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

Latest News on JLAB

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As you can see, I was recently privileged to meet Mr and Mrs John Spedan Lewis at the Party on the new Roof Garden at our Oxford Street emporium, to mark the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis drapers.

Yesterday we were delighted to announce out of the hundreds of entries, the 30 successful JLAB applicants that will be joining us in Canary Wharf to Pitch their ideas.

Each applicant is going to have 5 minutes to impress the panel followed by a Q&A session in the afternoon.

The 30 applicants range from Fashion ideas dreamt up at home to ibeacon enabled storefronts and IoT enabled projection mapping, and much else besides.  We are very pleased with the range of ideas and development of the pitching companies.

The Pitch Day 1 is the 20th May.  This will be a face to face session with some of our most important and inspiring mentors.  It will immerse the applicants in to the JLAB environment for the first time.

The next time we see an applicant after this day will be on the 9th June, which is the start of the 15 week accelerator phase.

Last Friday was the 150th Anniversary of the opening of the first John Lewis in Oxford Street.

About 100 years ago John Spedan Lewis had the first ideas about industrial democracy that he evolved into the unique John Lewis Partnership

50 years ago (or 51 to be exact) John Lewis purchased its first IBM computer.  This was a very bold and expensive step for a retailer in the early 60s!

Here we are in 2014, looking at our first Technology Incubator.  I feel very confident that this is exactly the sort of initiative that Spedan Lewis would approve of.  One that will hopefully help turn 5 start ups into viable and commercial companies; one that will transform the winning company; and last but certainly no means least, one that will improve service to our customers and grow revenues and profit for the John Lewis Partnership.

I should have asked him what he thought when I had the chance…

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.

 

John Lewis is 150 Years Old!

The John Lewis company is 150 years old this year.

Born in 1836, John Lewis grew up in Shepton Mallet and was apprenticed to a linen draper in Wells at the age of 14. He came to London and became a salesman for Peter Robinson, a well-known Oxford Street draper.

In 1864 John Lewis turned down the offer of becoming a partner in Robinsons and instead opened his own new shop at 132 Oxford Street, selling silk, wool and haberdashery.  On the first day he took 16s 4d!

By all accounts, he was an austere Victorian business who expected a lot from himself and his employees. But while most drapers of the time worked to a 33% profit on sale price, Lewis chose to make a profit of just 25% on his selling prices and insisted that his customers benefit from the good purchase price negotiated by his buyers.

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Lewis’s son, John Spedan Lewis, was born in 1885 and joined the family firm on his 21st birthday in 1906.  He received from his father a quarter of the John Lewis business, valued at £50,000 – a tidy sum in the Edwardian era.   Spedan Lewis became a director of Peter Jones Limited which had been acquired.  Along with his father and brother, Spedan enjoyed an income of £26,000 a year – again, a huge amount in those days.  He became increasingly uncomfortable that this income was considerably more than the entire wage bill for the company’s workforce of over 300 people, which was only £16,000.

After a riding accident in 1909, Spedan had to convalesce for two years and during that time thought deeply about business and society.  In January 1914 John Lewis senior handed over managerial control of Peter Jones to Spedan, who shortened the working day by an hour and started to pool commission for staff.  He also introduced frank two-way communication with his workforce, with staff committees with elected representatives.

Over the next four decades he developed his unique form of industrial democracy that was and is the John Lewis Partnership – the largest example of employee-owned business in the UK. The Partnership now has a turnover of £10bn and some 91,000 Partners across John Lewis (with 41 shops, since York opened last week) and Waitrose (with 300 branches).

Spedan summed up his philosophy as:

“The Partnership’s supreme purpose is to secure the fairest possible sharing by all its members of the advantages of ownership – gain, knowledge and power; that is to say their happiness in the broadest sense of that word, so far as happiness depends upon gainful occupation.”

I always say that if you want a stretching business goal, that is one – and one we strive to live up to in the Partnership, with our democratic Partner Voice and our restless innovation like JLAB.

“What would Spedan do?” is a good challenge about any initiative.

I think Spedan’s values are as valid and challenging today as they were in 1914 or 1954.  What we are constantly working to do is to make them relevant to a modern world being revolutionised by technology.  The way we all shop has changed dramatically in the last decade and will, I believe, change even more dramatically in the next.

But the values of the Partnership endure and are what customers value in the Partnership. They are as relevant in 2014 as they were when Spedan formulated them after his accident, which is why I love this ad from 2012:

What’s Important Doesn’t Change

Never Knowingly Undersold since 1925

In Store | Online | Mobile

 

Customer Trends for 2014-15

This post isn’t all about JLAB but I am pleased to say that the interest continues at a high level in the media and from potential entrants.

