John Lewis has pinpointed the Internet of Things as one of the major areas to be targeted as part of its technology incubator scheme JLabs.
As the application period for the John Lewis JLab scheme draws to a close, The Drum caught up with the retailer's IT director and project lead Paul Coby and entrepreneur Stewart Marks to discuss the response to the scheme and how it might evolve in the future.
“It might be quite dull to do exactly the same thing,” said Coby when asked whether the incubator might become an annual process. “We need to make sure it is a success first and then we’ll build on it. This is only going in one direction.”
He added that this is particularly true given ‘The Internet of Things’ is one of the areas to be targeted with the incubator
“Loads of things that we sell are connected and have that technology inside them. In the next year, a lot of the high-end white goods will have technology inside them. So this is only going one way.”
Marks added that the retailer’s strategy and innovative outlook means that it will always be developing new ways to work with tech companies.
“As long as John Lewis has an appetite to be the leader, it will always find ways to set challenges to the tech community to encourage them to work for us,” he said.
Commenting on the response to the JLab scheme, Coby was unable to offer specifics on the ideas he had seen, but said: “We’ve been very pleased with the responses so far and have been getting fantastic ideas.”
With the likes of Confused.com founder Sara Murray and Risk Capital Partners chairman Luke Johnson joining the panel of advisors, Marks added that it is a key opportunity for tech businesses to not only get a foot in the door with a leading retailer, but to also build their knowledge of how to work with larger organisations,
“All [companies] will be in a position where John Lewis might want to buy from them. It will be like a makeover. They will come in little bit lean in certain areas but will leave having had an all-round business education and come away with a larger understanding of working with larger organisations.”
Following the close of the application period this week, 17 April, there will be a mentoring day on 20 May when 20 or so companies will be invited to London to meet the mentoring teams.
Five companies will be then be selected to enter the incubator on 9 June.