Meet Alan Audi, VP of Legal & Corporate Affairs

Alan

Tell us a bit about your career path. How did you end up at ZX Ventures?

When I graduated from law school, I joined a big law firm, mostly because I saw it as a great way to learn and figure out what kind of lawyer I wanted to be. Law firms are a great way to grow your confidence and develop nuts and bolts legal skills, but I always knew it wasn’t the right long term career choice for me. So after a few years I moved to a role in the pay-TV industry as an in-house lawyer, which was a fantastic growth experience. At the time the industry was under a lot of pressure from changing consumer habits, especially because of cord-cutters — young consumers who prefer watching content “on-demand” on platforms like Netflix instead of paying for traditional cable or satellite TV. I saw firsthand how even the most profitable industries need to adapt and innovate if they’re to thrive in the long run. So needless to say when an opportunity at ZX Ventures came up I jumped on it. What could be more exciting than helping AB InBev — the world’s largest brewer — get ahead of changing consumer trends and position itself for long-term growth?

You’re new to ZX, but not to ABI! How do you think your time at ABI prepared you for ZX?

It certainly helps to have built a network of friends and colleagues across the ABI organization. While ZX and ABI are independent, sometimes we need to rely on ABI’s resources to be effective. Knowing who to call goes a long way.

Since you’ve worked at both ABI and ZX – how do you see the ZX culture playing a part in your new role?

The great thing about both ZX and ABI is that both organizations really have strong corporate cultures that they live by. I think it’s fair to say a lot of organizations have aspirational statements about their people: who wouldn’t say that they’re a meritocracy, that they only want to hire the best people, and so on? But what’s interesting about ABI is that the culture really is lived here, and it permeates everything. You hear people say the one lasting competitive advantage ABI has comes from its people, and it’s amazing to see how much of our senior executives’ time is spent recruiting and nurturing talent. So when we talk about ZX culture, we really are talking about ABI’s culture. That doesn’t mean that ZX doesn’t do things differently. If we’re to stay true to our mandate for disruption, we need to be even more agile, faster and leaner than ABI. But the focus on people, meritocracy, and ownership are constants across the entire organization.

How is innovation a part of your role at ZX, both on the legal side and on the corporate affairs side?

Everyone at ZX is focused on being ahead of change, especially on the technology side, so it’s natural for us to approach our day jobs as lawyers and communications professionals with the same mindset. On the communications side, the traditional toolkit doesn’t necessarily make sense when you’re trying to reach a tech-savvy, socially-committed audience. And on the legal side, I think it’s fair to say that the legal profession is going to undergo a lot of change in the coming years. ZX is the perfect laboratory within ABI to test out the innovations coming through the pipeline, especially on the legal automation and artificial intelligence side.

What’s your favorite part about working at ZX Ventures?

I’m never more excited about my job than when I can get out into the field and see the frontlines of the ZX family of companies. Whether it’s visiting one of our fantastic new breweries or going on a trade visit to see how our new product offerings are being positioned, what’s working, what isn’t, staying close to the business is my favorite part of the job. The Legal & Corporate Affairs function can only be effective if we’re aligned with our internal clients, if we understand their challenges. There’s no substitute for getting out of the office and into the field, whether it’s the warehouse, the brewery, the market or the pub!

Finding Success in eCommerce at ZX Ventures

We asked Guilherme Lebelson, Global VP of eCommerce, to share his insight into finding success in the eCommerce world. Check out his tips on how we make this work at ZX Ventures!

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What do you consider the keys to success for eCommerce at AB InBev and ZX Ventures?

