Universal Basket wins retail start-up competition

Universal Basket has won the Venturespring Future of Retail Challenge. The start-up enables consumers to shop across the internet with a single account. Users can buy products from different eCommerce retailers in a single transaction with Universal Basket, which then automatically sends the retailers registration, payment and delivery details.

The start-up does not require integration with a retailer's website, so can be used on any eCommerce site. By winning the competition, Universal Basket will receive £750,000 in investment, as well as £20,000 in business acceleration support and exposure.

"Online shopping is a £60bn market today and we’re aiming to make online shopping experiences easier and shorter, removing barriers to complete transactions online," said Marcus Greenwood, co-founder and CEO at Universal Basket. "Because we’re retailer agnostic - meaning the app has zero integration with retailers, shoppers can benefit from Universal Basket no matter where they shop. We’re excited to have won the challenge and to work with major brands to help scale our business to become the defacto way people shop online."

500 early and growth-stage start-ups entered the Venturespring challenge to create new solutions for the retail sector in four categories: FMCG, personalised shopping, commerce and Internet of Things (IoT). All applications developed their ideas using IBM’s Bluemix hybrid cloud development platform.

IBM, along with Argos Home Retail Group, Iceland Foods and Unilever Foundry, supported the programme and Universal Basket will have access to these companies for mentorship as well as other judges and partners, including: Angels Den, DN Capital, Edmond De Rothschild Bank, Envestors, Forward Partners, Harvey Nichols, Innovate UK, London & Partners, MMC Ventures, Octopus Ventures, Oxford Capital, Start-up Funding Club, Syndicate Room, TechCrunch, Tech.London, UK Business Angel Association and Unilever Ventures.

Iceland Foods' online MD, David Devany, said: "The way customers engage with retail brands and their expectations of in-store experiences are dramatically changing as new technologies transform our day to day lives. This means retail brands need to keep ahead of the inevitable change and work closely with the innovators that will bring about change. Universal Basket is a great example of such innovation in action."

Jeremy Basset, head of Unilever Foundry, said the company was seeing a lot of inspiration from the start-up community. "We work with these innovators to solve some of today’s exciting business challenges. Universal Basket is an excellent example; we’re seeing huge growth in digitisation of the shopping experience as retailers strive to find new innovative ways to better engage customers by making the retail experience more interesting and relevant."

Chris Wermann, director of communications at Home Retail Group and co-chair of the Digital High Street 2020 Steering Group, agreed. "Big business is not always easy to navigate, so we’re finding new ways to become more agile to create change and introduce new services quicker," he said.

"Working with Venturespring on this challenge has opened the door to a host of new ideas and start-ups that we can work with to build out new services and offerings at a pace our customers expect.”

Venturespring, founder and MD, Cassandra Harris, said the growth of capital being invested in retail driven tech start-ups underlies how technology and the internet are radically changing the retail buying experience globally.

"The Future of Retail Challenge brought together some of the largest names in the industry as well as IBM to attract the most innovative ideas and exciting talent that will dramatically impact how shopping experiences in the future," she said.

"Our challenge model creates an opportunity for large corporates to get in front of inevitable change within the sector by enabling them to support and build relationships with the innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and influencers shaping the world of technology in retail."

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Universal Basket