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John Lewis invests in retail tech startups

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John Lewis is investing in retail tech startups working in areas from machine learning to social media following the completion of its latest JLAB accelerator programme.

The retailer, an Elite trader in IRUK Top500 research, and its innovation partner L Marks will together put £100,000 into DigitalBridge, a technology company that uses computer vision and machine learning technology to enable customers to see how new home furnishings will look within their homes.

Wedding Planner, which enables couples to plan their wedding over their phones and online, and Link Big, whose technology turns Instagram into a social checkout, enabling customers to buy products seamlessly from their Instagram feed shop, both receive £50,000.

The John Lewis Buying teams will continue working with the two other startups on JLAB 2016, Ding Labs and Robotical, with a view of helping to bring their products to market.

The five startups were part of JLAB 2016, a ten week programme working within John Lewis operations to put their technology to practical use.

Paul Coby, CIO, John Lewis Partnership, said: “JLAB was inspired by our founder Spedan Lewis’ ideas about bringing innovation to the retail industry. The three startups we have invested in have the potential and the technology to really excite John Lewis shoppers. We are delighted to continue working with every one of the startups on JLAB 2016. This has been JLAB’s most successful year so far, because everyone involved, us included, have seen it as an opportunity to learning process.”

Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and chairman of L Marks, John Lewis’ partner on JLAB, said: “JLAB 2016 has built on the successes of the two previous cohorts. The five finalists have all made fantastic progress over the last 10 weeks, helped by engagement from buyers, merchandisers, strategists, innovation and IT experts and many more at John Lewis and our team of first class external mentors. We’ve seen some great results with JLAB 2016 so far and I am looking forward to seeing this continue in the future.”

The key focus for JLAB 2016 was on the value that start-ups get when working on the programme – a total immersion into John Lewis’ entire business as well as access to insight and data to senior-level mentors. In addition to three JLAB startups securing funding, all five on the accelerator programme developed their business more rapidly than they would have done by operating on their own.

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