Tech startup Localz win John Lewis JLAB incubator award

John Lewis today announced Localz, a startup business specialising in micro-location technology, as the winner of JLAB, the retailer’s first ever technology business incubator. After 12 weeks of shaping and honing its solution within JLAB, Localz impressed the judging panel and takes home £100,000 in investment as well as the chance to trial its solution with John Lewis.

Innovation is at the heart of John Lewis and JLAB, our first tech incubator, has given us a new way to explore the technologies that will change how we all shop in the future. It’s been a hugely rewarding and educational experience, drawing on a diverse group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds and perspectives, and we have a very worthy winner who we’re looking forward to working with in the months ahead. I do very much believe that this is what our Founder Spedan Lewis would be doing if he was around today.

The initial entry period for JLAB saw hundreds of startups apply to take part, pitching their ideas for innovations that could shape the future of the retail experience. In May, Localz was picked as a finalist alongside four other impressive startup businesses: Musaic, SpaceDesigned, Tap2Connect and Viewsy. Over a 12-week period, the five finalists developed their ideas with the assistance of mentors from John Lewis as well as high-profile entrepreneurial figures including Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com and Buddi, and Bindi Karia, Vice President Entrepreneur banking at Silicon Valley Bank. The final pitch day on 23rd September 2014 saw Localz emerge as the overall winner.

Localz’s technology gives customers the opportunity to take advantage of some enhanced services using their smartphone based on their precise location. It’s all about choice, designed to make shopping easier for those who wish to use it.

For example, it could automatically offer to trigger a customer’s Click & Collect order to be picked as they enter the shop to speed up the collection or help customers to navigate their way around one of our shops based on their online wish list.

Stuart Marks, partner in JLAB, said: “The quality of entries was exceptionally high and picking a winner proved to be a very difficult process. I am sure all the companies will go on to become very successful but there has to be a winner and in this case we felt that Localz has the potential to become a long term partner to John Lewis and to provide continuous innovation for their customers. We were fortunate to have an exceptional mentoring team who allowed all the companies to achieve their true potential during the time they were at JLAB.”

Tim Andrew, Commercial Director and Co-Founder of Localz, said: “JLAB has been an amazing experience for Localz from start to finish. The fact that my father was a Partner with John Lewis for over 30 years gave me a very personal reason to want to be a part of it, in order to try and help the company that supported me and my family when I was growing up.  The support and guidance that John Lewis provided throughout the incubation period helped us refine our offering for the European market. They also gave us access to successful entrepreneurs and mentors from diverse backgrounds and industries which allowed us to accelerate our development.”

Localz’s plans for the £100k investment focus on its new UK operations. The company will be further developing its technology in conjunction with John Lewis to support the new generation of mobile and micro-location experiences, and preparing to launch live trials in store. To support these goals, Localz is also looking to hire new talent to work in its London-based team.

JLAB was part of John Lewis’s 150 year celebrations. For more information, visit www.jlab.co.uk.

 

The full list of external JLAB mentors is as follows:

  • Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners
  • Sara Murray OBE, founder of confused.com
  • Graham Clempson, European Managing Partner at MidOcean Partners
  • Stephanie Hussels, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Full-Time MBA Director Designate at Cranfield University
  • George Berkowski, Chairman of MIT Enterprise Forum UK
  • Bindi Karia, Vice President, Origination and Entrepreneur Commercial Banking at Silicon Valley Bank

JLAB – Latest News

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JLAB – the John Lewis Tech Incubator – closed for entries at midnight on the Thursday before Easter and we have just had a chance to look at what’s come in.

We are very excited about the amazing amount of interest in JLAB.  The number of fully completed applications was 163, with no fewer than 84 being completed in the final two days.  I feel this shows how much care, effort and research the applicants have put in, to ensure that their applications resonate with the JLAB selectors.
We are rather humbled by such interest and attention to detail.

I am pleased to say that the applications range widely, from retail theatre to health monitoring applications. They include social interaction applications and even virtual fashion assistants.

The next stage for JLAB involves reviewing each application in preparation for the first ‘Pitch Day’ which is going to take place on the 20th May.

30 successful applicants will spend the day pitching their ideas to the distinguished JLAB Panel which will include our recently announced mentors.  From there, five successful applicants will be selected to take part in the 15-week accelerator phase.

Finally, the winner of the prize will be announced in September, with the prospect of their idea being rolled out across John Lewis.

 

African Airlines Rising in Airline Strategy Awards

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Last Sunday I was privileged to announce and present the SITA-sponsored Award for Executive Leadership at the “Airline Strategy Awards” held, as always, at Lincoln’s Inn in London.  The very well deserved award went to James Hogan, the CEO of Etihad Airways, from Abu Dhabi.

I was very struck by the fact that two of these prestigious awards went to African airlines – the first time that any airline from Africa had won one of these awards.

