DiscoverThe Logan Bartlett ShowEP 106: How Bill Shufelt Built Athletic Brewing - Every Plot Twist Along The Way
EP 106: How Bill Shufelt Built Athletic Brewing - Every Plot Twist Along The Way

EP 106: How Bill Shufelt Built Athletic Brewing - Every Plot Twist Along The Way

Update: 2024-05-31
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Logan Bartlett hosts Bill Schufeldt, co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing, a non-alcoholic beer company. Bill shares his unique journey from working at Steve Cohen's hedge fund, Point72, to starting Athletic Brewing. He explains how he realized the lack of great non-alcoholic beer options after quitting drinking and the challenges of building a brand in a market dominated by alcoholic beer. Bill discusses the importance of authentic brand partnerships, the role of influencers like Walker Hayes and J.J. Watt, and the need for a deep and meaningful brand identity. He also talks about the challenges of destigmatizing non-alcoholic beer, the importance of unscalable activities like face-to-face interactions with customers, and the benefits of vertical integration in the brewing process. Bill emphasizes the importance of a long-term vision and the power of compounding in building a successful business. He also shares his thoughts on the future of Athletic Brewing and the potential for expansion into other categories. The conversation touches on the cultural differences in non-alcoholic beer consumption between Europe and the US, the negative health impacts of alcohol, and the importance of moderation. Bill also discusses the psychological aspects of drinking and the role of ritual and placebo effect. The episode concludes with Bill reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey and the importance of passion and mission-driven work.

Outlines

00:00:00
Introduction

This Chapter introduces the episode and the guest, Bill Schufeldt, co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing. Logan Bartlett explains that this episode will focus on Bill's unusual journey into entrepreneurship and his experience building a non-alcoholic beer brand.

00:00:58
Athletic Brewing: A Non-Alcoholic Beer Revolution

This Chapter delves into the story of Athletic Brewing, a non-alcoholic beer company founded by Bill Schufeldt. Bill shares his personal journey from a high-stress hedge fund environment to becoming a non-alcoholic beer entrepreneur. He explains how he realized the lack of great non-alcoholic beer options after quitting drinking and the challenges of building a brand in a market dominated by alcoholic beer.

00:01:59
Building a Brand: Authenticity and Values

This Chapter explores the importance of brand building and authentic partnerships in the non-alcoholic beer industry. Bill discusses how Athletic Brewing vets potential brand ambassadors, ensuring their values align with the company's mission. He emphasizes the importance of creating a deep and meaningful brand identity that resonates with customers over time.

00:04:43
Destigmatizing Non-Alcoholic Beer

This Chapter focuses on the challenges of destigmatizing non-alcoholic beer and shifting public perception. Bill explains the historical context of non-alcoholic beer, its association with prohibition, and the lack of innovation for decades. He discusses the strategies Athletic Brewing employed to overcome the stigma, including face-to-face interactions with customers, sampling events, and building a strong brand identity.

01:10:41
The Psychological Element of Drinking

This Chapter explores the psychological aspects of drinking and the role of ritual and placebo effect. Bill shares his personal experience with alcohol and how he realized that the enjoyment came from the social moments and the ritual of drinking, not the alcohol itself. He discusses the importance of creating a satisfying experience with non-alcoholic beer that replicates the sensory and psychological aspects of drinking alcoholic beer.

01:12:45
Lessons Learned: Passion, Mission, and Long-Term Vision

This Chapter reflects on Bill's entrepreneurial journey and the lessons he has learned. He emphasizes the importance of passion, mission-driven work, and a long-term vision in building a successful business. Bill shares his insights on the power of compounding, the importance of staying focused on the core opportunity, and the value of unscalable activities in building a strong brand.

Keywords

Athletic Brewing
Athletic Brewing is a non-alcoholic craft brewery founded in 2018 by Bill Schufeldt and John Walker. The company is known for its high-quality, flavorful non-alcoholic beers that are designed to appeal to both beer enthusiasts and those who are looking for a healthier alternative to alcoholic beverages. Athletic Brewing has gained significant popularity for its commitment to quality, innovation, and its mission to destigmatize non-alcoholic beer.

Non-alcoholic Beer
Non-alcoholic beer, also known as NA beer, is a type of beer that contains very low or no alcohol content. It is typically made using the same brewing process as traditional beer, but the alcohol is removed through a variety of methods. Non-alcoholic beer has become increasingly popular in recent years as consumers seek healthier alternatives to alcoholic beverages. It is often enjoyed by people who are abstaining from alcohol for health, religious, or personal reasons.

Bill Schufeldt
Bill Schufeldt is the co-founder and CEO of Athletic Brewing. Prior to starting Athletic Brewing, Bill worked as a hedge fund manager at Point72, a firm founded by Steve Cohen. Bill's experience in finance and his passion for health and wellness led him to create Athletic Brewing, a company that is disrupting the beer industry with its innovative non-alcoholic beers.

Point72
Point72 is a hedge fund firm founded by Steve Cohen, a prominent figure in the financial world. The firm is known for its high-performance culture and its focus on quantitative analysis and risk management. Bill Schufeldt, the co-founder of Athletic Brewing, worked at Point72 before starting his non-alcoholic beer company.

Walker Hayes
Walker Hayes is a Nashville-based country music star known for his hit song "Fancy Like." He is an authentic supporter of Athletic Brewing and has partnered with the company on several initiatives. Hayes's popularity and his positive image have helped to raise awareness of Athletic Brewing and its non-alcoholic beers.

