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Diageo offers £200k to European spirits start-ups

Under a new scheme by spirits giant Diageo, spirits entrepreneurs could be awarded up to £200,000 to set up their own company.

Spirits entrepreneurs have the chance to build their brand with up to £200k and expert advice from Diageo
Spirits entrepreneurs have the chance to build their brand with up to £200k and expert advice from Diageo

In collaboration with London-based ‘innovation specialist’ Independents United, Diageo launched Distill Ventures to help develop new and emerging spirits brands.

As part of the joint venture, the six month Seed Programme has been created to offer mentoring and funding to help successful applicants ‘develop core business skills and get their product fully developed and launched’.

Between £150,000 and £200,000 will be available to a maximum of five entrepreneurs. The first companies will be selected in mid-November ready to begin the programme in January 2014.

Participants will undertake masterclasses, business management and mentoring programmes with Distill Ventures, and will also have access to the global spirits expertise of Diageo and established start-up support of Independents United.

Shilen Patel, CEO of Distill Ventures, said: “As entrepreneurs we know first hand just how hard it can be to start a new business. But we also know that investment and mentoring from the right people can drive success. That’s why we have set out to create the best possible accelerator for spirits start-ups and we’re excited to get our first Seed Stage programme underway.”

The Europe-wide scheme will roll out across Barcelona, Berlin, Warsaw and Copenhagen ‘shortly’, while it has been confirmed that UK hopefuls can apply now.

A separate ‘growth programme’ open to both Seed Programme participants and new applicants will also be launched in mid-2014 to allow young brands to ‘scale rapidly’ with up to £2 million funding.

Syl Saller, chief marketing officer for Diageo, noted that: “There is a remarkable entrepreneurial spirit in the industry right now. We are seeing some brilliant new brands being born and built that are achieving commercial success.”

She said that through this programme, the company has embarked on a joint mission to “nurture, develop and grow” new ideas to “create the pioneering spirits brands of the future”.

She added: “We believe that this project will succeed because Distill Ventures has been developed after extensive collaboration with entrepreneurs throughout the industry to create something that really meets their needs. The combination of cash and expertise, whilst leaving them in control of their business, will help new brands to flourish.”

It was announced in March that Diageo would give bartenders the chance to create their own spirits brand as part of the Show Your Spirit initiative, with Jinzu, a gin-sake hybrid, being announced as the winner in May.

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