In late 2013, Coca-Cola launched a platform that connects serial entrepreneurs with its vast resources to launch seed-stage startups together. The goal of Coca-Cola Founders is to create a “win-win”— to simultaneously grow Coca-Cola’s business while helping founders grow their own company.

The program has since designed 13 companies in 11 countries with a combined portfolio value of more than $50 million.

“But that valuation is not even our goal,” explains David Butler, vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship at Coca-Cola. “Like most big, established companies, we’re not designed to move with the agility of a startup when it comes to developing new technologies and business models. What we do have are tremendous assets—relationships, resources, reach—that most founders can only dream about.”

The Coca-Cola Founders platform leverages both strengths, Butler says, to create new solutions for Coke and proven, high-growth startups for founders.

“We’ve figured out how to put lightning in a bottle,” he adds.

Most big companies meet startups after they’ve developed a solution. Startups must “sell-in” a solution to a big company, which in turn must figure out how to integrate a new, unproven solution into its legacy business and systems. By designing solutions together, the Coca-Cola Founders model makes it easier for both parties.

The Coca-Cola Founders platform starts with big, complex challenges Coca-Cola is facing and then supports repeat founders to help them do what they do best: leverage new technologies and business models to solve problems. This kind of partnership approach greatly reduces the risk for Coca-Cola, while giving the founders both a lead investor and a first customer at launch.

One of the biggest challenges Coca-Cola faces is ensuring its brands remain relevant with teens by reaching them through their preferred channels and passions. And, as studies show, more and more teens are gravitating to online video.

A recent report by Cisco projects that video will account for some 80 percent of all Internet traffic on the Internet by 2018. And by 2019, 1 million minutes of video will be watched online every minute.

You’re likely part of the equation, either as a content creator who uploads videos taken by your mobile device to sites like YouTube or Facebook, or as a consumer who finds themselves caught in an endless labyrinth of amusing cat videos.

With all that content out there, it can be easy to get lost – especially as new video-friendly social media platforms continue to proliferate. How do you know where to even start looking for something that might interest you? More importantly, how can brands like Coca-Cola stand out and engage with their customers amidst all the noise out there?



Winnin

Charting a New Course for Curating Online Content

That’s exactly the problem that Wilton Neto and Gian Martinez, two Brazilian entrepreneurs, set out to tackle when, with the help of Coca-Cola Founders, they launched Winnin, a platform that allows users to conduct “video battles” to choose their favorite online videos. 

Users can create, or participate as a voter, in a battle that pits different clips related to, say, popular movies or music festival performances, as a way to determine their favorite. In this way the site uses people’s preferences, not algorithms, to find the most popular videos on the Internet.

“Winnin acts as a curator that allows users to watch videos on topics they love and want to share with their friends,” says Martinez.

Rather than post its own content, Winnin links back to the original source of the videos shown – which helps drive traffic to sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Vine.

“We have created a win-win scenario,” says Neto. “Our platform is a way for these other sites to get more views on their videos, which include ads. That leads to more clicks, more engagement, and more money for them.” 



Winnin meeting
The Winnin team at work

The “battle” model has also proven to be sticky, with the average teen spending an average of 15 minutes on Winnin’s site. That’s opened up opportunities for Winnin to provide key insights into the kinds of topics and personalities in the worlds of music, fashion, and sports that this influential demographic is most drawn to. 

That value proposition has drawn the attention of multi-national brands who face the challenge of finding ways to stand out from the crowd and connect with teens and Millennials, the generation that promises to set the mainstream behavior on the future of the Internet.

For example, Coca-Cola has been an early Winnin adopter, where it used the site to connect with customers during the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Other Coke brands like Fanta and Sprite have been sponsoring Winnin battles as a way to engage their young fans as well, says Martinez, noting that the Sprite’s Winnin channel has already been viewed more than 500,000 times. 

