New Innovation Brewing: Meet the ecosystem partners of Beer Garage & Z-Tech and learn how they’re shaping the future

At AB InBev, you can point to many things that make us successful: awesome products, great leadership and our focus on: Dream. People. Culture.

However, there’s another priority that keeps us moving forward, outpacing expectations and earning our spot as the world’s largest beer brewer: innovation and an openness to new ideas, from both inside and outside of our organization.

When Z-Tech was founded, we saw the need to stay fresh and nimble, to not rest on our laurels or go stale. Since then, we’ve perfected a system of finding, vetting and onboarding changemakers across fintech, sustainability, small business services, marketing and more. Just like brewing, it’s more complex than it sounds—so let’s dig into how we choose the teams that make up our innovation ecosystem.

How do you get accepted into the Z-Tech ecosystem?

While thousands of innovative startups exist, it’s only those that are well-managed and meet the rigorous standards of AB InBev that get accepted into the ecosystem. 

Across our global teams, we carefully vet those who want to join through extensive conversations that span technical abilities to vision to culture. Of the hundreds of startups we speak to, it’s only a handful that make the cut.

Bringing structure to this extensive selection process, we gauge their fit by putting our DVF framework into play, honing in on four distinct qualifications:

  • 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: Do their vision, culture, and values match those of AB InBev?

Thanks to this scalable process, AB InBev and its partners have tapped into unique benefits, enriching every step of the supply chain and tackling social challenges. 

In addition, we look for the people and needs underrepresented in venture capital and innovation. For that reason, our Female Scale program supports companies founded or co-founded by women and our 100+ Accelerator focuses on startups that achieve sustainability goals. It’s good for everyone—and aligned with AB InBev’s values.

Who is in the Z-Tech Ecosystem?

After passing the selection process, Z-Tech ecosystem members are onboarded, a step that helps us instill our process, framework and proven approaches into the fabric of our new startup partners.

Times have been challenging for the 6,000,000 restaurants, bars, retailers and family-owned businesses we serve, however, a global pandemic isn’t their only concern. From access to credit and marketing technology to clean energy and financial services, these business needs are top of mind for SMEs.

Through our ecosystem, we not only make these SMEs aware of new opportunities to improve their business, but we also supercharge the capabilities of startups that show great promise in solving these issues. 

At the start and end of the AB InBev supply chain are vital partners in farming and recycling, however, these businesses often lack the credentials to secure funding or financial security. Through our partnership with BanQu, a member of our 100+ Accelerator program, we provide farmers and recyclers a blockchain-enabled platform that opens access to financial services to scale their business and experience greater stability. 

Bars, restaurants and retailers thrive on powerful, data-driven marketing, customer loyalty and analytics, but SMEs have usually had to cobble together disparate systems to gain access to database marketing, gamification, data mining, predictive analytics and other effective tools. But when Mercafacil entered our ecosystem, our SME partners gained an all-in-one software solution that made their customers happier, their bottom lines healthier and helped them stand out.

On the sustainability front, clean energy has immense promise for bars and restaurants, however, they don’t always have the resources to make the switch. But our partnership with Lemon Energia empowers SMEs to transition to clean energy without any upfront investment, tapping into solar and renewable energies. Not only does it make their business greener, it drives significant savings on energy bills, cash that can be directed to other parts of the business.

Dozens of other partners make up our ecosystem and, if you’d like to learn more about them, check this out.

The Additional Value of Our Ecosystem Partners

With the resources and size of AB InBev, the question could be asked: why not create these solutions in-house? Wouldn’t it be more cost-effective and simpler?

In fact, Z-Tech and our innovation teams do create impressive in-house innovations, however,  there is immense value in having focused, local knowledge when operating as the largest brewer in the world. A team in NYC may not realize the challenges recyclers face in Brazil when it comes to accessing credit because of the vastly different financial systems, however, BanQu knew this problem existed because they’re “on the ground”. By having hyperlocal solutions to hyperlocal challenges, we’re relevant and effective, avoiding one-size-fits-all approaches. 

Awareness of challenges is one part of the value of working with outside partners. Additionally, it gives AB InBev a tremendous advantage by monitoring the innovations, trends and emerging technology as it happens, allowing us to shape change, not react to it. Innovation isn’t a talking point, it’s our mission.