Craft Beer software startup taps Austrade’s Berlin expertise


Craft Beer software startup taps Austrade’s Berlin expertise

For some Australian startups, exporting is a core part of the original business plan. To succeed, however, they need to hard-wire global market needs into a product that is still in development. And that means truly understanding global markets – right from Day One.

Based in Brisbane, Excise Cloud is part of the Australian craft beer revolution. From niche breweries like Black Hops and Balter to big overseas arrivals like Brewdog, southeast Queensland is now a hub for a new generation of brewers who are creative, alternative, ambitious and fiercely individual.

Excise Cloud co-founder, Jeff Frampton, wanted to be part of this vibrant scene. ‘Our idea was to develop process-management technology to help new, independent brewers get their beer to market,’ says Frampton.

Building straight for export

During 2017, Frampton decided to create an application to help brewers pay excise. This is a tax imposed at the point of production, which first-time brewers typically find difficult to compute.

Frampton knew that to be valuable to craft brewers, the solution had to be cloud-based and easy to integrate with other software. But it also had to fit the precise needs of this niche industry.

‘We needed to develop the excise tool in collaboration with the brewing industry,’ says Frampton. ‘Our addressable market isn’t just Australia, however, it is small craft brewers around the world. To outcompete rivals, we had to understand what the global market wanted.’

His commercial logic was impeccable. While Australia boasts approximately 600 craft breweries, there are over 7,000 in Europe and 10,000 in North America, according to Frampton. But how could the entrepreneur from Brisbane reach out to global breweries?

Three months in Kreuzberg

Frampton learned about the Austrade Landing Pads program when the manager of the Tel Aviv Landing Pad appeared at an export roadshow in Brisbane in late 2017. 

‘The Tel Aviv manager told me the overseas Landing Pads program was designed for startups as well as established companies,’ says Frampton. 

‘I thought: “Why not use the Berlin landing pad as our entry to Europe.”'

Four months later, Frampton found himself in Berlin for a 90-day shared-office residency. The program placed him in the Betahaus office complex in the Kreuzberg district of south Berlin, along with two other exporters from Australia. 

‘Betahaus is a very cool workspace, and the staff members are energetic and very professional,’ says Frampton. 

‘Also, I met previous Landing Pads mentors – entrepreneurs who had previously been part of the program and were now doing business in Germany. That gave me great context for what we were trying to achieve.’

The Austrade-nominated Landing Pads program managers, Michael Bingel and David Urry, provided day-to-day assistance, including drafting emails, making phone calls and helping with translations. Michael also found connections into the craft brewery scene in Berlin.

‘Having the credibility of an Austrade introduction really helps,’ says Frampton. ‘People took the company seriously and the Austrade managers bridged the language gap.

European input into product definition

For Frampton, the greatest value-add of the entire Landing Pads program was how Austrade helped connect Excise Cloud into relevant regional events. 

‘The Austrade manager told me about London Tech Week and said, “Here’s something happening in UK – I’ll pass you on to Australia House in London,” and that was fantastic for networking,’ he says. ‘This gave me the opportunity to talk to other startups and potential investors.’

The program also gave Excise Cloud regional exposure. Once the company was accepted on the Landing Pads program, Austrade created a profile of the company that alerted Austrade missions across Europe to its aims and target market.

Design check

One person who picked up the profile was Zdenka Kotalova, the Austrade Business Development Manager in Prague.

‘Zdenka wanted to hook me into the Czech beer industry,’ says Frampton. ‘She invited me to a craft beer festival in Prague and within one week I had contacts right across the Czech industry — in the local Independent Brewers’ Association, the local taxation office and the principal industry representative body.’

‘These three organisations validated our approach and gave me confidence that the product would have a competitive advantage over other excise tools,’ says Frampton. ‘Their input was vital to our ability to create a global product.’ 

Frampton recommends the Landing Pads program for any Australian start up that wants global input into product design. For him, tapping Austrade’s in-country expertise was invaluable.

‘Overall it was a very intense and very positive experience,’ he says. ‘The Landing Pads managers were very supportive and I can’t speak too highly of them .

‘For me, the Berlin Landing Pad has proved vital to creating a global product. With direct input from craft breweries in Europe, we can design our product for export markets from the outset and grasp the global opportunity.’