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Distill Ventures to invest $5m in minority founders

Diageo-backed Distill Ventures has pledged to invest a further US$5 million in drinks entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities.

Distill Ventures invests in Atost
American apéritif Atōst is one of 10 brands that has received investment from Distill Ventures

Drinks incubator Distill Ventures previously invested US$5m to entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups as part of its new Pre-Accelerator Programme in July 2021. It has now received an additional US$5m from its sole funding partner, Diageo.

Over the past year, Distill Ventures and Diageo have backed 10 drinks brands in the UK, the US and the Netherlands, and their 19 founders.

The brands include Californian sparkling cocktail brand Vervet, American apéritif Atōst, Vascano Tequila, Caribbean spiced rum Kromanti and ready-to-drink brand Lot42.

Since the launch of the Pre-Accelerator Programme, the scheme has seen more than 300 applications, with nearly half of contenders identified as women, 50% as Black/African/Caribbean, 17% as Latinx, 16% with Asian heritage and 11% as LGBTQIA+.

Frank Lampen, CEO, Distill Ventures, said: “We’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the past year, identifying and partnering with highly impressive entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, but we recognise that this is just the beginning.

“Our focus has been, and will continue to be, helping founders unlock seed funding, and we look forward to working together to achieve further growth.”

For the second year of the programme, Distill Ventures will have a broader and more global focus, with an emphasis on recruiting more women and LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs.

Eugene Khabensky, vice-president Global Ventures, Diageo, added: “In order to grow a more diverse drinks industry, it is vital that all entrepreneurs have access to the same opportunities.

“This Pre-Accelerator programme supports our commitments to championing inclusion and diversity in everything that we do and we’re proud to be working with Distill Ventures to expand the programme to identify more innovative drinks brands of the future.”

The programme offers an initial investment of up to £350,000/US$500,000 and six to 12 months of acceleration support to potential founders.

Following the scheme, entrepreneurs can seek further investment from Distill Ventures and Diageo, or from other sources.

The incubator has also expanded its Pre-Accelerator team, appointing Kamuti Kiteme as managing director, inclusive investments, and Kamilah Mahon as inclusion and diversity programme manager.

Applications to join the programme are open from now to 30 September to US founders, and from now until 1 December for entrepreneurs globally. The 2023 scheme is scheduled to begin in February and March, respectively.

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