John Lewis thinks these five companies are the future of retail

All-seeing doorbells and educational robots are among the cohorts in the partnership's latest accelerator programme.

by Rebecca Smith
Last Updated: 20 Aug 2020
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John Lewis has whipped out its crystal ball to give us all some insight into what innovations and which businesses might be making waves in the future. Five tech start-ups have been chosen from over 280 applications for its accelerator programme JLAB. They’ll spend the next twelve weeks developing the products under guidance from John Lewis mentors and industry experts.

More intriguingly it also gives us a glance at what the retailer is keeping tabs on - areas it thinks have big potential. Of the chosen ones, most are focused on making the life of the customer easier, with smart home technology, robotics and monetising social media all featuring among the finalists.

The five start-ups picked:

Wedding Planner – One for the Bridezillas of the future, this is an online resource for brides-to-be in the planning stages of their wedding, including a budget tracker, checklist and guest list tracker. The site also includes a compilation of over 1,000 registered suppliers from everything spanning caterers to stationery with their availability and prices.

DigitalBridge – Those umming and ahhing over which shade of cream to paint their living room might be interested in Manchester-based company DigitalBridge. Its technology for home decor retailers will allow customers to visualise a home makeover. It claims to solve the problem of the ‘imagination gap’ through machine learning and computer vision. You take a picture and then using the platform can change the wallpaper, flooring and add different furnishings. 

A preview of how DigitalBridge works

Ding Labs – Aiming to help progress smart home popularity, Ding Labs has created a doorbell with built-in camera and mic, enabling homeowners to talk to the person standing at their front door, from anywhere in the world. PwC predicts the smart home market will reach $150bn by 2020 as more and more people adopt wireless home broadband and smartphones. To really appeal to consumers however, a smart home company will need to be offering something they actually see a purpose for; that solves a problem, rather than being another novelty item. Whether consumers can be convinced this meets that criteria remains to be seen. 

Link Big – Making Instagram a dangerous place to be for shopaholics, it provides a tool which turns the social media platform into a social checkout, allowing customers to buy products they see on their Instagram feed, clicking through to the listing on an online shop. Brands on the platform use the tool to enable them to sell products directly from their profile – instead of the current layout where they can only have one in the bio which tends to be the brand's homepage. 

Robotical – Turn away now robot-phobes, for this business creating a fully programmable, customisable walking robot called Marty. It’s an educational one to help kids learn about coding, robotics and 3D printing and can be programmed to walk, turn, dance and kick a ball, all while being controlled from a phone. The founder, university of Edinburgh PhD student Alex Enoch, has been fundraising on Indiegogo where offering £75 upwards allowed backers a Marty the robot kit to build one themselves. The robotics revolution is starting early. 

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