AB InBev's ZX Ventures Buys Minority Stake In RateBeer

Discussion in 'Beer News & Releases' started by Jason, Jun 3, 2017.

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  1. Jason

    Jason Founder (8,354) Aug 23, 1996 Massachusetts

    Here's a post from Joe Tucker, founder of RateBeer, on his selling a minority stake to ZX Ventures; "a global disruptive growth group, incubator, and venture capital team backed by one of the largest multinational companies in the world, Anheuser-Busch InBev."

    ----- From RateBeer

    Dear Friends,

    Today, my wife Jen and I are feeling great hope for the RateBeer community I’ve been carefully stewarding for more than a decade and a half. With the contributions of so many great people around the globe, our tiny company has helped change the world of beer through our humble and diligent commitment to serving the whole world beer community. We’re proud of our accomplishments, to have helped so many small breweries and beer retailers receive the spotlight they deserved and are so grateful for all the wonderful people, places and experiences that tending the site over these many years has provided us.

    Today we’re announcing that ZX Ventures has purchased a minority investment in RateBeer. The focus of the agreement was on maintaining RateBeer’s value as an unbiased beer authority, retaining our operational independence, informing a whole new group of global consumers and keeping them excited about the beer.

    Many people are probably surprised that our modest little company would be of interest to ZX Ventures, AB InBev’s tech-friendly growth division. We were definitely surprised too. There are few suitable companions for a very unique company like ours, a small niche tech-driven online publisher, and far fewer still in a position to not only buy in but also expand our scope and vision.

    One of the greatest challenges I’ve had in choosing this magical life for myself as a developer of an online community has been the monstrous amount of work I’d signed on to, and that the site required, day and night, every day of the year. As the site’s only full time employee, this has meant I’ve always been on call. I love RateBeer dearly and I love my work, but it’s been really nice not staying up all night working on servers! It’s with relief and gratitude that the site has finally received the resources and infrastructure it needs to move forward and develop for the coming technical challenges and opportunities. I’ve never been more excited about RateBeer’s future and our ability to achieve new heights.

    Most everyone who is close to the site and involved our community knows that we’ve tried to address our resource issues issues in a number of creative ways over the years. We’ve also looked at a variety of potential partners and found ZX was our best choice. Their comfort with technology, existing tech resources, beer loving culture, enthusiasm and respect for the community, an understanding of varied beer cultures globally, the stability of their company and dedication to preserving our independence made ZX the very best fit. I know this is surprising to many out there, but I’m confident I made the best possible decision.

    I’ve been working with our expanded team on a daily basis since October. What we’ve found on the other side is a multicultural company that cares deeply about their own employees, cares about the local communities they invest in developing and is taking significant steps to better understand and foster local beer. It’s a great small team in a big company.

    ZX Ventures has the utmost respect for the integrity of the data and the unbiased service we offer to the entire community and industry. It’s been a vital part of the plan since day one and we continue to operate as we always have, with myself as manager, and overseen by the watchful and critical eye of our volunteer worldwide administrators, external sales and offering equal opportunity to all advertisers and other customers.

    Additionally, RateBeer Best became the premier worldwide international beer awards program and our festival one of the best in the world largely based on the simple and inviolable integrity of our computational methods and reliance on crowd-sourced reviews. This obviously won’t and cannot change, and thankfully we have loud opinionated critics in RateBeer’s ranks, and a data transparency initiative to ensure it never does. We’ve seen many positive examples for best managing an investor relationship and we’ve applied our learning.

    Life at RateBeer will continue as it has. I’ll continue to work writing code, crunching numbers, answering questions, working with our administrators, reaching out to talk to people in the community and planning new features.

    Thanks again for all your generosity, care, good times, support, love and faithfulness. To you all I’ll be raising a beer.

