Press releases

John Lewis reveals expert mentors for JLAB technology incubator

Monday 14 April 2014

John Lewis today announces the panel of external mentors who will advise and judge entrants to JLAB, the retailer's first ever technology incubator. The team of external mentors headed up by technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks* are a highly successful and experienced mix of technology entrepreneurs and investors, including Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, and Sara Murray OBE, founder of and Buddi.

The full list of JLAB mentors, including John Lewis leaders, is as follows:

  • Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners
  • Sara Murray OBE, founder of and Buddi
  • Graham Clempson, Managing Partner of Quartic Capital
  • Dr. Stephanie Hussels, Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Cranfield University
  • George Berkowski, Entrepreneur, author of 'How to Build a Billion Dollar App' and former Head of Product at HAILO
  • Bindi Karia, Vice President Entrepreneur banking at Silicon Valley Bank
  • Shaa Wasmund, Technology Entrepreneur and Founder of Smarta
  • Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis
  • Andrew Murphy, Retail Director at John Lewis
  • Simon Russell, Director, Retail Operations at John Lewis
  • Peter Cross, Communications Director at John Lewis
  • Craig Inglis, Marketing Director at John Lewis.


The panel of mentors will provide business advice and encouragement to the companies who make it to the 12-week final stage of JLAB - a partnership between John Lewis and Stuart Marks which aims to identify and develop technology innovations that will shape the shopping experience of the future. The mentors' knowledge and skills will be matched to participating companies so they can provide the most effective and relevant guidance based on their own experiences. The panel will also be joined by a team of John Lewis leaders who will provide further expertise, listed below.

Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis, said: 'The mentors represent some of the UK's finest entrepreneurial minds, and we're delighted to welcome them to JLAB. Working alongside John Lewis, they'll advise each JLAB finalist during the development process helping to tune them to the needs of retailers and providing invaluable insight into making their ideas a success.'

Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur, said: 'I believe a fundamental part of JLAB's success will be down to the quality of mentoring that the companies receive, both from this external team and the John Lewis mentors. Being able to assemble this hugely talented and diverse group of entrepreneurs, is what will make JLAB unique.'

Further information on each external mentor can be found below. JLAB - part of John Lewis's 150 year celebrations - remains open to entries until Thursday 17 April. For more information or to apply, please visit

Luke Johnson
Luke Johnson is Chairman of Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm he co-founded in 2001. For six years until 2010 he served as Chairman of Channel 4 Television, and he became chairman of Career Colleges in 2013. He is chairman of StartUp Britain, and created a new think tank in 2013 called The Centre for Entrepreneurs.  He also writes a weekly column for the FT and chairs an educational theatre charity called Stage One.

Sara Murray OBE
Sara Murray is the founder of the financial comparison site She has since gone on to create Buddi, a personal monitoring device. After university Sara worked in management consultancy in the US, where she claimed she became very good at spreadsheets. She also suggested writing software which would effectively do most of her job. Meeting some resistance she set out on her own and founded her own marketing consultancy. She then created a website during the original dotcom boom called which aggregated and compared insurance quotes. Sara is also a member of the government's Technology Strategy Board backing UK innovation.

Graham Clempson
Graham has over 30 years of experience in the Private Equity and Credit Markets, from the development of the European Leveraged Finance and High Yield Markets and as a principal in many of the largest complex secondary private equity transactions over the past decade. In partnership with Coller Capital, Graham is Chairman of three private equity funds in the UK, US and France and serves as an Advisory Board member to MidOcean Partners (US) and Pearl Diver Capital (UK). Prior to founding Quartic Capital, Graham was co-founder and European Managing Partner of MidOcean Partners, DB Capital Partners and CEO of Morgan Grenfell Private Equity, following roles as co-head of European Investment Banking at Deutsche Bank and Bankers Trust Company. Graham is Chairman of Pilotlight (, a business mentoring charity in the UK.

