growth, even compared to pre-pandemic levels, thanks in part to “relentless execution, investment in our brands and accelerated digital transformation”. Having close involvement with the innovators of tomorrow means AB InBev is well-positioned to thrive, no matter the context.

Within AB InBev are three wholly unique teams busy at work, each team specialized in bringing unique impact to the partners, startups and customers that make up the broader innovation ecosystem. While they may get lumped together under the innovation umbrella, each group deserves recognition—and a clearer look into what they’re doing at AB InBev.

Z-Tech: Helping Small and Medium Businesses Cover the Tab

Running a bar, restaurant, retailer or grocery store has its financial challenges and that’s where the FinTech expertise and finance-focused team of Z-Tech makes an impact. Working to improve small and medium businesses, Z-Tech partners with startups and established businesses that help overcome financial issues affecting bars, restaurants, retailers and those within the AB InBev ecosystem.

From bringing clean energy generation to SMBs in Brazil via Lemon Energia to powerful POS systems via Donus to helping businesses access credit or payment providers via SíHay, Z-Tech ensures your favorite dive bar, neighborhood grocery store and growing retailer have both the financial tools and technology they need.

Much has changed in recent years and decades for our ecosystem partners and AB InBev, but we believe our future-ready focus, desire to take risks and openness to new ways of doing things will keep us going for many centuries to come. While the technical expertise, data sharing and shared innovation are valuable as they are in any technology-focused ecosystem, there’s a financial innovation component creating incredible outcomes, too.

Across a rapidly expanding landscape of partners, you might expect Z-Tech to focus on logistics and industry-specific challenges. However, there’s a bigger vision. Embracing sustainability goals, accelerating female-founded or co-founded ventures and leading an innovative incubator program, this ecosystem is taking on challenges faced globally, creating benefits for those inside and outside of AB InBev’s ecosystem and customer base.

As a corporation, we’re not alone in investing in and partnering with ecosystem partners, leading a trend that is becoming more common across innovative companies. Corporate venture capital (CVC), or corporate investments in external startups, has risen substantially within recent years; $50B in capital was deployed in 2018 alone and has risen by 400% between 2013 and 2018. 

AB InBev follows similar strategies of known innovators like Google Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and Microsoft M12, a recipe for avoiding complacency—or lost revenue opportunities—while expanding into new markets. Led by our experts in New York, London, São Paulo, Shanghai, Johannesburg and Seoul, we’re bringing opportunities to entrepreneurs globally and securing AB InBev’s future as a leader in doing things differently and better.

Beer Garage USA: Silicon Valley’s Best Office Bar

Picking up a six pack, you may not immediately think it has a connection to enterprise architecture, cyber security, artificial intelligence, IoT or Data Analytics—but one of the brilliant innovators at Beer Garage can explain the connection over a pint.

In the Silicon Valley-based Beer Garage USA, AB InBev invests in emerging and state-of-the-art technology, from blockchain to augmented reality to automation to robotics and more. Chances are if we’re talking about technology in 5 years, Beer Garage has been researching it for at least as long. We’re closing the loop and getting the local ecosystems into a global framework with Beer Garage India, Beer Garage Brazil, and Beer Garage Israel offices.

Not limited to product innovation, Beer Garage looks at the entire AB InBev business, ensuring the business is scalable, secure and ready for future consumer or supply chain demands. One of the ways their team achieves these results is through their Incubator program, sending ABI employees to partner businesses where they learn, research and return, further connecting AB InBev with brilliant new ideas and partners.

Who is in the AB In-Bev ecosystem?

While thousands of innovative startups exist, it’s only those that are well-managed and meet the rigorous standards of AB In-Bev who are accepted into the ecosystem. How will they bring impact to the ecosystem—and what will they do unlike any other partner?

To gauge their fit, we put our DVF framework into play:

  • Desirability: Will this partner satisfy unmet demand in a way that matters to our customers or ecosystem partners?
  • Viability: Are they capable of supporting and scaling change alongside a massive, global company and a large network of ecosystem partners?
  • Feasibility: Is it possible to execute a partnership from a technical or operational view?
  • Integrity: Does their vision, culture and values match those of AB InBev?

Thanks to this rigorous process, AB In-Bev and its partners have tapped into unique benefits, enriching every step of the supply chain and tackling social challenges: providing farmers and recyclers access to financial security via BanQu and offering robust software for database marketing, gamification, ROI, data mining and more via Mercafacil.
In the next part of this series, discover more about the 3 teams that make up AB InBev’s innovation supergroup and what they’re bringing to consumers, entrepreneurs and the AB InBev portfolio.