    Much love,

    Joe Tucker

    pat61, EMH73 and Bitterbill like this.
  2. RedEcho

    RedEcho Initiate (65) Oct 23, 2012 Massachusetts

    I'm aware of RateBeer but not ZV. Does this potentially harm the sense of being unbiased? Or is this a clean and neutral partnership?
  3. readyski

    readyski Aspirant (283) Jun 4, 2005 California

    Would like to know how much $$ and what percentage
    Jaylove132, jcruz_ and Ricelikesbeer like this.
  4. BBThunderbolt

    BBThunderbolt Poo-Bah (8,863) Sep 24, 2007 Kiribati
    Society Trader

    Almost 9 months. Not exactly open about it.
    bilbobrewer, Lucular, Zorro and 7 others like this.
  5. Reneejane

    Reneejane Initiate (0) Jan 15, 2004 Illinois

    Seriously? Glad I'm not using that app. "Friendly?" Dragon behemoth gobbling up everything that's largely just important to us. Golly.
  6. Noelito76

    Noelito76 Champion (886) Oct 30, 2004 New York

    Hmm, changes to the moderators forthcoming?
  7. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (275) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    Are press releases required? They come off so fake. Just say you saw the check and took it.

    What's the value in a site like that? I think the head guy was surprised there was interest and took the first bite. I dont blame him. I wouldve sold the whole damn thing.

    Integrity this, Integrity that. Life will be the same. You think the company buying a minority interest won't have a say, but you know they will. We know things change.

    What did they need extra resources for? I guess I just dont get what AB INBEV saw out of this. Was RB expanding like crazy. I guess I just dont get some of these tech buys. WHat problems did they have? Were they just trying to monetize perceived valuation?
  8. Grackos

    Grackos Disciple (337) Sep 6, 2014 Florida

    They're everywhere...
    Lucular and HorseheadsHophead like this.
  9. treborsnikliw

    treborsnikliw Initiate (0) Jun 9, 2011 California

    why would they spend money for zero return....? They want something. They're a publicly traded company and investors want ROI....
  10. AlexM

    AlexM Zealot (503) Jun 9, 2011 California

    Was BA approached by AB InBev?
  11. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (275) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    I mean yes, thats how you diversify and get your hands on money in all avenues. But it just seems just so much more apparent when its your evil "competitor". When will they eventually buy the maltsters and the American grown hop farms, and the yeast facilities? Soon they'll be buying water rights to some of the biggest craft beer areas in America (NC, VA, CO).

    If you can't beat them, then buy them. They are submerging themselves in this culture a little bit at a time.. I dont trust the little bitty minority portion, as we read it, as 5-10 years down the line RB will be wholly owned by AB.

    These small "start up" branches are all fronts. AB is worth billions. Think about it that way.

    Independently run is a crock of crap when all profits funnel to the big wigs. Or in this case, a minority of the profits.
    #11 Oktoberfiesta, Jun 3, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017
  12. ichorNet

    ichorNet Poo-Bah (2,026) Mar 16, 2010 Massachusetts

    This feels gross to me. The press release is slimy too. I don't like being reflexive about stuff like this, but I've always disliked RateBeer anyway since I made the choice to join and specifically follow BA since the eve of my 21st birthday in a continued and concerted effort to deepen my understanding of quality beer and the economy behind what the beer community calls "craft beer." The tendrils of AB InBev are all over the place, and they intend to pretend to advocate for choice while stymieing truly informed consumer decision-making.

    I will continue to be a Beer Advocate, unless they make the same kind of power-over-passion decision at some point. I hope they never do. Cheers.
  13. flabeer

    flabeer Initiate (0) May 22, 2007 Florida

    Now AB/InBev owns any and all information relating to Ratebeer.
  14. Todd

    Todd Founder (6,491) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society Trader

  15. Hanglow

    Hanglow Champion (812) Feb 18, 2012 Scotland

    It gives AB access to vast amounts of up to the minute data on trends in craft beer and I assume was a relative pittance to get that access as RB was pretty much a one man show. It's funny how he kept it quiet for so long

    Mind you, that info is about tickers and their habits, so might not be useful with regards to the general craft buying public
  16. Spikester

    Spikester Poo-Bah (2,705) Jul 14, 2007 Oregon

    I can't imagine a more unsuitable marriage.
  17. HopBelT

    HopBelT Poo-Bah (1,884) Mar 18, 2014 Belgium
    Society Trader

    There goes their credibility...!
    swolepeer, Zorro, jaybirde63 and 9 others like this.
  18. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Poo-Bah (1,859) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    ABInBev already owns one of the largest hop farms in the USA, in Idaho. They also malt barley, but I'm not sure if they grow barley.

