One of Britain’s most iconic and historic retailers – the John Lewis Partnership – today announced a £100,000 investment in two innovative tech startups following success in the retailer’s fourth annual accelerator programme – JLAB.
JLAB is the largest retail tech accelerator programme in the UK and its innovation partner L Marks, will match the £100,000 investment from John Lewis and Waitrose, bringing the total startup funding to £200,000.
WeFiFo and Exaactly will receive this financial investment to now grow their businesses. Known as the AirBnB for the kitchen table, WeFiFo is a social hub from West Sussex, which connects home chefs, supper club hosts and professional chefs with paying guests. As a result of the JLAB 2017 win, WeFiFo are now exploring opportunities to host dining experiences across John Lewis and Waitrose branches as well as other bespoke events which could be introduced to more customers who share the same love of food.
Exaactly, based in London, is an intelligent addressing system that aims to put an end to failed deliveries. It allows customers to provide information up front about how to find their delivery address and where to leave a parcel when they are not at home. During JLAB 2017, Exaactly ran two successful trials with delivery drivers, fulfilling orders to customers: the first with Waitrose groceries and their own fleet; the second in collaboration with parcel carrier Yodel, fulfilling orders for Waitrose speciality shops. Exaactly are now planning a similar exercise with John Lewis to explore the potential to help guarantee first-time customer delivery success.
Seni Glaister, CEO and co-founder of WeFiFo said: “Accessing the expertise of John Lewis and Waitrose Partners through JLAB was a real privilege for WeFiFo and securing their backing is certainly the most significant milestone in our journey so far. We were inspired by the people we worked with and were very fortunate to discover so much shared purpose and passion. We used our time with JLAB to cement strong foundations and we will now build on these as we enlist the help of the Partnership in our search for and celebration of the country’s most talented home cooks.”
Bea Warner, co-founder and CEO of Exaactly said: “JLAB has given us a peek behind the curtain of two of the country’s biggest retailers and an invaluable insight into how they handle delivery. The opportunity to run two pilots across the Partnership has equipped us with the product know-how we needed to make that final mile of delivery even more straightforward for consumers and retailers. The investment signifies a big step for our business as we prepare for a full launch to market in early January 2018.”
Both startups chosen for investment fought off strong competition from 300 other businesses and involved intensive pitch and demonstration days in front of a senior judging panel made up of industry experts from both John Lewis and Waitrose. Waitrose joined John Lewis for the first time this year, broadening opportunities to the food retail sector.
Five startups were whittled down from hundreds of applications and spent 12 weeks embedded in the John Lewis Partnership offices, gaining access to insight, data and senior-level mentors, allowing them to develop their business more rapidly than they would have done by operating on their own.
Paul Coby, CIO at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “All our finalists have benefitted greatly from unprecedented access to two of the UK’s leading retailers. The wider scope of JLAB this year has allowed us to bring together some of the most exciting emerging technology, not just in retail but across grocery too. It’s never been more important for the John Lewis Partnership to nurture innovation both inside and outside our business and we are looking forward to progressing this talent.”
Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and chairman of L Marks, said: “It’s very easy for corporate acceleration to become an internal passion project, operating in silo in a corner of an organisation. JLAB’s fourth year has produced one of the most ambitious accelerator programmes I have ever been involved in. The John Lewis Partnership has led the charge on corporate acceleration from the beginning and I look forward to the scale and aspirations of JLAB growing even further in the future.”
The three other JLAB 2017 finalists were: Mucho, a smart grocery shopping app which provides daily personalised recipes and enables customers to order ingredients when needed. During JLAB, Mucho trialled their Click & Collect solution with Partners at the Waitrose Bressenden Place branch, based on ingredients for recipes curated from their app and personalised to the user.
Journifi links online and in-store shopping by providing customers with personalised in-store experiences such as tailored personal shopper sessions based on their online behaviour and tastes. Journifi are now continuing to work with the John Lewis Partnership Group Customer Insight team to explore how they can help support the Partnership’s customer service proposition.
BB1 is a data analytics solution that uses customer behaviour to help businesses optimise their ways of working, monitoring an assortment of variables such as customer footfall. BB1 successfully used their data to model the customer flow dynamics in and around the Waitrose Cambridge branch during the day, how this changes over the course of a year and flows around the city if a competitor opens.