Any derivation of the word “entrepreneur” coupled with a company that brings in over $50 billion in annual revenue probably seems like a divergent concept.
At least, that was my impression when I first heard about the opportunity at ZX Ventures.
I was in my first year of business school at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and had just stepped away from being an entrepreneur for close to three years. I had founded a company called Spice & Spoon, a cocktail services platform (think cocktail classes executed by mixologists for private parties and corporate team building/events).
I was bitten by the entrepreneurship bug and felt strongly about ownership, building new things, and solving consumer problems. On the other hand, I was exhausted by the struggle for resources, access to the right people, and financial limitations.
Coming into my MBA program I was hyper-focused on food & beverage innovation and looked across opportunities in various companies. If I had to summarize what drew me to ZX, it would be three things:
- Opportunity to learn (from people and process),
- Real authority and ownership (in a major way that I did not see elsewhere), and
- Big dreamers (a reflection of the passion and enthusiasm you might not expect from an industry giant).
Fast forward two years and here I am, working to build a startup within an existing company. When people ask what I do, I sometimes say “intrapreneur,” other times I’m a “founder,” a “global manager,” or that I work in “new product innovation.” All of these titles and associations are true. As amorphous as this may be, the way I describe what I do is the perfect characterization of what my job entails – constant evolution and bringing together dichotomous mindsets and processes.
At its core, I am an employee of Zx Ventures, the global growth and innovation group within Anheuser-Busch InBev, paid a salary like any other company employee; however, I’m given the freedom and decision-making rights of an entrepreneur.
I control my product, from recipe to design; I own my execution strategy; I pitch to raise money internally, just like an independent founder might pitch to a VC. Funding is in no way guaranteed, and there’s a burden of proof. I have ownership, I’m building something new, and I’m solving a consumer problem.
Overall, this job sounds pretty awesome right?
And it is. It is awesome. When operating within this kind of structure, the benefits are countless: from deep industry knowledge, to distribution, to best practices, not to mention the greatest asset—access to the best and the brightest people. However, I’ve had to learn how to overcome different types of challenges from the ones I overcame in my days as an entrepreneur. The constraints are real, and the expectations are high.
I can also say what I do as an intrapreneur is not unique to the rest of the company; at least not at the heart of it. My fellow MBAs have started building careers across our many functions, from marketing, to finance, to strategy. We call ourselves a company of owners – so no matter the function, we are all constantly challenged to be drivers of our change. It may not be in everyone else’s job description, but from my perspective, at Zx Ventures we’re all intrapreneurs.