AB InBev launches BudStart Global Accelerator Program to partner with startups for their business solutions. Apply now!

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Global brewer AB InBev launched its flagship program, BudStart Global Accelerator 2021, in Asia-Pacific, Africa—and for fintech startups globally. The program opened up for startups simultaneously across the three cohorts. With the BudStart Global Accelerator, AB InBev collaborates with the startup ecosystem to find relevant solutions for AB InBev's business transformation. Startups get access to paid proof of concept (POC), support to improve product/ solution maturity, global expansion opportunities, mentoring (functional, technical, legal), strategic investment opportunities, corporate and partnership connections, and more.

The launch event on April 23, 2021, was attended by more than 1000 participants, including startups, academia, the AB InBev team, and the innovation ecosystem. "Last year, we had key startups who have gone global, and this year, the dream is bigger,” said Pritam Dutta, Director Z-Tech & Innovation, AB InBev. “Our goals are global expansion, product maturity, and co-innovation with other corporates.”

An overview of the AB InBev innovation ecosystem

With the BudStart Accelerator Program, AB InBev wants to create a real tech squad. Cesar Robles, BeerTech Director, Africa, AB InBev said, "Technology is our backbone. We aim to identify business opportunities in our company, and build— internally and externally—with startups, incubators, entrepreneurs solutions that will guarantee lasting competitive advantage.”

AB InBev does this through their innovation group Z-Tech. The group’s vision is to create a fintech ecosystem that promotes financial inclusion to 6 million underserved SMBs. Z-Tech believes in incremental and disruptive innovation and their objective is to identify business opportunities early, validate them against their 'Proof of Value' driven execution model, and empower the proven capabilities to expand globally within and outside ABI.

The APAC region has both India and China in its scope. On what it wants to achieve with the BudStart accelerator program, Wouter Peeters, VP Technology and Analytics APAC, AB InBev said, "It's when the best startups from both countries form a network to drive our business. Our customers, breweries and logistics are evolving and we are looking for different skills to accelerate our business with new ideas."

Fostering innovation through collaboration

Speaking about the African footprint, John Rogers, VP Solutions Africa, AB InBev said, "We would love to bring the world to Africa. We are looking for global startups and it's all about their talent, team, passion and how problem-centric they are. Technology is just an outcome." His advice for startups is to be self-aware in the way they operate. "Observe what energy works for you. Be open to constantly learning and reinventing. This is super critical for growth," he added.

Ambev is a brewing company that has been working with accelerators, VC firms, education hubs and around 1200 startups in Latin America. A few among the many startups who have worked with Ambev are Keo World, a financial services firm that delivers fast funding through innovative technology solutions. It collaborated with Z-Tech to pilot in Columbia to help merchants access credit. "Working with Z-Tech has given us more exposure, a structured way to work and an opportunity to replicate our success in more markets," said Paolo Fidanza, President and Co-founder, Keo.

Another company, KiWi, a mobile payments platform for Mexico, partnered with AB InBev to push their products to new markets. "With AB InBev, we got a partner to help improve our products, security and UI/UX. It's more than just a channel, it helped us quickly go beyond our market,” said Christian Sinobas, Co-founder, KiWi.

Chinaccelerator, SOSV’s global Internet accelerator, helps enterprises around the world enter China and sell through multinationals. "We call it the China back door," said William Bao Bean, General Partner at SOSV. He added, "Technology and corporates like AB InBev are breaking a lot of barriers. Traditional corporations are now open to working with startups. There is a relatively clear opportunity in corporates and startups that can provide clear solutions.”

Building a mindset of innovation

Innovation is multi-faceted and about creating new market access. "The key factors supporting innovation is the local ecosystem with universities, incubators, corporates, funders, government and media. It takes an ecosystem to raise a startup," said Will Green, Director, Grindstone Accelerator.

Raphael Dana, Co-founder of Gozem, a super app in Africa driven by a transport technology platform, said that to build a mindset of innovation, you have to listen to the customer and adapt. "Understand the local needs, take some risk and then start a service. You need an agile tech team, speak to customers on the street and adapt on the go. That's the African way to do it."

Emergence of new SME payments and lending models

In India, payments are one of the things merchants are most bothered about. Alok Arora, CEO of Mosambee, a mobile point-of-sale solution based out of India said, "In India, most SMEs haven't had automation in a long time, so we have to serve it in bite-sized chunks. Understand the demography before you decide on the solution. Unless the merchant sees revenue, he won't buy into it."

On embedded finance and how to lend money to small businesses in an automated way, Colin Goldstein, Commercial Growth Director of Iwoca, a UK-based financial services firm, said, "What’s starting to disrupt lending is technology advancement that is allowing lenders to plug their solution onto other platforms. This makes it easy for SMBs to draw finance and also seamless for payment service providers."

While it’s true that individual products or services can be disruptive, Jason Gregory, CTO Innovation Architect, Microsoft added that significant disruption comes when you create or encourage an ecosystem. "It's not only about embedding, but introspecting how your solution as a fintech drives value to the whole ecosystem.”

Digitisation is accelerating innovation

The APAC region is emerging as a digital innovation hotspot and the push towards digitisation is faster than before. "Customers are smart and hungry for new flavours, features, value adds, higher quality. Competition is pushing people to innovate all the time," said Fei Ye, Ventures Manager, Plug and Play China.

Karthik Venkateswaran, Co-founder and CEO, Jumbotail added that industries are now getting rewired to cater to the realities of the pandemic, and the future of B2B commerce in India will be bigger than anything else we've ever seen. "The economic engine of our country is SMBs, and we need to empower them through digitisation,” said Karthik.

The best time to start up is now

From an investor’s perspective, Vamshi Reddy, Principal, Kalaari Capital said there's never been a better time to be an entrepreneur than now. Kalaari invests in startups in the field of global B2B tech, gaming, fintech, consumer internet, deep-tech, agritech and healthtech. "Given that so many changes have happened in the last one year, although unpreceded, it acted as rapid social change. Digital disruption is here to stay and it will change the way we innovate and build solutions that can scale globally,” said Vamshi.

Participate in BudStart Global Accelerator and scale your startup

The BudStart Global Accelerator Program 2021 is looking for game changers from all over the world to solve complex business problems through co-innovation. If you’re a startup looking to apply, click here. To know more details about the program, visit the website.

To help startups understand the program and application process AB InBev is launching roadshows for the three editions. There will also be reverse pitch sessions, where business teams will share use cases.

APAC Edition - Register Here

  • Roadshow #1 - May 4, 2021
  • Reverse pitch - May 12, 2021
  • Roadshow #2 - May 26, 2021

Africa Edition - Register Here

  • Reverse pitch - May 6, 2021
  • Roadshow #2 - May 13, 2021

Global Fintech Edition - Register Here

  • Roadshow #3 (Europe) - May 12, 2021
  • Reverse pitch (America) - May 25, 2021

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