Startups in the retail space will now have the chance to work with the supermarket beloved by middle England as it searches for the next disruptive tech trend.
Applications for the fourth cohort of startups opens today and the successful ones will join a 12-week programme of mentoring and free workspace in the partnership's head office in London. And they also have access to up to £200,000 in funding from the retailer and entrepreneur Stuart Marks' L Marks fund, in return for an equity stake in the startup.
"Waitrose involvement in JLab means we can now provide start-ups with unprecedented access to two of the UK’s leading retailers and ensure we add value to these fledgling companies, in the same spirit of cooperation the John Lewis Partnership was founded on," said Paul Coby, chief information officer at John Lewis Partnership.
JLab has focused on smart home technology in previous years, an area of growth for the brand as connected home devices become more popular among customers, with the smart peep hole device Peeple being crowned the winner in 2015. Last year's winner was Digital Bridge, a tool which allows users to visualise how furniture will look in their home.
“Industries are being disrupted almost overnight and retail technology in particular is evolving at a rapid pace. JLab enables us to augment our understanding of innovation and partner with these disrupters to offer the next generation of customer experiences," added Coby.
This year the retailer will hunt for startups focused on food experiences, in store experiences, frictionless shopping, healthy living and smarter supply chains, but added that it would also welcome "innovations that are so out of this world they can’t be classified."