UK Retailers, John Lewis, today announced it is hunting for the 10 best retail tech startups in the UK and Europe with the launch of JLAB 2015. JLAB, the 12-week accelerator program run by John Lewis, is designed to bring innovators together with a large retailer so that products and services can be developed that will shape the retail experience of the future. The company went on to win a place in Start Tank, an incubator set up by payment system companies Paypal and Braintree.
Localz,the first cohort of Start Tank companies, expand the operation to the UK arose when the company heard about the John Lewis Jlab incubator program. “They were looking for technology startups that could help them to innovate,” says Product Director, Matijn Vebree.
Having won a place on the program, Localz set about developing a system that would allow John Lewis to identify “click and collect” customers as they came in range of collection points. Once located customers armed with John Lewis apps on their cellphones could be notified and a collection enabled using electronically committed customer codes.
The John Lewis project aligned neatly with the company’s strategy of carrying out work on behalf of corporate clients and in addition to the British retailer, Localz has also worked on projects for Woolworths and Homepass in Australia.
When Localz’s tenure at Jlab came to an end, the company’s London operation – at that point without an office – successfully applied to join the Start Tank incubator. It was, as Verbree explains, a move that triggered a reassessment of the the business plan. “Start Tank helped us to bring a bit of method to out madness,” he says. “In particular it has helped us make a clear distinction between our core platform and the 12 while label solutions that we currently offer to clients.”
With Start Tank now completed, Localz is looking for new opportunities in the UK and is also considering setting up a base in the US. It’s tempting to see that Localz is thinking locally and acting globally. To date the company has supported itself not only by raising seed capital but also by carrying out paid work for large clients and thanks to its involvement in two incubator program it has begun to build traction outside its Australian base.
Verbree adds that is also important to assess incubators in terms of the broader support available. “For instance, at Start Tank they did put a lot of emphasis on ‘us’ and what we needed,” he says. “So if we needed advice on, say, marketing and PR we could get that.”
Start Tank also encouraged Localz to add new components to its offering. Verbree cites the example of an application developed to market cheese in a display areas. As facilitated by micro-location , each cheese had its own beacon and customers could use their smart phones to download information. “The people at Start Tank encouraged us to add a payment and purchase button to allow customers to buy as well as access information,” says Verbree.