John Lewis kicks off accelerator programme with five start-ups

John Lewis has chosen the five start-ups from 280 submissions to take part in its own accelerator programme, JLAB 2016.

The successful start-ups DigitalBridge, Ding Labs, Link Big, Robotical and Wedding Planner will spend 10 weeks at John Lewis's head office, and 12 weeks as part of the accelerator, starting on 4 July.

The entrepreneurs will gain insight into the retailer's business operations, while senior staff from the firm and other experts will act as mentors.

At the end of the ten weeks, the start-ups can pitch John Lewis and investment fund L Marks, which is running the programme in association with the retailer, for up to 100,000 (out of a pot of 200,000) in funding in exchange for equity.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: "From programmable robotics to advanced visualisation, our finalists are locked into some of the most exciting growth areas in modern retail. John Lewis aims to be at the forefront of innovation, and JLAB is how we engage with the vibrant UK start-up scene.

"The next twelve weeks will be a great period of development for the finalists, as they rapidly hone their products under guidance from John Lewis mentors and industry experts. I can't wait to see what the final outcome will be."

The start-ups all fall into five categories Health and Wellbeing, Simplify My Life, Effortless Shopping, Tech for Kids, and Surprise Us.

Digital Bridge is a visualisation tool that allows users to see furniture in their homes before buying, relying on computer vision and machine learning technology. Robotical wants to help children learn about coding, 3D printing and robotics using Marty the Robot, a fully customisable walking robot.

Ding Labs has created a doorbell that allows homeowners to speak to the person who rings it from anywhere in the world, and Link Big wants to allow Instagram users to buy products featured in their feeds. Wedding Planner will help brides and grooms to-be to plan their weddings online.

"JLAB is a proven example of successful collaboration between large and small business," said Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and chairman of L Marks. "The start-ups will have unprecedented access to John Lewis's retail expertise, working together to exchange ideas and create a product or service that has a real commercial application.

"John Lewis in turn can attract the brightest retail start-ups and maintain a nimble approach to innovation. We've enjoyed strong results with JLAB so far and are confident that this will be continued with this year's finalists."

Picture: Robotical's Marty the Robot

Caroline Preece

Caroline has been writing about technology for more than a decade, switching between consumer smart home news and reviews and in-depth B2B industry coverage. In addition to her work for IT Pro and Cloud Pro, she has contributed to a number of titles including Expert Reviews, TechRadar, The Week and many more. She is currently the smart home editor across Future Publishing's homes titles.

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