Press releases

Teenage start-ups one of 2015 finalists for John Lewis technology accelerator, JLAB

Monday 15 June 2015

John Lewis today announces the five technology start-ups who have made it to the final stage of JLAB, the retailer's technology accelerator run in partnership with technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks* and his venture fund, L Marks.

The five start-up companies, one of which is run by three teenagers aged 18 and under, were picked following a pitch day on Thursday 4 June. Each will now battle it out over the summer for the chance to win the prize of funding and a contract from John Lewis.

The finalists are as follows:

  • Qudini
  • Peeple
  • Alfred
  • Space Lounges
  • Ikinen

They were selected by a panel of John Lewis executives including: Johnathan Marsh, Director Electrical Home Technology, Sarah Venning Director IT Strategy, and John Vary, IT Innovation Manager and external JLAB mentors including Sara Murray, founder and CEO of Buddi and Indira Thambiah, founder of Silly Point Wines. Each start-up company will now be given initial funding and office space within John Lewis's head office for 12 weeks and access to a full panel of John Lewis mentors. A second pitch day in September will crown the final winner of the prize of up to £100,000 funding.

Paul Coby, IT Director at John Lewis, said: 'Innovation is in John Lewis' DNA and we want to work with tech start ups to define the future of retail. The five start-ups we've chosen certainly demonstrate what a wealth of great ideas there is out there. Each idea has huge potential to bring something new, whether to our customers' experience of shopping or consumers' everyday lives. 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.'

Stuart Marks, technology entrepreneur and partner in JLAB, said: 'We were delighted to have so many high quality entrants to JLAB this year and again the standard of pitches was outstanding. It's very hard to choose between the finalists right now, so I'll be watching with interest to see how each finalist develops with the help of the team at John Lewis and our external mentors who like last year are all high calibre and successful entrepreneurs.

JLAB will officially begin on Monday 6 July. For more information, please visit


Qudini, run by entrepreneurs Imogen Wethered and Fraser Hardy, is a digital queue management solution that tells you how long you have to wait for a shop assistant and texts you when one is available. It's a personalised solution that enhances customer satisfaction and stops customers walking out, encouraging them to browse by giving them a more accurate prediction about when they'll be served.


Peeple is 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. It's an elegant, compact, and easy-to-use caller ID for your front door - you just replace your peephole and connect it to your Wi-Fi. 


Fitting in with the connected home trend, Alfred 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 thereby helps consumers manage consumption and bills. It's still in development which makes them ripe for an accelerator programme like JLAB. 

Space Lounges

Space Lounges, run by teenage start-ups Alex Waterhouse, George Streten and James Anderson, is the next generation of coffee shops and cafes. They have created an app that allows the user to purchase any item in a physical location in one tap on their smartphone. These super talented teenagers are dedicated to enhancing the retail experience of the future. 


Ikinen, by Helios Solarcover, is a beautiful, Italian-designed solar-powered cover for iPhone users unsatisfied with their battery life. It's a fun, useful product that is energy efficient. The team have developed wearable chargers in the past and want to harness their technology to develop something new and innovative as part of JLAB.

*Stuart Marks

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 startup and growth stage companies in the UK.

Notes to editors

John Lewis - John Lewis operates 43 John Lewis shops across the UK (31 department stores, ten John Lewis at home and shops at St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal 2) as well as It is part of the John Lewis Partnership, the UK's largest example of worker co-ownership where all 30,000 staff are Partners in the business. John Lewis, 'Multichannel Retailer of the Year 2014'¹ , 'Best Overall Retailer'² and 'Best Retailer 2014'³, typically stocks more than 350,000 separate lines in its department stores across fashion, home and technology. stocks over 280,000 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 2014
³ Which? Awards 2014.

You can follow John Lewis on the following social media channels:


For further information please contact:

Vikki Speed
Senior Communications Officer, Corporate & Brand
Telephone: 0207 931 4921
Mobile:  07525 272 605