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Marks & Spencer partners with Founders Factory on JV to invest in start-ups

Lauretta Roberts
23 July 2018

Marks & Spencer has partnered with Founders Factory – Brent Hoberman and Henry Lane Fox's incubator and accelerator – to launch Founders Factory Retail, a joint venture (JV) focused on investing in and growing start-ups.

M&S will become Founders Factory’s exclusive UK retail partner, and invest in a number of start-ups, sourced through Founders Factory’s global network, in a move which will expose the retailer to new technologies, business models and entrepreneurial thinking, as it seeks to put digital at the heart of its transformation strategy.

The retailer will be the majority shareholder within the JV which will build a portfolio of investments in fast growth start-ups, which it will seek to grow and scale. CEO Steve Rowe said the move would "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,” Rowe added.

Co-founded in 2015 by founder of Hoberman and Lane Fox, Founders Factory is focused on launching and scaling start-ups across a range of sectors. It has received investment from L’Oreal, easyJet, Guardian Media Group, Aviva, Holtzbrinck and CSC and employs a full-time team of 60 specialists providing founders with the platform to launch or scale their start-up.

Its incubator creates 13 new startups every year, while its accelerator invests in 35. Hoberman said the business was "excited" to partner with M&S as its exclusive retail partner. "After over 60 investments in the last two years we have seen the huge potential of combining startup innovation with corporate scale and expertise, and so we are excited by this new chapter in a sector that is changing rapidly through technology," he said.

A number of retailers and brands are supporting incubator schemes to enable them to tap into emerging technologies and disruptive business practices. John Lewis partners with retail and consumer investment firm True on its JLAB project, which it has just evolved to become an "always on" model enabling it to work with start-ups year round as opposed to during defined periods throughout the year. Farfetch also launched the Dream Assembly start-up incubator this spring with venture capital firm 500 Startups.

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