“We all know that capturing teens' attention is a challenge and a fast-moving target,” says Flavia Buchmann, global brand director, Sprite. “When we saw the impressive results that Winnin had in its first months, we got very excited! With Winnin we can engage in relevant conversations about our brands – relevant for our business and for teens.”

Since the Winnin platform matches content with users who are not bound by time or location, it allows campaigns for brands like Sprite to extend well beyond a TV commercial or print ad.

It’s clearly a compelling model since some 15 million unique users – mostly teens and Millennials in Brazil and North America – have viewed more than 60 million videos on the site since its launch in April 2014. 

“Winnin is focused on helping us drive teen recruitment in Brazil and now in North America using social/mobile technologies and a native-advertising based business model,” says Butler. “Their goal is to help us connect our brands with user-generated, shared content. And it’s working. They are on track to helping us reach more than 50 million more teens for Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta—our core business—in 2015. That’s powerful.” 

A Winnin Proposition

Martinez and Neto first met through the Coca-Cola Founders platform in 2013. Martinez had been a Coke employee for the prior seven years, working on content and branding for Coca-Cola Brazil, where he regularly ran up against the challenges of dealing with the vast amount of fragmented content on the Internet. After helping build two startups inside Coke, Martinez was ready to start something new on his own.



Wilton Neto
Winnin co-founder Wilton Neto

Neto, a computer engineer, came to the program having already founded several startups, including one when he was 16. He had also lived overseas in Amsterdam while working for a bank before returning to Brazil, where he moved to Rio de Janeiro to join the founder’s program.

After the two met, they felt instant chemistry, helped in part by their complementary skillsets – Martinez as the marketer and Neto, the engineer. As avid gamers, they also thought similarly that online games could be a way to engage the younger generation of Internet users in a fun and addictive way.

“What I love about Gian and Wilton is that individually they are rock stars,” says Butler. “But together they make an even more powerful team. These two Millennials are the perfect combination for what we designed the platform to do—help our company capture some of our billion-dollar opportunities while we help, in this case, Winnin become a high-growth company.”  

'Mobile is the Future of Video'

The video battle concept Winnin, which has 15 employees, now uses was the result of trial and error – and the user experience is something Martinez and Neto continue to experiment with. For example, they are now looking at ways to allow visitors to the site to view popular videos without having to participate in battles themselves.



Gian Martinez
Winnin co-founder Gian Martinez

The rising number of mobile video viewers is also promising to reshape how Winnin engages with its users. Consider that some 60 percent of the site’s users are accessing it via mobile devices – a trend that should only continue growing. Mary Meeker, one of the best-known and most followed venture capitalists in Silicon Valley just released her “Internet Trends 2015" report” where she cites evidence that some 87 percent of Millennials in the U.S. report that their smartphone never leaves their side.

“It’s been said that video is the future of the Internet,” says Martinez. “But mobile is the future of video.” 

“As more eyes from teens and Millenials go from TVs and outdoor advertising to the screens in their hands it’s critical that we’re talking to the consumers where they are,” says Ross Kimbel, Global Innovation Director at Coca-Cola, who administers the Founders platform along with David Butler. “Winnin is a pipeline to these consumers.” 

Given that dynamic, and the fact that facilitating a video battle on the smaller screen of, say, a phone, is far different than on a desktop, Martinez and Neto are nearing the completion of a app which will optimize the Winnin experience for mobile devices.

“We believe we are developing a breakthrough standard that will allow brands to engage a new generation through their mobile devices,” says Martinez.

The pair’s more immediate goals are to keep growing their user base – especially in the U.S. To date, the bulk of Winnin’s users have been Brazilian. But Martinez recently moved to Los Angeles to open an office there and help open the doors to the U.S. user market.

“I learned from my time at Coca-Cola that the most successful global companies focus on fundamental human behaviors that are similar all around the world,” says Martinez. “And we are strong believers that teens are universal when it comes to watching video online. They may be watching different things in different geographies, but they are all watching and we want to give them a consistent experience no matter what geography they are in.”