Business Technology

John Lewis eyes AI, smart home and coding with handful of retail innovators

3 min read

29 June 2016

Former deputy editor

British retailer John Lewis has revealed the five tech startups to be taken under its wing as part of its 12-week JLAB accelerator programme, with services of interest to the company including machine learning, the smart home, coding and more.

The campaign, now in its third year, kicked off in April 2016. John Lewis said it sought businesses operating across five categories – health and wellbeing; simplify my life; effortless shopping; tech for kids, and surprise us (too innovative to classify).

With almost 300 applications, a pitch day in front of a judging panel took place to whittle down the number to five finalists, which have now been revealed by John Lewis and innovation partner L Marks.

They are:

(1) DigitalBridge – Using computer vision and machine learning, customers can visualise home furnishings.

(2) Ding Labs – The smart home is embraced for this doorbell that connects homeowners to the people at their front door, regardless of their location.

(3) Link Big – Instagram has been embraced by countless brands, and this tool lets users of the social network buy goods directly from their feed.

(4) Robotical – A customisable walking robot designed to teach children about coding, 3D printing and robotics.

(5) Wedding Planner – Soon-to-be brides and grooms can use the service to plan their big day from mobile and PC.

The 12-week JLAB incubator will take place at John Lewis HQ, with finalists taking up residency there from 4 July. They’ll gain knowledge from mentors and have the chance for funding of up to £100,000 from John Lewis and L Marks, while the total pot sits at £200,000.

“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,” said Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis.

“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.”

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Tech entrepreneur Stuart Marks, L Marks chairman, added that JLAB is proof that large and small firms can indeed work together and both benefit.

“The startups will have unprecedented access to John Lewis’s retail expertise, working together to exchange ideas and create a product or service that has real commercial application,” he said.

The grand finale of Virgin Media Business’ £1m VOOM business competition took place on 28 June – find out who the winners were and what chief judge Richard Branson said on the day.