Why would I give Diageo the option to buy out my whole company? Many start-up drinks brands plan on one day selling to a bigger drinks company who can then take the brand global. Diageo is the world's biggest premium spirits company, and has successfully acquired and then grown brands like Bulleit Bourbon. The option provides you with an exit, priced to reward you for growing a profitable brand. Diageo include this option to give them protection over their investment – they wouldn't want to back your company and then see one of their competitors benefit by acquiring it a few years later. Whether this is the right route for you depends on your own circumstances, and you must take your own professional advice on whether this opportunity is suitable for you and your company.
Do you allow competing brands to join the programme? Diageo may invest in several brands in one category so it might back several premium gins for example, but only where each one has a distinctive brand story and a unique idea of how they will launch and who they are targeting (what we call their "route to market").
What’s the catch? We’ve worked hard to understand the needs of entrepreneurs and we've drawn on our experience investing and mentoring startups to create a programme that we think will really benefit new businesses. We don't think there is a "catch", however as is the case with any investment there are conditions attached to the agreement, including the requirement that you participate in and pay for the relevant programme from Distill Ventures, and you should review these carefully with your own professional advisors.
Do all companies get further investment? The structure of our investments vary. In some cases a total investment is agreed up front and made in tranches as the business needs it, subject to performance being as expected. In other cases an initial investment will be made, and then the business will have to approach Distill Ventures/Diageo again to request further funding, where it will be the performance of you and your team that is the deciding factor. The intent when any investment is made is to keep supporting that company through to exit – but there are times where things don’t work out and Diageo stops investing in a company.
What happens if I don’t get any further funding? The investments are structured to leave you in full control of your business. If you apply for funding and are turned down on two occasions, that will in most cases mean the end of your contractual relationship with Diageo and Distill Ventures. This means you'll be free to develop your business as you wish, including the right to raise money wherever you want to, and to sell your business without restrictions.
Is the age of the company founders relevant to your selection process? No. Fundamentally this is about finding and backing great people who have the drive to succeed. We will of course consider the relevant legal positions in the UK and the country where you are based around the minimum ages for the purchase of alcohol and for holding any necessary permits and licenses.
How can I be sure you won’t share any of my information with Diageo? We understand the importance of confidentiality and are highly respectful of the sensitivities of the entrepreneurs that we speak to on a daily basis. We do not disclose any information to Diageo without the prior consent of the founder of the business it relates to. When we start speaking to brands we ensure we have issued and countersigned a mutual confidentiality agreement, and a financial declaration form.
Will Diageo sell my product for me? We don’t offer access to Diageo's sales force and route to market (RTM), it’s the founder’s job to drive the growth of the business and we believe finding the most suitable RTM is your choice. However, our team and global network of drinks experts, can advise you on which markets could be best for the expansion of your business and who some of the key importers, distributors and wholesalers are in different global markets.