John Lewis deepens start-up links with retail accelerator TrueStart

John Lewis is broadening its search for start-ups, partnering retail accelerator TrueStart.

John Lewis start-ups: Photospire founders Dave and Ger O'Meara
John Lewis start-ups: Photospire founders Dave and Ger O'Meara

The British retailer already runs its own annual in-house accelerator, JLab, which seeks start-ups to solve specific business challenges.

But TrueStart will give John Lewis early access to ideas and technology, rather than try and solve specific issues. The partnership will give John Lewis early access to the specialist accelerator’s cohort of start-ups, which change every six months.

It is not clear what the financial terms of the deal are. And unlike JLab, there is no guarantee that John Lewis will partner or invest in TrueStart’s start-ups in any formal way.

But the brand is already talking to one TrueStart alumnus, marketing start-up Photospire. The service creates personalised video, with John Lewis considering a partnership to create product recommendation videos targeted at individual customers.

The partnership is overseen by Tom Athron, group development director at John Lewis.

He said: "The John Lewis Partnership began life as a brave entrepreneurial experiment.

"By collaborating with TrueStart we will be supporting the future growth of our company by partnering with like-minded entrepreneurs and fast tracking their ideas. I firmly believe that all businesses focused on growth in a rapidly changing world will need a few eureka moments to thrive."

What does this mean for JLAB?

Campaign understands that while John Lewis hasn't taken a call on whether to run JLAB in 2017, the TrueStart partnership will have no impact on the accelerator.

One reason is that TrueStart has partnered with John Lewis Partnership, which includes Waitrose. JLAB only applies to John Lewis the department store.

According to a TrueStart statement, the partnership will "complement" rather than replace the JLAB accelerator, which is now in its third year.

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