    Water rights are not a big thing in the East. Sierra Nevada had a well drilled on their property in NC.

    One would think that there will be adds from all of the ABInBev captive brands appearing on RB in the near future.
  19. ericwo

    ericwo Initiate (81) Aug 21, 2008 Pennsylvania

    I get a regular (weekly?) e-mail from Rate Beer that mentions all the new and upcoming beer releases around the country. You can bet that the focus of this e-mail will shift towards the ABInBev captive brands while potentially snuffing out the information on true craft breweries. I will be Unsubscribing from the RateBeer e-mail now.
  20. Franziskaner

    Franziskaner Poo-Bah (4,864) May 27, 2005 Missouri
    Society Trader

    Bud Light Peach-a-Rita now rated 100 on Rate Beer.
  21. erway

    erway Initiate (126) Jul 28, 2006 New Mexico

    I started on ratebeer.com in 2002. I did not discover BA until nearly 4 years after that. All of my beer ratings were on that site. I am said to announce that I have signed off for the last time.
    oldgrowth, Lucular, Dogbrick and 4 others like this.
  22. Soke

    Soke Initiate (0) Dec 16, 2015 Florida

    Its happening.
  23. zid

    zid Poo-Bah (1,627) Feb 15, 2010 New York
    Society Trader

    One would think that this isn't about compromising data, but rather, having access to data and leveraging it. I'm guessing that that's where the real value is. People can debate to what degree companies like Anheuser-Busch previously shaped public opinion vs reacted to it. If there's truth to what I'm saying, then unless there's a long-lasting and considerable PR backlash, it's probably a smart move on AB InBev's part. Their ability to effectively leverage that data is another story though.
  24. Beeryurt

    Beeryurt Initiate (0) Mar 8, 2013 Wisconsin

    I try to avoid the whole "sellout" label since like everyone else who goes to work everyday I love money and when people try to give me more of it 99% of the time I take it. Yet going by their website they state

    "RateBeer is a world site for craft beer enthusiasts and is dedicated to serving the entire craft beer community"

    AB is not craft, they have done everything they can to fight the rise of craft beer to protect their bottom line so it may not be selling out but I will not be visiting ratebeer ever again, they lost all cred when it comes to supporting craft beer
  25. UncleJimbo

    UncleJimbo Poo-Bah (3,463) Sep 11, 2002 Massachusetts
    Society Trader

    Maybe they want access to the database of users? Email addresses, drinking preferences, etc.
  26. lordofthemark

    lordofthemark Initiate (0) Jan 28, 2015 Virginia

    "Our new data source tells us that most beer drinkers do not drink the same beer twice. Many of them seek out beers from small African countries. Many drink a dozen different beers in a single night. And there is a huge market for craft ciders"
  27. Scott17Taylor

    Scott17Taylor Poo-Bah (1,812) Oct 28, 2013 Iowa

    Honestly I see buying into beer forums as a great move. AB has been trying to get into craft beer for a long time, anything that helps them keep up with the trends can definitely benefit them. Maybe they'll start making NE IPAs soon, or they'll make an offer for a trillium or treehouse.
  28. CNoj012

    CNoj012 Initiate (0) Dec 7, 2014 New York

    I would be very interested to hear @Todd or @Jason take on this because they are able to offer a very unique perspective and insight that us as users may not see. How does this benefit ABI? How much of that statement from Joe is BS?

    I had no idea that ABI would be interested in partnering with a website. They really are trying to integrate themselves into every aspect of the craft world.

    Always thought BA was far superior to RateBeer and Untappd, hence only having an account here, but knowing that ABI is sniffing around beer sites and they didn't even attempt to acquire or "partner with" the best one gives me a new respect for the Bros (not to say that I didn't have quite a bit before).
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (2,278) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    They're looking for you over there:
    Vason, Roguer, swolepeer and 4 others like this.
  30. SCW

    SCW Initiate (0) Jul 25, 2004 New York

    There's way too much smoke here. How can this deal go down 9 months ago, but a press release about the transaction is first released late on a Friday afternoon in the summer? They know damn well that most people have a foot out the door by noon on Friday in June. And the site that broke the story is one that has a business consulting relationship with AB?

