Retail property heavyweight Intu has announced that it is to provide live trialing opportunities for seven young businesses with ideas to change retail.
Intu Accelerate, run in partnership with innovation specialist L Marks, will develop technologies and services for the UK retail market that will be piloted at intu shopping centres and online to test the reactions of retailers and shoppers.
The mall group is the latest corporate to back an accelerator programme, aimed at spotting emerging talent and ideas. Retail group N Brown has already reaped success with its accelerator programme, backing Simply Be among other brands and is inviting bids for another round soon.
The start-ups working with Intu for a 10-week period will be BotsandUs, GoInStore, Infraspeak, Percent, Soza Health, Toky Woky and WoraPay. They were selected to take part from more than 120 applications.
Ideas proposed include robotic retail assistants and technologies that will improve building management or drive more customers to shops by enabling them to cut out queues.
Intu’s largest single shareholder is Peel chairman John Whittaker, who is non-executive deputy chairman of the shopping centre business. L Marks is a tech investor headed by serial entrepreneur Stuart Marks.
David Fischel, Intu chief executive, said: “We’re working in partnership with some of the smartest minds and best talent out there to answer many of the questions facing the retail and leisure industry today. We’ve invited each start-up to show how we can do things differently, and they have also been given the opportunity to run live trials across our business that will test and demonstrate the potential of their ideas to shape the future of retail.
“Our aim is to create more compelling shopping experiences that make our customers smile and help our retailers flourish, and what we’re learning through this programme is helping us to achieve just that.”
Each entrepreneur is also receiving mentoring from intu and use of central London office space and they will have the opportunity to pitch for further investment once the ten-week incubation programme finishes in November.
BotsAndUs creates intelligent robot assistants that guide customers around shopping destinations or stores.
GoInStore uses physical retail spaces to drive up web traffic and orders by creating live in-store video experiences for online customers.
Infraspeak makes building management smart and simple with the use of reactive sensors, user-friendly apps and powerful software.
Percent is an app that helps shoppers raise money for charity as a small portion of their debit or credit card spend is automatically donated by retailers to their chosen charity.
Soza Health offers customers health assessments and tailored recommendations to optimise their health.
Toky Woky is a community live-chat facility where customers browsing an online shop can receive real time advice from fellow shoppers
WoraPay is an app that bypasses in-store queues by allowing customers to order ahead and collect their purchases when ready
Stuart Marks said: “The retail sector is rapidly changing and has become one of the most dynamic and disruptive industries to work in. I know this is a unique opportunity for start-ups to partner with Intu and gain true validation for their product with the market leader.”