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John Lewis unveils expert panel for JLAB tech incubator

Confused.com founder Sara Murray and Risk Capital Partners chairman Luke Johnson are among the technology and business experts appointed by department store chain John Lewis for its recently announced technology incubator, JLAB.

Seven external business and technology figures will sit on a panel alongside senior members of the John Lewis team, providing advice and encouragement to the start-up companies that make it to the final stages of the JLAB scheme.

Last month, the retailer announced it will work alongside technology entrepreneur Stuart Marks to select five start-up firms that will work on developing customer-centric products and solutions which may be integrated into the wider business in time.

The JLAB initiative is part of the retailer's 150-year anniversary celebrations and is another example of a leading UK retailer investing in innovation. Companies such as Tesco and Argos are running innovation teams of their own to keep pace with the fast-changing technological landscape.

Members of the John Lewis team involved in the programme are, as follows: IT director Paul Coby; retail director Andrew Murphy; retail operations director Simon Russell; communications director Peter Cross; marketing director Craig Inglis.

The other JLAB panel members are, as follows:

Luke Johnson

Luke Johnson is chairman of Risk Capital Partners, a private equity firm he co-founded in 2001. For six years until 2010 he served as chairman of Channel 4 Television, and he became chairman of Career Colleges in 2013. He is chairman of StartUp Britain, and created a new think-tank in 2013 called The Centre for Entrepreneurs. 

Sara Murray OBE

Sara Murray is the founder of the financial comparison site Confused.com. She has since gone on to create Buddi, a personal monitoring device. She is also a member of the government's Technology Strategy Board, backing UK innovation.

Graham Clempson

Graham has over 30 years of experience in the private equity and credit markets, from the development of the European Leveraged Finance and High Yield Markets and as a principal in many of the largest complex secondary private equity transactions over the past decade.

Dr Stephanie Hussels

Dr Stephanie Hussels is a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Cranfield University. Her current research focuses on venture strategy and planning, entrepreneurial resilience, and on business survival. She runs the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital modules on the full-time and executive Cranfield MBA, which combines theory and practice through case studies and the development of business ideas.

George Berkowski

Berkowski is an entrepreneur and author of a new book called 'How to Build a Billion Dollar App' and former head of product at HAILO – the Taxi app that operates in 15 cities around the world.

Bindi Karia

Karia currently leads Silicon Valley Bank's early stage efforts as vice president, origination and entrepreneur for commercial banking. She has devoted much of her career in and around the start-up ecosystem, most recently as the venture capital/emerging business lead at Microsoft UK where for five years, she led BizSpark in the UK.

Shaa Wasmund

Wasmund is the author of 'Stop Talking and Start Doing' – the bestselling business book in WHSmith for 14 months in a row. As founder and CEO of Smarta, she helps over 500,000 SMEs a month.

John Lewis's Coby commented: "The mentors represent some of the UK's finest entrepreneurial minds, and we're delighted to welcome them to JLAB.

"Working alongside John Lewis, they'll advise each JLAB finalist during the development process, helping to tune them to the needs of retailers and providing invaluable insight into making their ideas a success."

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