J.J. Watt
J.J. Watt is a former NFL defensive end who is known for his athleticism and his commitment to health and wellness. He is a passionate supporter of Athletic Brewing and has partnered with the company on several initiatives. Watt's influence and his positive image have helped to promote Athletic Brewing and its non-alcoholic beers.

Brand Building
Brand building is the process of creating a strong and recognizable identity for a company or product. It involves developing a unique brand name, logo, messaging, and overall experience that resonates with target customers. Effective brand building requires a deep understanding of the target market, the competitive landscape, and the company's values and mission.

Vertical Integration
Vertical integration is a business strategy where a company controls multiple stages of the production process, from raw materials to finished goods. In the case of Athletic Brewing, vertical integration allows the company to control the quality of its beer from ingredient sourcing to packaging and distribution. This strategy can provide significant advantages in terms of cost control, quality assurance, and flexibility.

Entrepreneurial Journey
The entrepreneurial journey is the process of starting and growing a business. It is often characterized by challenges, setbacks, and periods of uncertainty. However, it can also be a rewarding experience that allows entrepreneurs to pursue their passions, create value, and make a positive impact on the world.

Q&A

  • What inspired Bill Schufeldt to start Athletic Brewing?

    Bill realized the lack of great non-alcoholic beer options after quitting drinking and saw a huge market opportunity for a high-quality, flavorful non-alcoholic beer.

  • How does Athletic Brewing approach brand partnerships with influencers?

    Athletic Brewing carefully vets potential brand ambassadors, ensuring their values align with the company's mission and that they genuinely enjoy the product.

  • What challenges did Athletic Brewing face in destigmatizing non-alcoholic beer?

    Non-alcoholic beer has a long history of being associated with prohibition and a lack of innovation, leading to a stigma of being a lesser-than product. Athletic Brewing had to overcome this stigma by building a strong brand identity, engaging with customers directly, and proving the quality of its beers.

  • Why is vertical integration important for Athletic Brewing?

    Vertical integration allows Athletic Brewing to control the quality of its beer from ingredient sourcing to packaging and distribution, ensuring a high standard of quality and flexibility in production.

  • What are some of the key lessons Bill Schufeldt has learned on his entrepreneurial journey?

    Bill emphasizes the importance of passion, mission-driven work, a long-term vision, and the power of compounding in building a successful business. He also highlights the value of unscalable activities in building a strong brand.

  • What are the cultural differences in non-alcoholic beer consumption between Europe and the US?

    Non-alcoholic beer is much more popular in Europe, with a longer history of established brands and a culture of moderation. The US has a history of prohibition and a preference for high-octane beers, which has contributed to the slower adoption of non-alcoholic beer.

  • What are the psychological aspects of drinking and how does Athletic Brewing address them?

    Drinking alcohol is often associated with ritual, social moments, and a placebo effect. Athletic Brewing aims to replicate these aspects with its non-alcoholic beers, providing a satisfying experience that caters to the sensory and psychological aspects of drinking.

  • What is Bill Schufeldt's perspective on the future of Athletic Brewing?

    Bill believes that Athletic Brewing has a bright future, with a growing market for non-alcoholic beer and a strong brand identity. He is open to expanding into other categories in the future, but remains focused on building a sustainable and impactful business.

Show Notes

Since 2017, Bill Shufelt (CEO, Athletic Brewing) went from hedge fund trader to the CEO of the leading producer of non-alcoholic craft beer. Unlike the typical tech-focused chats, this one centers around a product many have fallen in love with. In the conversation, Bill tells stories of the unscalable but crucial strategies he used to build a brand, push past rejection, and redefine the non-alcoholic beer industry.

 

(00:00 ) Introduction to Athletic Brewing

(00:52 ) The Early Days and Breakthrough Moments

(01:15 ) Celebrity Partnerships and Brand Building

(03:16 ) The Philosophy of Brand and Movement

(07:33 ) The Non-Alcoholic Beer Market

(10:46 ) The Entrepreneurial Journey and Personal Sacrifices

(18:22 ) Scaling the Business and Marketing Strategies

(28:20 ) Navigating Regulations and Health Trends

(39:07 ) The Importance of a Tech Co-Founder

(39:31 ) Home Brewing Beginnings

(40:13 ) Innovative Brewing Process

(41:13 ) Food Safety Challenges

(43:24 ) Raising Funds and Building a Brewery

(44:24 ) Vertical Integration Benefits

(45:33 ) Early Sales Efforts

(46:56 ) Investor Relations and Accountability

(51:14 ) Long-Term Vision and Focus

(01:00:10 ) Cultural Differences in Non-Alcoholic Beer

(01:02:35 ) Health Considerations and Alcohol

(01:10:38 ) The Sensation of Drinking

(01:12:50 ) Reflections on the Entrepreneurial Journey

(01:14:46 ) Conclusion and Final Thoughts


Executive Producer: Rashad Assir

Producer: Leah Clapper

Mixing and editing: Justin Hrabovsky

 

Check out Unsupervised Learning, Redpoint's AI Podcast: https://www.youtube.com/@UCUl-s_Vp-Kkk_XVyDylNwLA

 

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About the Show

 

Logan Bartlett is a Software Investor at Redpoint Ventures - a Silicon Valley-based VC with $6B AUM and investments in Snowflake, DraftKings, Twilio, and Netflix. In each episode, Logan goes behind the scenes with world-class entrepreneurs and investors. If you're interested in the real inside baseball of tech, entrepreneurship, and start-up investing, tune in every Friday for new episodes.

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EP 106: How Bill Shufelt Built Athletic Brewing - Every Plot Twist Along The Way

EP 106: How Bill Shufelt Built Athletic Brewing - Every Plot Twist Along The Way

Bill Shufelt, Logan Bartlett