Distill Ventures launches accelerator for spirits start-ups

A partnership between Diageo and Independents United is helping to bring some new tipples to our towns

Distill Ventures launches accelerator for spirits start-ups

It’s hard not to admire what London’s tech accelerators have done for the city. From the largest schemes such as Telefonica’s Wayra and Google Campus to the smallest of incubators, these institutions have certainly helped cement the UK’s reputation as one of the tech world’s up-and-comers and have acted as the nucleus around which whole new entrepreneurial communities have formed. Given the transformative power this can have, it’s surprising that so few industries have tried to replicate this success.

Which is why it’s refreshing to hear that a brand new accelerator launched by Distill Ventures, a partnership between premium spirits manufacturer Diageo and innovation specialist Independents United, is doing just that, helping bright start-up sparks in the drinks industry secure both funding and assistance. Accepting applicants from mid-August and opening its doors in January 2014, the Seed Programme will take on up to five innovative spirits brands, providing them with between £150,000 and £200,000 of seed funding and giving them a six month placement within their offices to help guide the start-ups through their formative stages. 

Patrick McMeekin, manager of the Seed Programme, explained: “This is the first of its kind in the drinks industry. We’re looking for the people behind the brand as well as the product itself. It’s not all about the liquid in the bottle; it’s also about the person behind that liquid, what their story is and what struggles they’ve overcome to get where they are, however new they might be.”

The deal being offered is far from small potatoes. In addition to a minority equity deal for the seed funding, each successful applicant with have on-tap access to all manner of masterclasses, business management programmes and mentoring, packaging the entrepreneurial experience of Independents United with the extensive industry experience of Diageo, the company behind Smirnoff, Baileys and Captain Morgan.

Syl Saller, Diageo’s chief marketing officer commented: “There is a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit in the drinks sector right now. We are seeing some brilliant new brands being born and built that are achieving commercial success. Our joint commitment to Distill Ventures will nurture, develop and grow the ideas and the people to create the pioneering premium spirits brands of the future.”

McMeekin added: “Given all of the expertise and resources at their fingertips, it’s the best possible start for a start-up premium spirits entrepreneur.”

It’s definitely an exciting concept, bringing a touch of London’s tech scene to the world of spirits and nurturing a little more domestic talent in the process. Suffice to say, we’ll be watching the results with interest, not to mention raising a glass to the brands lucky enough to be picked in the selection process in November 2013. 

Josh Russell
Josh Russell

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