Business development · 11 April 2016

John Lewis corporate accelerator returns for a third year – and it’s in good company

Corporate-backed projects offer small firms access to larger players’ global supply chains

Retail giant John Lewis has launched its third annual hunt for promising young retail technology companies – with investment, mentoring and free office space on offer for successful applicants.

The JLAB accelerator is recruiting companies across four categories: health & wellbeing, simplify my life, effortless shopping and tech for kids.

“Under mentorship from John Lewis, JLAB startups will have a unique opportunity to hone their ideas and create a product which has a genuinely positive impact on our customers,” said John Lewis IT director Paul Coby.

“We’ve seen from previous years the value of combining an agile startup mentality with John Lewis’ extensive industry knowledge, and I’m personally looking forward to working with the 2016 applicants,” he added.

The retailer is one of a swathe of big corporates which have recently rushed to put cash, expertise or office space up for grabs for promising young UK firms. Over ten per cent of UK accelerators are now backed by large corporations.

Microsoft was one of the first off the mark, launching a 12-week programme for startups innovating with cloud, web and mobile technology in 2013. Education company Pobble – which raised £900,000 of investment in March 2016 – is a poster-child for the success of graduates of the programme.

Spanish telecoms firm Telefónica brought its Wayra accelerator programme to London after the success of the scheme in Latin America and Madrid. Some 130 young companies have since received investment through the scheme.

In addition to the expertise and financial help provided by other accelerators, the swelling ranks of big business-backed projects offer small firms access to larger players’ global supply chains.

Telefónica’s offering to potential applicants includes the possibility of accessing its 300m global customers, while Diageo-backed Distill Ventures boasts a network of 25,000 drink experts – including importers and distributors – keen to work with startup owners who successfully join its programme.

Location technology firm Localz highlights the possibilities that winning offers to successful applicants. Owners of the John Lewis-backed startup were given the opportunity to trial their technology at the retailer’s Peter Jones store in London after being crowned winner of the inaugural competition in 2014 – and have since gone on to work with Domino’s pizza and Jaguar Land Rover.

Trying to decide between the various funding options out there to support your growing business? Don’t miss this guide.

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

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