Coca-Cola Founders Platform Is Bottling New Businesses Like Wonolo

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Coca-Cola Founders

Coca-Cola is ramping up its Coca-Cola Founders platform, giving seed money and resources to startups. The program forms partnerships with experienced entrepreneurs around the world and give them access to Coca-Cola’s relationships, resources and reach before they develop their next startup.

Case in point: Wonolo, which is short for “work now locally.” Wonolo matches short-term corporate gigs with flexible job-seekers on short notice, and has raised $2.2 million at a valuation of $7.5 million for its proprietary software.

AJ Brustein and Yong Kim, both former Coca-Cola employees, founded Wonolo in 2013. The inspiration for Wonolo was sparked by their day jobs, as they were tasked by Coca-Cola with keeping its products well-stocked in convenience stores. Occasionally, when no one else was available, Brustein restocked shelves himself and the lightning bolt struck of applying a TaskRabbit style of outsourcing the job as a temp task: “I thought, maybe somebody else could do that job. Why does it have to be a Coke merchandiser?”

Thanks to the support of Coca-Cola and other backers, Wonolo is now planning to expand to at least five US cities to prove that it works everywhere, not just in its pilot test site of San Francisco. “Then we’ll blow it out after that,” said Butler.

Similar to traditional startup accelerators such as Y Combinators and 500 Startups, Coca-Cola Founders offers funding and a network of fellow founders. But unlike traditional accelerators, says David Butler, Coca-Cola VP of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, “Coca-Cola is in it for the long haul.”

There’s no limit on how many startups can enroll, or how long they get to stay in the program, or how much money they could theoretically receive, so long as the founders keep plugging away at these big platforms.

This is now the third round of the Founders platform, and there are currently 11 startups, with half looking to raise venture capital. The company learned its own lessons, as the first round failed. “The room was filled with managers, not explorers,” said Butler, according to Business Insider. The second version brought entrepreneurs in-house and took away their motivation as innovators. As three is the charm, the current incarnation will spin off internal start-ups.

Winnin, another start-up based in Brazil, is a Coke-backed mobile app that lets users “battle” videos against each other, voting on which one is better and appealing to a younger demo. “We need teen engagement in our brands or we’re done,” Butler told Business Insider.  The company is reaching out to Taylor Swift, celebrity spokesperson for Diet Coke in North America, to be involved with Winnin.

A recent Kaufmann study finds 54 percent of US millennials want to start a business or already have one. “We’re getting ready to ride one of the biggest entrepreneurial waves the world has ever seen,” said Butler. “For us, this is not a PR stunt or a new marketing campaign. This is about fundamentally changing the way we work to open up and literally co-design new solutions with entrepreneurs.”

The Coca-Cola Founders Platform is currently operating in Bangalore, Berlin, Buenos Aires, London, Mexico City, Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, Sydney and Tel Aviv.

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