The CEO of Ethiopian Airways, Tewolde GebreMariam, won the Regional Leadership  Award. He won because Ethiopian Airways has delivered consistent profits whilst expanding its network and fleet.

The CEO of Kenyan Airways, Titus Naikuni, won the Airline Business Award, awarded by the magazine’s Editor.  In the 10 years that Mr Naikuni has been CEO, Kenyan Airways has trebled its revenues and doubled its fleet.

This is a very interesting development and shows how quickly the world and the airline business is changing.  Parts of the African Continent are now experiencing fast growth.  The World Bank reports that the economy of Sub-Saharan African countries grew at rates that match or surpass global rates.  The rate of return on investment in Africa is currently the highest in the developing world.  During 2011, Sub-Saharan economic growth rate was 4.9%.  Excluding South Africa, which accounts for over a third of the region’s GDP, growth in the rest of region was 5.9%.

Trade has driven much of the growth in Africa’s economy. China and India are increasingly important trade partners with 12.5% of Africa’s exports being to China and 4% to India.

It is therefore not surprising to see African airlines rising, and it was good to see this recognised at the Airline Strategy Awards.

Is there another digital divide in IT in the UK?

As someone who always devours the latest edition of Wired Magazine – and as an Apple fan – I was more than delighted to see Sir Jonathan Ives on the front cover of the July edition as No.1 in the “2012 Wired 100”, who the magazine describes as the UK’s digital power-brokers.

Now, it is notoriously difficult to categorise in groups the digiratti, since yesterday’s web entrepreneur is today’s venture capitalist and/or government IT adviser.

However, whilst stuck on a long train journey I did try and categorise all 100 of the Wired power-brokers, because something struck me forcibly when I flicked through the list, and I wanted to see if it was really true.

It is, as I said, wonderful to see Sir Jonathan at No.1 – and it is appropriate that he has been recognised with a “K”.  No more needs to be said on that.

So here is my categorisation of the 100:

  • 25 venture capitalists
  • 20 web entrepreneurs
  • 9 media/journalists
  • 7 conference and exhibition organisers
  • 6 IT company leaders
  • 6 in government IT
  • 5 in advertising
  • 4 in retail
  • 4 in games
  • 3 in politics
  • 3 in charity
  • 2 authors
  • 2 inventors
  • 1 consultant
  • 1 in telecomms
  • 1 private sector CIO
  • 1 singing artist (that’s Adele).

What struck me was how different this was from the lists that appear in the CIO Magazines that are aimed at the corporate sector, and this is reasonable enough.  Yes, I know Wired  aims to be uber cool and (ahem) perhaps we CIOs and IT Directors are less so…

So my point is that there is perhaps another ‘digital divide’ in the UK, and that is runs between the web entrepreneurs and venture capitalists on one hand and the corporate CIOs and the IT companies on the other.  The more I think about this, the more it rings true.  We inhabit very different worlds – corporate IT and the web investment world.

This is something of a shame, since – in my own field, for instance – John Lewis is now 25% online company, and retail and many other industries are being revolutionised by web technology.

But, more than a shame, I think this ‘divide’ could also have a serious impact on how IT is viewed as a career and how we train young people in IT skills.

Maybe we should be breaking down the barriers between these worlds?

Crisis in Numbers Studying IT at GCSE – what’s the answer?

Analysis by e-skillsUK of GCSE results this year shows that the number of students taking all ICT courses has fallen for the seventh consecutive year to just 70,418.  And this figure is a decrease of 12.5% on last year alone.

The number of students studying ICT at GCSE has been declining dramatically year-on-year from a high of 261,970 in 2005.

This continuing decline should be of great concern to universities and employers – and to everyone interested in the future competitiveness and success of the UK.

We know that demand for skilled IT professionals continues to increase, yet we are as a society failing to inspire a generation of young people to  study technology or to take up technology careers.

Something must be done!

It is for this reason that e-skills UK announced a few weeks ago that our Behind the Screen programme will be available to all schools from September 2012.

Behind the Screen offers GCSE students IT projects to tackle with interactive online materials supported by full teachers’ notes. The projects have been developed in close consultation with a number of employers, including John Lewis, and are based on a variety of real-life business issues.

Our aim is that students learn computational thinking, develop technical skills, and gain creative, team working and entrepreneurial skills – all in a fun, interesting and interactive way.  After all, students these days are the most connected and IT-enabled generation ever.

Young people who play computer games can learn to create games.

Young people who use apps every day can design apps.

Young people who use social media to connect with their friends can use social media to connect with customers.

I am very excited by the potential of Behind the Screen – but with the rapid decline of students even considering studying IT at GCSE, we have no time to lose.

Doctor, Doctor, please help – I have too many blogs…

As a fan of all that is “social media”, I tend to try new things and to start blogs – or at least promise to start them.

In my personal (that is, non-work) life, I have this blog on WordPress plus a Twitter feed, both of which repeat onto my Facebook page.  (I also have a LinkedIn page as many of us do these days – is that work or personal, though?)