Our success starts with our people. While technical skills are often required for specific types of work, in general, we’re looking for people who will live by our culture. We want people who are passionate about dreaming big, having a sense of ownership, and taking on new challenges. When we find people who are excited by our culture, and who are open to constantly stretching themselves, we can develop everything else. We focus on potential and allow our people and our teams to grow into each new role. Once we have that team of great people, we can look at the market and reach out to our consumers to identify gaps or create new concepts. We try to start with a gap, clearly define that one problem, and apply our knowledge to find a solution or a way to close that gap. Then we monitor that solution: if it’s going well, and if it’s a scalable solution, we can grow it. If not, of course, we shut it down and try another idea.

How do you stay focused on the end results of a project or goal?

The key here is that it’s all about keeping our eye on the goal we want to achieve, not on a specific tool or “buzz word” technology. We don’t believe in focusing on how we do things in and of itself. We look to put our consumers first, build great products, and deliver results. We always look toward our dream and our challenge and select the best tools and technologies that will help us achieve that dream.

How do you manage the changing needs of a company or consumer base?

It is critical to continue adapting as we grow. Right now, ZX Ventures is a very new company, but we’re already global and we’re rapidly growing in terms of our footprint. That’s launched us on a great journey of learning how to deal with different types of businesses and different operational models. In the beginning, we tried to fit everything into a one-size- fits-all solution. Now, as we’re expanding, we’re watching the data and learning that we should adjust our operational models to accommodate where we are and what we’re trying to achieve. Some businesses need to have a more decentralized model, where decisions can be made on a hyperlocal basis; on the other hand, some of our fully digital products benefit from a globally centralized team.

How ZX Ventures Defines Success

 Gabriel Mello, Global VP of Specialty Sales, defines how ZX Ventures measures success and which qualities the team looks for in potential candidates.

Gabriel Mello discusses the three traits he looks for in future teammates.

Gabriel Mello discusses the two ways in which he defines success.

Meet Gabriel Mello! Our Global VP of Specialty Sales

Gabriel's professional journey has led to him working at various businesses in countries all across the world. In these videos, he tells the story of how he started working at Zx Ventures and shares his perspective on managing sustainable growth in the specialties market.

What is the Zxlerator Program?

By Luke Cherrington

We recently kicked off our second ZX Ventures Zxlerator in the heart of NYC. We have an amazing cohort of 50 (!) intrapreneurs and summer interns tackling 14 huge challenges. This is all driven by a key question, “How do you start new companies inside a large organization?” Let’s discuss.

Zxlerator is the internal accelerator program of ZX Ventures and AB InBev.  We think we’ve built something unique.  Accelerator programs tend to be run by investment vehicles with external, existing startups. Think Techstars, Angelpad, YCombinator, etc. They take an early stage company and give support, mentorship and investment to make it grow faster (i.e. “accelerate” it). We’ve built on this concept. Using Zxlerator, we take internally-generated ideas and put them through a structured three-month program to see if they can develop into validated, launch-ready businesses.

During the program, existing employees and summer interns work together to identify a real problem, validate a solution, and build a viable business model. Basically, they start a business. These ventures are early stage – often starting from just an idea – so we start out with an intensive two-week boot camp. This is a crash course in how to start a company. During boot camp you’ll hear phrases any experienced entrepreneur would recognize. Build, measure, learn. Desirability, viability and feasibility. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Now that we’re into the core program, teams have a slew of internal and external mentors to call on, and programming designed to help them leverage our core business.  We’ll wrap the program with Demo Day, and make final decisions on which ventures we’ll fund.

The ventures in Zxlerator, first and foremost, are solving real problems for real people. We’re not looking for incremental innovations to existing products or processes within our business. Our core innovation team can (and does) crush that type of innovation. We’re focused on new problems that have yet to be addressed. We also expect teams to adapt and pivot from their initial thesis. Testing, learning, and potentially changing course if they find a more important problem to solve. It’s agile innovation.

So why did we create Zxlerator? Simply put, we needed it. If you’re going to fail (most new product innovations do), better fail fast and fail cheap. Learn, adapt, and try again. This isn’t exclusive to AB InBev. All companies are quickly understanding it’s critical to add this new methodology to time-tested innovation. Exploring, validating and launching new ventures on the pillars of lean and design thinking. It’s also imperative internal intrapreneurs are given a vehicle to build inside their company. Zxlerator is our vehicle.