Dr Stephanie Hussels
Dr Stephanie Hussels is a Senior Lecturer in Entrepreneurship at Cranfield University. Her current research focuses on venture strategy and planning, entrepreneurial resilience, and on business survival. She runs the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital modules on the full-time and executive Cranfield MBA, which combines theory and practice through case studies and the development of business ideas. Stephanie is Director of the Cranfield Business Growth Club and has also been an invited member of the judging panel for the National Business Awards, the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and the Case Centre Awards.

George Berkowski
George Berkowski is an entrepreneur and author of a new book called 'How to Build a Billion Dollar App' and former Head of Product at HAILO – the Taxi app that operates in 15 cities around the world. His firsts startup – a video dating service called WooMe – was acquired by one of the biggest dating websites in the world – Zoosk. He was the Chairman of MIT Enterprise Forum UK – an organisation that produces programs to fuel ideas and innovation worldwide. The UK branch is 1 of 24 members of a global network covering the United States, Canada, Taiwan, Israel, Japan and the United Kingdom.

Bindi Karia
Bindi currently leads Silicon Valley Bank's early stage efforts as Vice President, Origination and Entrepreneur Commercial Banking. She has devoted much of her career in and around the startup ecosystem, most recently as the Venture Capital/Emerging Business lead at Microsoft UK where for five years, Bindi led BizSpark in the UK. In 2013, Bindi was named by The Guardian as one of the ten women in Tech you need to meet and Tech City News named her as one of the 25 faces behind the success of Europe's fastest growing Tech Cluster.

Shaa Wasmund
Shaa is the author of Stop Talking and Start Doing – the bestselling business book in W.H Smith for 14 months in a row. As founder and CEO of Smarta, she helps over 500,000 SME's a month. The IoD voted Shaa as one of the best-connected people in the UK. In 1994 she started her own PR firm, with Dyson as her first client. She started working with Sir James Dyson before no one knew who he was. She spent the next 5 years building the brand into a global leader with over 60% market share in the UK alone. In 1998 she moved into the digital world, becoming a founding director, alongside Sir Bob Geldof of the very early travel site She then went on to launch her own social networking site, Mykindaplace. Six years later, the site was sold to BSkyB.

Notes to editors

The John Lewis Partnership - The John Lewis Partnership operates 41 John Lewis shops across the UK (31 department stores and 10 John Lewis at home),, 312 Waitrose shops, and business to business contracts in the UK and abroad. The business has annual gross sales of over £10bn. It is the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership where all 91,000 staff are Partners in the business.

John Lewis - John Lewis, 'Multichannel Retailer of the Year 2014'¹, 'The Nation's Best Retailer'² and 'Best Retailer 2013'³, typically stocks more than 350,000 separate lines in its department stores across fashion, home and technology. stocks over 250,000 products, and is consistently ranked one of the top online shopping destinations in the UK. ( John Lewis Insurance offers a range of comprehensive insurance products - home, car, wedding and event, travel and pet insurance and life cover - delivering the values of expertise, trust and customer service expected from the John Lewis brand.

¹ Oracle Retail Week Awards 2014
² Verdict Consumer Satisfaction Awards 2013
³ Which? Awards 2013

*Stuart Marks' biog - Stuart founded his first business in 1990 and since then has built up and sold several tech based companies specialising in Big Data. These have ranged from managing customer loyalty programmes, such as the Reward Card, the predecessor of Nectar for Sainsbury's to building complex web interfaces at Module Communications, one of the UK's leading digital media agencies which was sold to Grey Advertising. In 1999, Stuart founded LSE listed ITIS Holdings which was a very early adopter of crowd sourced GPS data to provide real time traffic information across Europe. Having sold ITIS to Seattle based INRIX in 2011, Stuart established his own fund which invests in and mentors many start up and growth stage companies in the UK.


For further information please contact:

Vikki Speed
Press Officer, Corporate and Social Media
Telephone: 020 7931 4921