    AB doesn't buy companies to be "bros" - there is always a strategic initiative at play. Buying up beer rating sites, the nation's largest homebrewing site, and acquiring other grassroots companies is definitely part of a larger strategic initiative.

    At the very least, akin to journalism, this would most definitely violate all ethics rules to not disclose the transaction right away. Beer rating sites like Ratebeer.com or BeerAdvocate would need to disclose whether or not they are owned by a brewer, because there clearly could be a conflict of interest there. Simply put, these sites "report" consumer views on breweries. Sof if the site itself is owned by a brewery, there is the possibility that the objective nature could be compromised. Especially if said brewer has been on a massive acquisition spree of craft breweries.
    machalel, Roguer, EchoesZ and 52 others like this.
  31. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    Exactly. If this gives ABI privileged access to the Rate Beer data as it is, that would be much more valuable to them than adopting the very short-sighted view that they can change the market place through manipulation of the Rate Beer data to create false impressions.

    BTW, the ability to leverage that data would already exist since some aspects of marketing research and/or marketing researchers are already employ much more sophistated and rigorously controlled Rate Beer data collection. It has it's obvious flaws and the key to their use lies in recognizing those flaws and dealing with them in ways that minimize or eliminate their biasing effects.
  32. drtth

    drtth Initiate (0) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    I seem to have missed something. Where does it say the deal was actually completed 9 months ago. Thanks.
  33. jhartley

    jhartley Poo-Bah (2,952) Aug 22, 2010 Florida
    Society Trader

    I stopped using RateBeer at least 2 years ago.
    ABInbev sure is making ground in controlling the market slowly but surely. SMH
  34. lester619

    lester619 Initiate (0) Apr 17, 2009 Wisconsin

    Agree completely about press releases. I always find it comical that they expect anyone to swallow something like that. Just talk like a human being.
    SJDinAudubon likes this.
  35. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Zealot (571) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    Having access to Ratebeer data is a good way to work around some of the holes we see in beer sale data. Beer sold from taprooms isn't tracked well, but it is logged in and rated. Untappd data would probably be the better source for this, but if you're looking for the fastest raw data on beer trends and consumer preferences, this is the way to do it. I don't see this as AB securing more ad channels or promoting their own brands via RB, they're buying a data feed to inform their own decisions about new products or acquisitions.
  36. Miles_in_beer_city

    Miles_in_beer_city Initiate (143) Jun 18, 2014 North Carolina

    SN in Mills River has two wells that provide all the water for beer production.

    Municipal water is used domestic purposes, and they collect rain water for toilets, etc.
  37. GetMeAnIPA

    GetMeAnIPA Defender (684) Mar 28, 2009 California

    Snuck it in "I've been working with our expanded team on a daily basis since October."
  38. woodchipper

    woodchipper Meyvn (1,387) Oct 25, 2005 Connecticut

    This is a direct quote from thier current "About Us" page (no mention of the new ownership BTW).

    "Our mission is to provide unbiased, consumer-driven information about beer and breweries "
  39. Oktoberfiesta

    Oktoberfiesta Aspirant (275) Nov 16, 2013 New Mexico

    they did just have a beer fest in January. It would be like WW holding back an announcement until after the fest that was eventually cancelled. I'm not sure which method is worse, or just slightly acceptable.

    Seems like a lot would have liked a heads up so they could delete their reviews/account. Now that it's all in the open, I bet Ab already got what they wanted initially.

    Real time craft sales come from stores and distributors. So this move is just odd to me. Can't help but think they want to inject some of their 'craft' beers into the mix, somewhat forcibly
    SJDinAudubon likes this.
  40. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Poo-Bah (5,117) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania

    Shane, do you have any further insights here? What is the ABI larger strategic initiative in this context?


    drtth likes this.
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