And it really is all about the people. Whether for interns or longtime employees, Zxlerator offers the experience of an entrepreneur with the support and resources of a global company. From the very first day of the program, they are treated as founders who own a business – and are expected to demonstrate the ownership and urgency worthy of the title.

We have every confidence this summer’s cohort is going to absolutely rock it and build investment-ready businesses. It is an experience unlike any other – transformative for both our participants and our company – and we couldn’t be more excited to see where the teams land.

Mentorship Matters: What I’ve Learned, and What I Try to Give Back

  Photograph courtesy of The Muse

Photograph courtesy of The Muse

By Gabriel Mello

My first standout mentor found me early in my career, when I had been with the company for only a couple of years. I was still very young, and I was new to the idea of this workplace culture. His feedback galvanized me into living that culture and adopting it as my own personal ethic. Later, when I was about five years in, I worked with another mentor who taught me everything I know about managing people. He was amazing—he could guide people with completely different profiles and styles and extract the absolute best work from each of them. What I learned from him was instrumental in developing my own leadership. Finally, I worked a third mentor who educated me about strategy. He demonstrated how to make a plan that is clear and visible and then how to mobilize people to work toward that goal. I was fortunate to have people who were complementary to my needs depending on where I was in my career.

Recognizing that, I take an individualized approach with the people I’m coaching, tailored to their capabilities and needs at the time. For example, my central team members in NYC work in smaller teams and don’t manage large groups of people, so my first goal for them is to help them obtain the technical knowledge they need. I usually can’t fill all those information gaps, so I look for benchmarks: people who have done that deep dive, who can teach them the key skills required to master their roles. For example, if a mentee of mine is responsible for devising strategy, I will work to find best-in-class performers who can teach that person how to incorporate new strategies for success. Another approach is to work with leaders on a global scale so that a background in different markets can be developed while accelerating the learning curve of taking on a new position.

For those working in the field on larger teams, both technical and leadership skills are of critical importance. Everyone’s situation is different, but I generally try to coach these managers, teaching them how to motivate people, how to increase their own influence, and how to give people the right challenges so they can deliver their best. For example, because ABI and ZX Ventures are committed to cross-functional development, we often have employees who excel in one area and are moved to a new one to further that development. As a mentor, I will advise on the team building strategy in cases like these so that the team complements the abilities of its leader. This allows for short term success while giving the leader the time to learn without having results suffer as he or she is brought up to speed on the specifics of the business operations.

Mentorship is key to development, but what employees need varies as they progress through different stages of their careers. If employees need help with leadership skills but don’t have the right people around at the right time to help them develop those skills, they’ll struggle. Ideally, we identify the needs of our people and give them the opportunity to work with mentors who are strong on the capabilities they need at the moment. That’s what I’m trying to achieve through my mentorship, to honor the people who guided me.

Our Leadership Styles

Take a look at how different leadership styles help our teams deliver great results.

Jerome Pellaud, Global VP of Specialties, talks about his leadership style of reaching for new heights while staying up to date on the interesting details.

Gabriel Mello, Global VP of Specialty Sales, discusses his management style and gives some advice on global management.

Advice for Prospective Employees

Gabriel Mello, Global VP of Specialty Sales

I’ve been interviewing a variety of people recently, so I’ve had the opportunity to think about what advice I’d give to someone who’s interested in working with us at ZX Ventures or AB InBev. I’m looking for people who combine ambition, openness, and a global mindset, whether they’re an experienced professional looking for a change or someone at the start of their career.

