Insights & Trends
Unpacking the Craft: What Sets Distill Ventures Apart As The Drinks Accelerator of Choice?
In the spirited world of alcoholic beverages, start-up accelerators play a significant role in guiding new brands through the maze of production, distribution, and marketing.
The First of Its Kind
Established in 2013, Distill Ventures was the first accelerator specifically designed for the spirits industry. Likening their support and growth model to the success of incubators in the tech sector, Distill Ventures sought to fill a critical gap for start-up support in the beverages space. On one side, they recognized that craft distillers lacked a dedicated platform to bring emerging brands into the limelight. On the other side, coming from successful beverage companies themselves, they understood the growth potential of the industry. Filling that void, they fused their real industry insight with their start-up acumen.
Ten years on, the Co-Founders and portfolio directors bring to the table a wealth of experience in both the drinks industry and the start-up ecosystem. Their dual expertise equips them with genuine industry insights that translate into targeted support for spirits and beverage entrepreneurs looking to succeed.
Since its inception, Distill Ventures has invested in over 35 brands, covering an array of drinks categories—from New World whisky and premium gin to non-alcoholic spirits. The programme is anything but static, as the team keeps a keen eye on industry trends and their finger on the pulse of effective growth strategies for each individual brand they work with.
Exclusively Partnered with Diageo
The exclusive partnership between Distill Ventures and Diageo offers unparalleled advantages to start-ups. The primary benefit is that entrepreneurs are able to maintain full control of their businesses, as Diageo remains a minority investor. This aligns with Distill Venture’s ethos of enabling founder-led growth while providing financial stability and resource support.
The relationship offers a pathway to global markets, and a diverse range of expertise, from technical to marketing, which can be tailored to each brand's unique needs. Additionally, each investment deal comes with a call option, giving Diageo the right to acquire the business at a future date, and offering start-ups a clear exit strategy if they choose to go that route.
Distill Ventures and Diageo work in confidentiality. This enables brands to maintain their craft roots while also accessing the support of Diageo's extensive resources without necessarily disclosing the partnership - allowing them to attract a broad customer base while still including those seeking the niche entrepreneurial brands that define the craft movement.
Wherever a brand is in its growth journey, with the backing of Diageo, Distill Ventures is ready to supercharge it. The deal sizes can vary greatly, ranging from as low as $225,000 to over $12 million, ensuring that start-ups of all sizes and stages can benefit. Pre-accelerator funding caps at $350,000 and is dependent on each brand’s personal growth plans and potential.
Promoting Diversity, Inclusion and Equality
Distill Ventures recognises the value that diversity brings to the world at large, and they prioritise supporting entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. While they consider all brands with a passion for the business, their focus is on brands and founders coming from historically marginalised communities. Recognising that only a minuscule percentage of venture capital has gone to Black, Latinx, and female founders, they aim to break down the financial barriers these entrepreneurs often face. Their flagship pre-accelerator serves as a launchpad for early-stage brands to secure that much-needed seed funding.
The ultimate goal is not just to add these brands to the Distill Ventures portfolio but to infuse them into the wider drinks industry. This puts them on stronger footing, arming them with experience and resources to drive innovation and to be the future leaders in the beverage space. Distill Ventures is an active part in paving the way towards a more inclusive, equitable and therefore flourishing drinks industry.
Offering Bespoke Assistance
With an understanding that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to accelerator success, Distill Ventures focuses on crafting bespoke support tailored to each brand's unique needs and challenges. This starts with a deep dive into understanding what specific support is needed depending on the stage of each brand and the skills of their team. Whether it’s research and development, brand creation, liquid development, marketing, distribution, or even data analytics for audience targeting, Distill Ventures has a team of experts, a network of connections and a wealth of resources to supplement each brand’s unique growth needs.
The expertise doesn't stop at Distill Ventures’ own team or the accelerator. Brands that continue on post-program benefit from Distill Venture’s long-standing partnership with Diageo and a broad network of industry experts built over 10+ years. Whether a brand is aiming to build an online sales platform, leverage social media for brand building, or navigate the complexities of control states in North America, Distill Ventures brings the know-how to turn the dial.
The goal is never to impose a strategy but to arm founders with options. Distill Ventures helps entrepreneurs explore different pathways for growth, providing the tools to build their brands on their terms. In a space crowded with cookie-cutter accelerators, Distill Ventures offers tailored expertise that makes a real difference.
A Track Record of Success
Distill Ventures boasts an enviable track record, with 39 investments totalling £245 million. This financial backing extends to more than 15 founder-led drinks brands, demonstrating their far-reaching impact on the drinks industry. Their active portfolio manages approximately £210 million in invested funds, further underscoring their industry clout.
Through its Pre-Accelerator programme, Distill Ventures has smashed conventional barriers to seed funding for underrepresented entrepreneurs. In the accelerator’s inaugural year, Distill Ventures backed 10 ground-breaking drinks brands in collaboration with Diageo, each with a unique story to tell. Take these for example:
Atōst, is a majority woman & Latina-owned brand from Golden, Colorado. The brainchild of Cindy and Kyle Pressman, the company controls its production process from start to finish, employing locally sourced ingredients to capture the essence of their home state.
Vascano Tequila emerged from the tumultuous backdrop of 2020, with four founders aiming to create a spirit that speaks to their intersectional identities as Black, female, and LGBTQIA+ individuals.
Kromanti is a spiced rum crafted by a father-daughter duo with deep roots in the enslaved Kromanti community. Infused with tamarind, cinnamon, and nutmeg, the brand serves as a homage to their lineage.
Lot42 brings pre-made cocktails into the limelight, thanks to the vision of co-founders Chris MacDonald and Dale Milliken. Their brand encourages positive, judgement-free experiences for their customers.
Distill Ventures accelerator and investments have fuelled the success of these brands, and more, some of them have gone on to become household names. The mentorship and targeted investment provided have enabled these founder-led brands to grow from fledgling start-ups into scalable, profitable enterprises. Through financial backing, industry know-how, and a tailored approach, Distill Ventures demonstrates its ability to turn bright ideas into market leaders.