Business Technology

John Lewis hunts retail innovators for £200,000 JLAB 2016 accelerator

4 min read

04 April 2016

Former deputy editor

John Lewis’ JLAB business accelerator for 2016 has opened for entries, providing innovative retail startups with the chance to claim a share of a £200,000 pot and a 12-week mentoring programme.

The challenges of being a new kid on the block in the age-old retail industry

The JLAB has returned for its third year, once more encouraging “development of bold new ideas, and drives innovation in retail”. John Lewis prides itself on operating as an “omnichannel retailer”, and access to innovative startups will help it retain that title.

Entry to the JLAB is free and participants will secure access to the firm’s directors from departments including commercial, retail, online and IT, while also receiving feedback from consumers to support product development.

One company chosen by John Lewis partners, meanwhile, will win six months of complimentary office space. The end goal is to create a product that can “shape the retail experience for customers of the future”.

With the total JLAB funding pot sitting at £200,000, programme participants can apply for up to £100,000 of investment in exchange for company equity.

Commenting on winning JLAB 2015, Chris Chuter, CEO of Peeple, said: “JLAB turned us into a global company. Working with John Lewis and L Marks took us to the next level, and helped us better understand and create a product for the international market.”

This year, John Lewis is looking to collaborate with startups on one of the five following categories:

(1) Health and wellbeing: Taking care of our bodies has never been so important. Looking for exciting new products or services that can help customers look after themselves

(2) Simplify my life: Technology has helped us to simplify our lives in many ways, and John Lewis is looking for new ways to do this for its customers

(3) Effortless shopping: Bring digital inspiration to shops and help John Lewis to further understand customers’ in store behaviour. Enable John Lewis to enhance the experience in store through self-service and other innovations

(4) Tech for Kids: Exciting and innovative new products aimed at the tech-savvy kids of today

(5) Surprise us: Innovations that are so out of this world they can’t be classified

Read more on business accelerators:

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said: “JLAB is about bringing disruption and innovation to the retail industry – we want to develop ideas and technology that really excite John Lewis shoppers. To do this, it’s essential that we work collaboratively with fast-growing businesses to add value to their operations.

“Under mentorship from John Lewis, JLAB startups will have a unique opportunity to hone their ideas and create a product which has a genuinely positive impact on our customers. We’ve seen from previous years the value of combining an agile startup mentality with John Lewis’ extensive industry knowledge, and I’m personally looking forward to working with the 2016 applicants.”

Applications close on midnight on Sunday 8 May. Following that, five startups will be selected for the programme, which begins in July, while an overall winner will be named in September.

Like John Lewis, payments giant PayPal also runs an incubator in London. Real Business attended the finale of the third accelerator, dubbed Start Tank, and spoke with the programme director about why the US firm has such an interest in the UK and how the scheme has evolved.