I am a great fan of the daily photo site Blipfoto and have just taken a look at Pinterest and Tumblr too, although I have not succumbed to any of those yet.

At work, when I became IT Director at John Lewis, I also started a closed weekly blog for all IT Partners in JL.  (Well, it’s nearly weekly…)

And, in recent weeks, I have started two new social media sites.  The first was in John Lewis to support the roll-out around all our shops of our new “Retail Revolution” Strategy.  We put this site together in less than a month on Googlesites, with some great help from Google. It is intended to be fun and engaging, and has – in my view – been wonderfully successful so far, with many Partners around the country logging on to get more information in the form of the presentations and videos that support the Strategy.  They have also become involved in discussion threads.  We have had votes on which question to “Ask Directors” where several of my colleagues and myself have gone online interactively to answer questions.  We have also held a vote on which IT investments Partners would like to see made in the next year.

The other site, which went live today – and made me think about this topic – is another closed site: it is a Portal for the SITA Council.  This is built around WordPress and is the forum for members of the SITA Council who represent over 30 airlines from around the World.  This site has the ability to privately circulate papers and briefings as well as to start discussion topics.

Social media in both of these examples has the ability to link together dispersed business communities – in SITA’s case globally dispersed – more effectively than conventional emails, circulation of papers and relatively infrequent meetings.

Now, I don’t claim any originality for any of the above.  There are lots of examples like this that you will be aware of.  However, what has struck me is the number of different social media interactions I now have – now not just in the personal space like Facebook and Twitter, but now in the business space as well.

Technology is breaking down barriers both of geography and time: we are indeed connected any time and anywhere.  It is also breaking down the barriers between personal and work in terms of interaction.  But how many social media entries can you – and should you – make?

What’s Wrong with the UK IT Industry and What we should be doing about it? – Speech to the Chemistry Club

This is the text of a speech I gave last month to the Chemistry Club in London:

I am delighted – and not a little surprised – to be here.  When I received an invitation to speak, I thought it definitely was a mistake! Just look at the list of Ministers, Politicians and CEOs who have come to speak to the Chemistry Club over the years.

So, it’s nice to be invited as someone who practices IT and knows about Technology.  I must confess, however, that I don’t actually know very much about Technology as Technology.  I wouldn’t, for example, recommend anyone to ask me how to code in Java or C++, or to run a test script…

The reason – I imagine – for my being here is that I have experience in running technology in business and as a business:

I was CIO of British Airways for 10 years from 2000 and I am now having a great time as IT Director of John Lewis – a company you all know, and one you all probably know is, uniquely for our size, co-owned by our employee Partners.

I have also been Chairman of SITA – the Societé Internationale de Télécommunications Aeronautique – which is owned by its customers the world’s airlines. I am also privileged to be Chair of the National IT Skills Academy, part of e-skillsUK – of which more later.

I have been asked to talk about my experiences as CIO of BA and IT Director of John Lewis, and to compare and contrast the Travel Industry and Retail.

Well, I am going to take a leaf out of the book of some of the politicians who normally address you at these events and not entirely answer the question I have been asked.

What’s wrong with the UK IT Industry?

What I want to talk about this evening is “what is wrong with the UK IT industry” and – more interestingly – what we should be doing about it.

I understand that this evening’s audience is made up of one-third CIOs and IT Directors from the private sector and one-third from the public sector, and the rest from the IT vendor and consultancy sectors.

Actually, on the face of it, there’s not much wrong with the UK IT Industry – at least if you look at the numbers from one angle.  So the IT and Telecomms industry produced annual Gross Value Added of £81billion or 9% of the UK economy.  It delivers the highest output and productivity growth of all sectors of UK industry – past present and future.  One in 20 of the UK’s working population is employed in the IT and Telecomm sector.

So can we assume we are doing very nicely and there is nothing to worry about?

Absolutely not!  I am concerned that the UK IT industry COULD (and I stress COULD if we don’t act) go the way of other great British industries, either disappear – like Shipbuilding or Motorcycles or becoming an adjunct of Global players with the HQ and product development overseas.

Three malaises in the UK attitude to IT – “3 Dragons to slay”

However if you look closely I see three malaises in the UK’s attitude and support to IT, which we, as the leaders of the UK IT, should address – “3 Dragons to slay”.

Dragon Number 1 is that IT does NOT REALLY MATTER in this country. It does not usually have a seat at the top table and – worse than that – people react defensively or even worse see it as a bit of a joke.

Dragon Number 2 is that IT in schools, universities and colleges of EDUCTION IS NOT DELIVERING the numbers or types of skilled apprentices and graduates we need to sustain the position IT now holds in the Economy.

Dragon Number 3 is that we do NOT WORK TOGETHER EFFECTIVELY as we could as a Technology Sector to raise the importance of IT for the future of our British Economy and Society.

 To be continued…

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