Lessons Learned in the First Year of ZX Ventures

By Pedro Earp, Chief Disruptive Growth Officer

In the first couple of years of running ZX Ventures, we’ve already learned a lot of great lessons that are helping us grow and improve and that are also being applied at our parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev. Opportunities that we initially thought would work out very well turned out to be less successful, and options that seemed weak at first have worked out much better than we expected. These lessons have applied not just to products or marketing strategies but also to the way we organize our business and ourselves.

For example, when we first launched our eCommerce business, our assumption was that we would use some type of centralized model, like Uber or Google. We thought we could develop and market a uniform product and service that we could release at different sites around the world. Over time, we learned that consumers in different markets responded to different value propositions. In markets where craft beers are difficult to find, our customers wanted a platform that offered rare craft beers in a convenient way, where they could find and understand the different craft offerings, and then choose between them and access those beers. But in other markets, the value proposition is much more centered on convenience. People there didn’t care so much about specialty beers; they just wanted to have our most popular beer delivered within 30 minutes. These markets required a completely different approach.

What we learned from that experience is that our value propositions vary a lot more by market, and our teams working in those markets have to be able to make adjustments. That’s why we empower our local teams to move fast and make independent decisions based on what they’re seeing on the ground in their area instead of trying to centralize every decision. In today’s world, companies that don’t empower local teams to operate are not going to succeed. The world is just too big and too varied for one central office to know what’s going to work everywhere.

What we really want is the best of both worlds: making those agile market-specific adjustments in the appropriate locations but also leveraging our global synergies and learning from experiences around the world so we can apply that knowledge anywhere. We have some rituals to help us exchange that information, where on a monthly basis we’ll put our heads together and discuss the best practices we’re finding around the globe. For example, we’ve learned that in Europe, a lot of companies will do a special holiday package, such as a case of all different types of beer. We discussed where else that approach might also be successful, and this year, seven or eight markets are launching that as a new product.

For a company like ZX Ventures, our real competitive advantage is our global presence and our decentralized management. We’re doing our best to learn what’s valued and what works in each discrete market, and then we see where those ideas can translate into a different market. Every day brings new lessons, and that keeps our work fresh and interesting.