Solar powered iPhone, a connected home app and a teen run coffee shop make the final for John Lewis start-up fund

John Lewis has announced the five finalists to enter its annual start-up incubator programme JLab, with a connected home app, a solar powered iPhone cover, and a next generation coffee shop among those to take one step closer to a £100,000 investment.

The Drum last week revealed the 21 start-ups, picked from 180 who submitted applications, invited to pitch their idea to a judging panel which included the retailer’s innovation manager, John Vary and entrepreneur Stuart Marks as well as founder Sara Murray, and chief technology officer at TH_NK Julian Burnett.

The five favourites will now be given initial funding and office space within John Lewis’ head office in London for 12 weeks and access to a full panel of mentors. A second pitch day in September will crown the final winner of the six-figure fund.

Paul Coby, IT director at John Lewis, said the chosen start-ups have shown huge potential to bring something new to the retailer.

“I am looking forward greatly to working with each of the finalists over the summer to help them move their ideas closer to reality, and to share the values of the John Lewis Partnership with them,” he added.


Qudini, run by entrepreneurs Imogen Wethered and Fraser Hardy, is a digital queue management solution that tells customers how long they have to wait for a shop assistant and then sends a text when one is available.

It promises to help retailers improve customer satisfaction and prevent them walking out, encouraging shoppers to browse by giving them a more accurate prediction about when they’ll be served.


Peeple is best described as caller ID for your door. It’s a camera device that replaces the traditional peephole and lets you see who’s arrived at your front door on your phone, allowing you to track deliveries or improve your home security.


Fitting in with the connected home trend, Alfred – named after Batman’s butler – is an app that allows consumers to control all of their smart home devices through a phone, tablet or laptop. As well as giving you one central place to control your devices, the app monitors usage and helps consumers manage consumption and bills.

Space Lounges

Space Lounges, run by teenagers Alex Waterhouse, George Streten and James Anderson, is pitted as the next generation of coffee shops and cafes. It is centered on an app that allows the user to purchase any item in a physical location in one tap on their smartphone.


Ikinen, by Helios Solarcover, is an Italian-designed solar-powered cover for iPhone users unsatisfied with their battery life. The team have developed wearable chargers in the past and want to harness their technology to develop something new as part of JLab.

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