M&S partners with six start-ups in first year of founders factory retail joint venture

by Textile Quotient News Desk
9 Dec 2019

Over 1200 M&S colleagues engaged with the discovery and development of start-up investments

This month marks the first anniversary of the M&S and Founders Factory Joint Venture (Founders Factory Retail), designed to identify and accelerate emerging businesses and put M&S at the forefront of industry change and trends.

In its first year, M&S has discovered and begun working with six fast growth start-ups, selected from over 100 hopeful new businesses identified from Founders Factory’s global start-up network. The competitive assessment process is led by a dedicated investment committee made up of colleagues from both M&S and Founders Factory.

Over 1200 colleagues across stores and support centres have been engaged in the Founders Factory partnership – from attending showcase events through to providing insight and data to help the business assess which investments to pursue. The access to the latest technologies and innovations is driving M&S to continually consider how it can better serve customers or operate more efficiently in the future.

Jeremy Pee, Chief Digital & Data Officer m&S said, “M&S is changing to create a more entrepreneurial, empowered and digital first mindset across the business. Expert partnerships like Founders Factory are catalysts for that cultural change – enabling us to work with and learn from the disrupters and not be the disrupted. From subscription delivery models, 3D scanning technology to disruptive new product platform, Founders Factory Retail is parachuting alternative ideas into the business and exposing teams to innovative thinking.”

The JV activity is led by the newly created Digital & Data function* and supports a shift to a more agile way of working across M&S. Founders Factory Retail is building a testing ground for open innovation, with the scale of M&S’s store estate and customer base enabling trials to be implemented at pace with a test and learn mentality. If successful, technologies can be rolled out more widely; if not, another innovation can be explored.

“This partnership works because there are clear benefits for both sides. For M&S, start-ups provide access to new, innovative ways of thinking; and for each start-up, M&S offers scale and credibility. Founders Factory has now facilitated over 200 pilots with partners, six of which with M&S. And the partnership with M&S is only a year old; we’re only just getting started,” said Brent Hoberman, Co-founder of Founders Factory.

“Founders Factory Retail is putting us at the front of the queue to benefit from the next biggest trend or technology that will help us better serve our customers. We’ve had a great first year and seen a wide range of exciting businesses, but, really, we’ve only scratched the surface of what our JV with Founders Factory can do for M&S. We’re therefore looking forward to year two and working with our second cohort of start-ups,” comments Daniel Himsworth, Founders Factory Lead at Marks & Spencer.

Founders Factory was set up in 2015 by Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox to incubate and accelerate new start-ups in partnership with corporate partners across a range of sectors. M&S is Founders Factory’s exclusive UK retail partner and the majority shareholder in Founders Factory Retail – the Joint Venture focused on discovering and investing in fast growth, retail-centric start-ups that could improve the way M&S servers its customers.

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