John Lewis will kick-off its search tomorrow for the next big idea to help its stores stay ahead in the digital age, with 30 technology start-ups battling out for a place in the retailer’s technology incubator JLAB.
Each firm will deliver a five minute pitch to a panel of John Lewis directors and mentors including entrepeneur Luke Johnson and Sara Murray, who founded confused.com, at One Canada Tower’s Level 39 – an office space for financial technology start-ups launched by Canary Wharf Group last year.
The judges are expected to announce five successful firms at the beginning of next week, who will each be given £25,000 funding as well as office space at Level 39 and advice from the JLAB mentors to help come up with an idea that will help ensure John Lewis remains “on the cutting edge of change”.
One winner will be chosen in September, who will get a further £100,000 investment to help develop its project which, if successful, will be rolled out across John Lewis’ estate. Here are just three of the 30 technology firms hoping to making it onto the JLAB incubator programme:
1. No Place Like Holm
Set up by Danish-born personal stylist Cristina Holm and her management consultant husband Steve Johnson two years ago, the company has recently developed an app called My Shape Stylist which helps style female shoppers based on their body shape. By taking shoppers’ measurement online or in stores, the pair want to provide John Lewis with the technology that would the retailer to email their customers with fashion advice or clothing suggestions that is specific to their body shape.
2. Hardy & Ellis Inventions
PhD students John Hardy and Carl Ellis have come up with a new technology that can transform the surface of every day objects, such as an envelope or a fridge or a wall, into a multi-touch computer screen – similar to an iPad. The software, called UBI Displays, for example, allows households to turn lights on and off from their bed post or to turn the kettle off from the fridge. John Lewis customers could be able to shop or search for products on interactive surfaces rather than screens in stores.
The French start-up has developed technology similar to Apple’s iBeacons (called uBeacon) that allows retailers to send promotions and recommendations to shoppers based on their location in stores. They also have a separate technology called uDrive that allows retailers to drive more customers into their stores during off-peak hours but sending out special promotions to customers through Facebook or text messages, for example, that can be only be redeemed during those hours. The company is already working with the likes of Habitat and L'Occitane.