John Lewis gives boost to female entrepreneurs in JLAB's class of 2017

WeFiFo: connects supper club hosts with hungry diners
WeFiFo: connects supper club hosts with hungry diners

The John Lewis Partnership has revealed the latest set of start-ups to take part in its retail accelerator JLAB, now in its fourth year.

For the first time, both of the company’s retail brands, John Lewis and Waitrose, are taking part in the scheme, which is run with innovation partner L Marks.

As a result, the businesses chosen are innovators in areas around food, as well as delivery, retail experience and data analytics.

They include WeFiFo (see image), an online platform that connects people wanting to host supper clubs or group dinners with diners. It was founded by Seni Glaister - one of three women among the five founders, along with Mucho's Juliana Zarate Davila and Bea Warner of Exaactly.

John Vary, innovation manager at John Lewis Partnership, said: "This programme isn’t a side-project. We see it as an essential way to expose our wider business to emerging technologies and a start-up mindset."

Three of the five start-ups were founded by women. The winners, which were chosen from more than 300 applications, will spend 12 weeks working from the head offices of both Waitrose and John Lewis, after which they will have the chance to pitch for up to £100,000 in funding in exchange for equity, from a combined fund of £200,000.

The other four winning start-ups are:

  • Mucho: a grocery shopping app that provides personalised recipes and facilitates easier ordering;

  • Exaactly: an addressing system that lets users mark any location for delivery and include various types of information in an email-style shorthand address;

  • BB1: a data analytics system that uses customer behaviour, such as footfall, to help  businesses optimise their ways of working;

  • Journifi: a system to connect online and in-store shopping by providing customers with personalised in-store experiences based on their online behaviour.

Vary added: "The 2017 finalists reflect the fact that Waitrose has for the first time joined the programme. Naturally, this has led to an increase in food experience start-ups, and what’s really exciting is the service-led approach that the likes of WiFiFo and Mucho offer. This is also characterised by Journifi and reflects our focus to make in-store experiences even more inspiring and individual for our customers.

"Exaactly and BB1 are part of our 'smarter supply chain' category, where we work with startups to find innovative ideas, or solutions to disrupt traditional supply chain practices, from last mile deliveries and farm-to-fork traceability to smart product IDs and Internet of Things."

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