With JLAB in mind, I’ve been thinking about the prominence of technology and innovation as the engine of changing times for retail in the UK.    At the Retail Week Awards last Thursday, for instance, Chris Brook-Carter of Retail Week  said in his introductory speech:

‘Have the rules that define British retailing changed irrevocably under the cultural and economic forces that have driven the recent evolution of consumer behaviour?   Rapid digitalisation, combined with a reappraisal of financial norms, has broken down old barriers but opened new pitfalls too.   The Oracle Retail Week Awards is more than a roll call of the leading achievements in the industry. It is a window into the industry’s development. Those looking for themes this year will note how closely the roster of winners reflects the opportunities these changing times have given birth to.’

John Lewis was fortunate to be recognised as the Multi-Channel Retailer of the Year for the second year running.

Rather than reflect on the past, I thought we should look ahead.  So I had a word with John Vary, our Innovation Manager and JLAB leader, about what are the Mega Trends for Customers in 2014-15.  This is what he came up with, with a few thoughts thrown in by me:

1) Multiple touch points

We are increasingly expecting things which interact with all our senses, offer us a range of touch points to play with, and involve us  in immersive new experiences – see larger HD TVs and game consoles.

2) Hyper-efficiency

We are seeking ever-smarter and more efficient ways to solve age-old issues such as keeping fit, lack of space and, most of all, limited time – see wearables and home control technology like Nest.

3) The open industrial revolution

Science is no longer a closed world, just for us geeks. Digital and technological advances are enabling more of us to create in new ways, perhaps giving us a new appreciation of the digital hardware and apps as things of beauty – see the iPods, iPhones, iPads, brilliantly designed and sold to millions.

4) Escape

In a world of austerity and grown-up responsibilities, consumers have an increasing desire to let go, let loose and indulge in child-like escapism – see GTA and Candy Crush on everyone’s mobile.

5) Mindfulness

In a world full of hype and surface interactions, people are seeking depth and meaning. They are craving time away from the always-on stimulus of the media, making their leisure time more about self-development – see learned groups on Twitter discussing The War of 1812, Norfolk wildlife, crows and everything else…..

6) Super personalisation

Personalisation has been taken out of the hands of consumers. So it’s not just the bespoke products you select – it can be the bespoke products that find you. Advances in technology mean that producers are increasingly able to know consumers and give them what they want – see most retail web sites these days.

And finally, here is a rather jolly picture from the Retail Week Awards last week:
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JLAB’s First Week

Since we launched our retail tech innovation incubator – JLAB less than a week ago, its been a sensational week.  We have had a staggering 78 full submitted applications so far!  The closing date is 17th April so there is still plenty of time.

The media interest was more than we had expected – here’s one example http://www.express.co.uk/finance/city/462623/John-Lewis-set-to-invest-in-start-ups-in-search-of-high-tech-shopping-solutions

and there were a host of other stories in the nationals and  in the specialist online and retail media.

I am sure the visibility of John Lewis in the media with our results and the 15% bonus for all 91,000 Partners in John Lewis and Waitrose has helped JLAB get off the ground.  It was the week that John Lewis overtook Marks and Spencers, the Guardian reported:

A decade ago, sales at John Lewis Partnership were just £5bn, while M&S was in a different league with around £8bn. Those lines have now crossed. The most recent figures available show M&S’s UK business turning over £8.9bn last year, compared to the £9bn John Lewis and Waitrose achieved this year. M&S is not expected to eclipse John Lewis when it publishes more up-to-date figures in May.

I was wondering what our founder John Spedan Lewis would have thought of all of this.  In relation to last year’s results, I am sure he would have counselled caution modesty and concentration on what our customers want.

Spedan was himself a radical innovator in business, social, retail and zoological matters.  His greatest innovation is of course the John Lewis Partnership owned by all of us who work here.  But perhaps less well known are his restless desire to try the new – buying carpets direct in India, starting a university for Partners after the War, setting up a chocolate factory, sponsoring the British Chess Federation when it needed a home in Oxford Street, setting up maternity leave, worrying about affordable accommodation for Partners and cheering up gibbons from London Zoo on his estate on the River Test.

I also hope he would have liked JLAB, it feels like the sort of thing he would have liked.  Something that builds business, helps people develop their skills and capabilities and with a bit of luck and hard work, makes money.

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.

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