Waitrose Joins Forces With John Lewis To Create The UK’s Largest Retail Tech Accelerator

The John Lewis Partnership yesterday opened the call for applications for JLAB 2017, its global start-up accelerator programme, run in association with innovation specialists L Marks.

Now in its fourth year, this year’s JLAB sees its Waitrose joining the programme, creating the UK’s largest retail tech accelerator and “widening the growth opportunities for companies with disruptive retail tech ideas.”

The programme was set up in 2014 to help tech start-ups fast track their growth by giving them access to John Lewis’s resources and industry insight, as well as the opportunity to apply for funding in exchange for equity. The John Lewis Partnership says the programme enables it to tap into emerging innovation in retail which will benefit their customers and “forge long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with some of the world’s most exciting young tech companies.”

The group said that this year five to ten successful applicants will have the opportunity to immerse themselves across both the John Lewis and Waitrose businesses. Throughout the twelve-week programme, which commences in July, they will receive support from senior level mentors and free workspace in John Lewis’s head office in Victoria and Waitrose’s head office in Bracknell.

Participating companies will also have access to industry knowledge and expertise from across the John Lewis Partnership, as well as specialist insight on the Partnership’s combined range of over 400,000 of fashion, home, food and technology products and services.

Start-ups participating in JLAB will have access to capital from the dedicated microfund provided by the John Lewis Partnership and L Marks. Each team will be eligible to apply for funding of up to £100,000 from the total pot of £200,000, in exchange for equity in their company.

Paul Coby, Chief Information Officer John Lewis Partnership, said: “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 disruptors to offer the next generation of customer experiences. 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.”