UK retailer John Lewis has launched the latest iteration of JLAB, its start-up accelerator run together with technology investment fund L Marks. Under the initiative, JLAB will provide funding and office space to up to 10 start-ups, with one getting a contract to trial its solution in John Lewis stores, as well as up to £100,000 in additional investment.
As part of its Digital Single Market strategy, the European Commission is set to scrap geo-blocking across the EU to ensure that digital content can be consumed outside national borders. “Too many Europeans cannot use online services that are available in other EU countries, often without any justification, or they are re-routed to a local store with different prices,” says Brussels.
Volvo has hit on a way to bring greater visibility to cycling in the shape of LifePaint, a reflective safety spray. No ordinary frame paint this, though, as LifePaint is invisible to the naked eye by daylight and only comes out at night, glowing brightly in the glare of car headlights. It’s transparent and does not affect the colour or surface sprayed, lasting for around one week after application.
Diageo is never going to be able to behave like the fabled entrepreneur in a garage, which is why the drinks giant leans on its Distill Ventures, Futures Team and Digital Technology Ventures units to tap into start-up spirit, says Steve Mullins. The latter, for example, works up innovation briefs with a committed $100,000 pilot budget for applicants coming up with the best solutions to a challenge. Diageo teams work with start-ups to develop plans for initiatives that might just get to move through to pilot-testing.
Global investment in fintech ventures tripled from $4.1 billion in 2013 to $12.2 billion in 2014, with Europe the fastest-growing region. In fact, fintech is so hot that investment increased at more than three times the rate of overall VC funding, according to a new report from Accenture. “The massive investment in fintech shows that the digital revolution is well advanced in financial services, and it is both a threat and an opportunity for banks,” says Julian Skan, Accenture md overseeing the FinTech Innovation Lab London. “Fintech is empowering new competitors and start-ups to move into parts of the banking business.”
UK retailer Sainsbury’s is creating close to 500 jobs in London and Coventry to boost its in-house digital and technology capabilities. The new digital hires will work on Sainsbury’s current digital platforms, such as the website and mobile shopping apps, and will also develop, test and launch new products in a new London-based Digital Lab opening in a few months’ time. Sainsbury’s says the lab will provide developers, digital designers, product owners, engineers and testers with a space to work and test new ways of shopping.
Be ready for a first look at Facebook’s new MPK 20 flagship building from Frank Gehry on the social network’s Silicon Valley campus, courtesy of Fast Company. The ‘hacker’ warehouse is actually one big (430,000-square-foot) construction and will be home to almost one-third of Facebook’s global team. And a park has been built atop MPK 20, replete with nine acres of grass, along with 400 trees and a half-mile walking circuit.
UK stores are struggling to get in on wearables. A study by YouGov finds that almost two-thirds of wearable device owners bought their kit online, with Amazon the biggest purchase destination (31%). In addition, of those in market for such technology, 56% expect to purchase their device online. However, as wearables enter the mainstream and early adopters give way to a wider consumer market, there is opportunity for high street retailers able to properly showcase goods in-store, says YouGov.
Some 16% of UK consumers now do pretty much all of their shopping online, and the issue of free returns has become a key factor for shoppers. When it comes to choosing an online retailer, three quarters of consumers questioned for the Royal Mail’s Delivery Matters Returns Special report say they want free returns as standard, while a further one in three would be unlikely to use an online retailer again if they were charged to send unwanted items back.