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John Lewis Announces JLAB 2016 Finalists

Tim Maytom

Robotical2Now in its third year, John Lewis' JLAB has become a template for brand-run accelerators, providing innovative new startups with guidance and funding, while the host firm gains access to cutting-edge ideas and technology that can help empower its brand in the future.

The 2016 program saw 280 initial applications, but the number has finally been whittled down to five companies who will take part in the 12 week programme, leading up to a pitch competition that will see a winner chosen in a vote by John Lewis partners and rewarded with six months' free office space. All five companies will also be able to apply for up to £100,000 in funding from a £200,000 pot, in return for equity in their firms.

The five retail tech startups chosen for the program are:


  • Robotical – the creators of Marty the Robot, a fully programmable, customisable walking robot that aims to help kids learn about coding, robotics and 3D printing

  • Ding Labs – a doorbell that taps into the smart home revolution, enabling homeowners to communicate with the person at their front door from anywhere in the world

  • Link Big – a tool that transforms Instagram into a social checkout, enabling users to buy products seamlessly from their Instagram feed

  • DigitalBridge – combining computer vision and machine learning technology to solve the problem of the 'imagination gap' and enable customers to visualise new home furnishings within their houses

  • Wedding Planner – aimed at brides and grooms to-be, this mobile-first solution combines technology, creativity and industry expertise to help couples plan their wedding online


The five finalist teams will spend 10 weeks embedded in John Lewis' head office, fully immersed in the operations of one of the UK's leading retailers, and will have access to valuable commercial insights from specialist mentors. The program aims to boost the development of products while keeping a firm eye on cutting-edge retail applications for technology.

"From programmable robotics to advance visualisation, our finalists are locked into some the most exciting growth areas in modern retail," said Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis. "John Lewis aims to be at the forefront of innovation, and JLAB is how we engage with the vibrant UK startup scene.

"The next 12 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."

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