First, we have to have people who really want to make an impact and drive our business’s growth. In a meritocracy like ZX Ventures, where we promote ownership and provide constant growth opportunities, our employees must be internally driven. Second, by openness, I mean having an unquenchable desire to learn new skills and information. This business is changing so quickly that people who aren’t always growing their knowledge are falling behind. Even looking at my own profile, if I didn’t continually learn new things and advance my skill set, I wouldn’t have the right profile for this company within as little as 10 years! Third, we require people who are global citizens. I’m specifically interested in people who can live in and work with cultures that are dramatically different from the U.S., like India or China.

I can’t overemphasize the importance of that global citizen mentality. I’ve seen a lot of people come through the door who love the idea of being in a global company, but what they really want is to live on the “good side” of the globe. They’re excited about New York and enjoy traveling some, but they’re not actually comfortable living and working in a lot of different cultures. We’re looking for people who are mobile and truly global, and who at the same time want to leave—and live—their legacy. In fact, if I could revisit one part of my career path, I would have left Brazil sooner. I don’t consider it a mistake, because everything that has happened has led me to where I am today. But to really be leaders for our global teams, we have to understand the differences between markets and between countries. We have to know how to manage diverse people in various places who have different cultures and values. There’s no substitute for international experience to develop those skills.

Let me also clear up one myth. Sometimes that mobile, fast-growing, technology-oriented profile discourages people who are mid-career, who think I’m only describing people at the start of their careers. I need a whole range of people, depending on the roles I’m filling. If I have an open position in revenue and management, I may need someone with experience in those fields. I might need someone who can jump in and help me without having to learn and come up to speed. Or depending on the type of challenge, I may need a different profile, someone I can invest the time in to develop into a leader. It’s exciting to work with both groups: mid-career professionals with specific experience and skills and early-career talent whose careers can evolve within our organization.

Wherever you are in your own career, if you think you bring the right combination of drive, willingness to learn, and global citizenship, drop us a line!

Our Culture in Action

Check out some recent videos from our leaders discussing culture at ZX Ventures.

Alex Nelson, Global Head of Product, discusses pushing the boundaries with her team.

Alex Nelson, Global Head of Product, discusses the value placed on ownership across all levels at ZX Ventures.

Sergio Esteves, Global VP of Brand Experience, discusses the importance of hiring the best people and keeping our teams diverse.

Sergio Esteves, Global VP of Brand Experience, reflects on accomplishing what was deemed impossible by others.

Culture at ZX Ventures: Working With the Best

By Carol Guerra

At ZX Ventures, we focus on being our best and working with the best people we can. We like to say that we hire people who are better than we are! Working with top talent makes every day exciting, helps us continually think outside the box, and gives us reason to believe that we can achieve the impossible. More concretely, though, the two primary reasons for our focus on working with the best can be described as enhancing our present and building our future.

In the present, we believe that we all learn and achieve more when we are surrounded by diverse people working in a cohesive, thoughtful group. A community of passionate, intelligent, ambitious creators can always achieve more than one individual trying to think through a problem on his or her own. When you bring the best to the table the potential for growth is limitless.

One of the keys to our creative growth is diversity. While we are an equal opportunity employer that appreciates all types of diversity, at ZX Ventures, we seek more than just beer experts but people with backgrounds in design, technology, other beverages, or the business world at large. We are looking for a diversity of personal backgrounds, nontraditional life experiences, and wide-ranging work histories. By continually pushing ourselves to find and hire the best candidates with the best skills, regardless of where they are currently working, we accomplish that diversity of thought organically, bringing us to the next level of teamwork.

And it’s not just the present that benefits from being surrounded by the best: it’s the key to our future too. We at ZX Ventures are here for the long-run and we believe in building long-term careers with our incredible people and promoting them at the pace of their own talent. This is not a short-term experiment or a limited enterprise. Having the best people on board helps us to stay ahead of the curve, predicting and adapting to future demands no matter how global markets may shift. We are here to build a better future for ourselves, for AB InBev, and for everyone the world over.

If you view yourself as one of the best of the best, check out our open positions!