John Lewis’s JLAB accelerator for start-ups returns for 2015

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John Lewis today announces the 2015 launch of JLAB, its start-up accelerator run in association with technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks’ investment fund L Marks. The JLAB accelerator is designed to bring the world’s foremost innovators together with one of the UK’s most advanced omni-channel retailers, to develop products and services that will shape the retail experience of the future.

Following a successful first year in 2014, JLAB will offer funding and office space to up to 10 start-up businesses. At the end of the programme in October, one winning start-up will receive a contract to trial their solution in John Lewis stores, and up to £100,000 in further investment.

Applications are now open to start-ups at any stage that have innovative ideas for new retail solutions. There are several different categories for entries, each inspired by John Lewis’ core business priorities. They are:

Meshing the Digital and Physical: new technology that enables John Lewis to aggregate data and gain new insights to help provide an improved customer journey in store, online and on mobile

Effortless Payments: technology to enable seamless omnichannel payment journeys in store, switching between customer or Partner mobile devices and fixed point EPOS

Smart Partners: ideas on enabling a smart workforce to deliver even better customer service in store while reducing low value activities

Connected Home: ​technology that can help John Lewis develop a differentiated, unique, connected home experience for its customers

Surprise Us: ​innovations that are so out of this world they are hard to classify

Last year’s winner, micro-location technology specialist Localz, took home £100,000 in investment and is now trialling its solution in Peter Jones. Localz’s technology gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of some enhanced services using their smartphone based on their precise location. For example, it could automatically offer to trigger a customer’s Click & Collect order to be picked as they enter the shop to speed up the collection or help customers to navigate their way around one of our shops based on their online wish list.

Tim Andrew, co-founder and commercial director of Localz, said: “Since winning JLAB, Localz has enjoyed amazing growth in our clients, and a large part of this is due to the on-going support of John Lewis which has worked closely with us to maintain their edge as a leading omnichannel retailer. We’re excited to see what the future holds and will continue to work with John Lewis on our Click and Collect solution.”

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: “As an established business we have certain ways of doing things and JLAB is an opportunity to inject the start-up spirit into our innovation efforts.  Our inspiration is our founder Spedan Lewis – what new things would he be doing today?  After the success of last year, I’m looking forward to working with a fresh group of start-ups with exciting ideas that could help shape the customer and Partner experience at John Lewis for years to come.”

Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and chairman of L Marks, said: “I’m delighted to be working with John Lewis on JLAB for the second year. We have created something distinctive in the UK retail sector that will give start-ups access to the best mentors and an environment where they can develop their ideas. I’m certain that we will find another new and exciting technology that will strengthen John Lewis’s leadership in omnichannel retailing.”

Applications are open now, and will close at midnight on 1 May 2015. Both John Lewis and Stuart Marks will then work together to select up to ten start-up companies who will be based within JLAB during a 12-week accelerator stage, which takes place over the summer and will see a number of expert mentors help the participants in developing their ideas.  The overall winner will be decided at a final pitch day in September.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs can apply for JLAB via the website: www.jlab.co.uk. Applications close on 1 May 2015.