M&S announces joint venture to invest in start-ups

Marks & Spencer is launching a joint venture with Founders Factory, a start-up incubator and accelerator, to invest in new businesses.


M&S is the latest in a growing list of retailers launching start-up schemes to have access to new technologies and innovative solutions, as digital becomes central in the fight to survive on the high street. One of the biggest of such initiatives is John Lewis’ JLAB, which was expanded this year to include new activities.

As part of the joint venture, Marks & Spencer will become Founders Factory’s exclusive UK retail partner, and invest in a number of start-ups from the incubator’s network. The national chain will be the majority shareholder within the business entity, which will aim to build a portfolio of investments in fast growing start-ups.

Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S commented: “Partnering with Founders Factory as their exclusive retail partner gives M&S access to a global network of start-ups and entrepreneurs which will provide disruptive thinking and questioning to the way we work at a time of critical transformation within the business.

“Founders Factory have a great track record in creating successful businesses and by investing in new innovative technologies and products we hope to change the way we work and operate.”

The partnership is part of M&S’ ongoing digital transformation, which has also see the retailer team up with Microsoft to test artificial intelligence technology in the retail environment.

Brent Hoberman, co-founder and executive chairman of Founders Factory, said: “We are excited to partner with M&S as our exclusive retail investor in the UK and combine the company’s scale and experience to support early-stage founders. After over 60 investments in the last two years we have seen the huge potential of combining start-up innovation with corporate scale and expertise, and so we are excited by this new chapter in a sector that is changing rapidly through technology.”

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