The Coca-Cola Founders Platform

Coca-Cola Co-Founders from Cofounders on Vimeo.

The Coca-Cola Founders Platform, created in October 2013, is The Coca-Cola Company’s new model for working with entrepreneurs, starting with people first rather than an idea or business.  This new approach was created because Coke believes that people are the key to successfully starting and building new companies. Based on this notion, Coke scoured the world to find some of the best entrepreneurs, who have deep experience in starting and building companies and have had successful exits as well as spectacular failures.

These entrepreneurs were brought into the Coca-Cola system, were provided with initial funding and access to Coke’s resources. Using their imagination, experience and expertise, the entrepreneurs – called co-Founders – identify creative solutions to problems that other companies have not yet tackled. In return, Coke gets early access to fast-growing, high potential businesses, anticipating future trends related to our business.

One way successful companies like Coke remain successful is by putting the right systems, people and structures in place to execute at scale.  But this was at direct odds to what the Founders were asked to do.  The Coke M&A/CV group worked with the Founders and the local Coke operations who incubate the Founders’ start-up businesses, to develop a completely new operating model built around the Founders’ needs, especially the way they needed to work.  It became clear that while Coke operates under very specific structural, governance and scope guidelines, developed for a large global company, these guidelines needed to be tweaked, changed, or thrown away for the Founders to operate with the speed and flexibility they needed to be successful.  Issues came to light quickly like: 1) legal and tax guidelines built for Coke but too sophisticated for a start-up, 2) authorization processes that were strangling the Founders in paperwork and approvals, 3) compensation structures that would reward the Founders for the start-up business, not Coke’s global business, and 4) autonomy and authorization for the Founders to build a business that is outside of Coke’s core.

Big companies can’t just decide one day to “do what startups do.” Coke had to design the right structure and processes to get the kind of behavior and results they were looking for.

Key Facts

  • The Founders platform is not a corporate accelerator program or venture capital fund. We provide both seed funding and access to our vast resources and network to start-ups – no equity or intellectual property is taken by The Coca‑Cola Company as part of this partnership.
  • Each start-up is made up of two skilled entrepreneurs, who become Co-Founders, and put through a 90 day process to immerse them in our business and assets before they start their start-up. In addition, they are given an in-market Coca-Cola sponsor to help guide their development and navigate the Company, so they are fully able to tap into our resources.
  • The funding our Co-Founders receive is very similar to a normal seed stage for a start-up. We invest anywhere from $1 to $1,000,000.
  • Today, there are 10 Co-Founder teams, leading startups in San Francisco, Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, Buenos Aries, Bangalore, Sydney, Singapore, Mexico City, Tel Aviv and London.

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