Summerfest is best known as the massive music festival that takes up residence along Milwaukee’s lakefront every year. But it also hosts the Summerfest Tech Pitch Competition, showcasing some of the region’s most promising startups, and Molson Coors Beverage Company – known more for Blue Moon than cloud computing – is one of the competition’s biggest sponsors.
Beer and tech? Turns out they pair together just as well as an ice-cold Miller Lite on a hot summer afternoon.
“Our company relies on the creativity of our people, but also the capabilities that we’re bringing to the forefront, and a lot of that is rooted in new technology,” says Jonah Turner, head of emerging technology at Molson Coors. “We need to have a strong pipeline of both ideas and talent to support all of the innovative work that we’re doing.”
Indeed, technology plays a central role across Molson Coors’ organization. From creating more sustainable and efficient supply chains and packaging solutions to ensuring safety in breweries and corporate offices, and beyond, getting a cold beverage in your hands takes a lot more than water, hops and barley.
With a need for cutting-edge solutions and talent, Molson Coors is helping create a tech hub in its own backyard – and that starts with the three-day Summerfest Tech pitch competition, which awards winners a portion of $50,000 and kicks off today.
The competition connects large corporations with emerging tech startups, creating a symbiotic relationship where startups get a platform to show off their big ideas to companies that might someday implement them in their businesses, says Lena Deleat, director of Summerfest Tech.
“It was working with Molson Coors for the pitch competition that I realized that no industry, no product no company is off limits when it comes to talking about tech companies,” says Deleat.
Molson Coors’ commitment to Milwaukee’s startup scene extends beyond Summerfest – and beyond Milwaukee. It was a co-host of the Midwest House at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, one of the most celebrated music, culture and tech events in the U.S.
“We think that by supporting the tech community, we’re going to infuse more ideas into the pipeline, get our employees more engaged in the process of innovation and, ultimately, help the company attract better talent and elevate the brand,” says Turner.
Molson Coors is also a member of the Milwaukee Tech Hub Coalition, a nonprofit that accelerates and grows the tech workforce in Milwaukee, and it gives students an immersive week-long experience observing roles at the company through a partnership with civic nonprofit The Commons.
The investment in tech and talent extends to the individual level.
In a program it calls Community Collab, Molson Coors’ employees help local non-profits solve business challenges. And its sponsorship of i.c. stars, a hands-on technology-based leadership training program for young adults, supports emerging tech workers from underrepresented backgrounds and places them in roles throughout the business.
“Molson Coors has been an awesome partner to work with,” says Blanca Gonzales, executive director of i.c. stars. “It’s not just about ‘Hey, give us operational monies and dollars so that we can continue to keep the lights on,’ It’s about taking that extra leap between our partnership in being able to employ our talent, and then offering them those challenges and those opportunities to really show their innovation.”
Taken together, Molson Coors’ investment in Milwaukee’s tech scene is extensive – and it has to be. The next great innovations in manufacturing, safety, advertising, logistics – you name it – are happening now.
“Technology is at the root of selling great products to our customers,” says Turner. “We need to showcase how innovative our company is and acknowledge that and tell people, ‘This is an awesome company to work for and we’re making some amazing contributions in the tech space.’”