Diageo Announces $5M Commitment to Underrepresented Brand Founders

As the industry continues to improve its diversity and inclusivity, Distill Ventures and its sold funding partner, Diageo, have launched a new “Pre-Accelerator Program” dedicated to early-stage founders from underrepresented groups.

Distill Ventures aims to invest $5 million in drinks entrepreneurs over the next 12 months through this initiative.

Through the pre-accelerator, Distill Ventures has created a more accessible runway to unlock seed funding, the company says, a key barrier reported by entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups. Access to capital is a crucial requirement for early-stage companies. However, racial and gender wealth disparities can mean founders from underrepresented groups have less access to capital.

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  • Since 2015, just 2.4% of venture capital financing across all sectors in the United States has gone to Black and Latinx founders according to the 2020 Crunchbase Diversity Spotlight Report.
  • In 2019, in the United Kingdom, only 3% of founders who raised venture capital funding for their start-ups identified as Black, 7% identified as Asian, and 3% mixed/multiple heritages.
  • Crunchbase data shows that the proportion of global venture funding to female-only founders was just 2.3% in 2020, a decline from 2019.

Distill Ventures will identify potential founders via their search pipeline, initially focusing on the United States and United Kingdom. 

Additionally, interested entrepreneurs can apply for funding at distillventures.com/pre-accelerator.

Upon review and selection, founders will be supported to develop a six-month business plan to present to Distill Ventures and Diageo. Successful applicants receive initial funding, typically between $250,000 and $500,000, and will work in collaboration with Distill Ventures to bring their business plan to life.

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After this, the founders will be guided through a broader pitch process, with the potential to create a longer-term partnership with DV and Diageo to grow their business.

“In eight years, Distill Ventures has built a portfolio of next generation brands, but it has become clear to us that we want to dedicate focus on diversifying the ownership of drinks brands by addressing a key barrier head on: access to seed funding,” says Frank Lampen, CEO, Distill Ventures. “We know that opportunities for entrepreneurs are not equally accessible to all, and so at the heart of our company-wide inclusion and diversity initiatives is the creation of a new Pre-Accelerator that will enable us to work with really early stage founders. This change cannot happen overnight, but we are excited to help evolve the drinks world, one founder at a time.”

In addition to the pre-accelerator, Distill Ventures has expanded its own company-wide inclusion and diversity initiatives including:

  • A company-wide educational program focused on unconscious bias and other key inclusion barriers.  The six-month programme, already in progress, is comprised of workshops and individual and small group coaching.  
  • A broadened search process that goes beyond Distill Ventures’ existing industry network, in order to cast a wider net and bring in a richer variety of founders and their brands.
  • A recruitment partnership, first in the United States and then globally, with Wine & Spirits Recruiting. Through this partnership DV is reinforcing its commitment to inclusive hiring practices for DV and its portfolio companies.

“We are committed to championing inclusion and diversity to ensure our employees, suppliers and partners are representative of the people around the world who enjoy our products,” says Liz Brown, Group Strategy Director, Diageo. “We have ambitious 2030 goals and today’s announcement from Distill Ventures supports our commitment to growing a more diverse drinks industry, supporting innovative entrepreneurs and building a sustainable long-term business.”

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