John Lewis announces five tech start ups set to disrupt retail in 2016

The five startups were whittled down from more than 280 initial applications, and successfully navigated an intensive pitch day in front of a senior judging panel.

DigitalBridge – DigitalBridge solves the problem of the imagination gap by allowing customers to visualise new home furnishings using Computer Vision and Machine Learning technology.

Ding Labs – A doorbell that taps into the smart home revolution by enabling homeowners to talk to the person at their front door from anywhere in the world

Link Big – A tool that turns Instagram to a social checkout by allowing customers to buy products seamlessly from their Instagram feed

Robotical – The creators of Marty the Robot. A fully programmable, customisable walking robot to help kids learn about coding, 3D printing and robotics.

Wedding Planner – Combining technology, industry expertise and creativity to help brides and grooms to-be plan their wedding from their phone and online.

From July 4th, finalists will spend 10 weeks embedded in John Lewis’ head office, fully immersed in the operations of one of the UK’s leading omnichannel retailers. The startups will glean valuable commercial insights, boosting development of their own products in collaboration with specialist mentors. All teams will be eligible to receive funding of up to £100,000 from John Lewis and L Marks.

Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis, said: “From programmable robotics to advanced visualisation, our finalists are locked into some of the most exciting growth areas in modern retail. John Lewis aims to be at the forefront of innovation, and JLAB is how we engage with the vibrant UK start up scene. The next twelve weeks will be a great period of development for the finalists, as they rapidly hone their products under guidance from John Lewis mentors and industry experts. I can’t wait to see what the final outcome will be.”

Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and Chairman of L Marks, said: “JLAB is a proven example of successful collaboration between large and small business. The startups will have unprecedented access to John Lewis’s retail expertise, working together to exchange ideas and create a product or service that has real commercial application. John Lewis in turn can attract the brightest retail startups and maintain a nimble approach to innovation. We’ve enjoyed strong results with JLAB so far and are confident that this will be continued with this year’s finalists.”

The finalists were selected by a 15-strong judging panel comprised of multiple John Lewis executives as well as external industry experts. Representatives of John Lewis included Paul Coby, IT Director, Johnathan Marsh, Buying Director EHT, Sarah Venning, Director IT Strategy and Planning, and Sienne Veit, Director Online Product. External judges included Bethany Koby, CEO of Tech Will Save Us, and Indira Thambiah, Director of Silly Point Consulting.