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Made.com creates innovation team to hunt out start-ups

Made.com has announced the launch of ‘Made Labs’, a tech innovation team dedicated to finding the best technology start-ups on the market.

The new team consists of four people – a UX designer and two developers, led by a product manager – who will be tasked with finding the most disruptive technologies.

Made.com chief technology officer, Jonathan Howell, described how innovation is in the retailer’s DNA, with Made.com offering its technology team ‘innovation time’, where 10% of their work could be spent developing a prototype based on something they are personally interested in. While this culture has developed into live technologies, such as the website’s current recommendation engine, Howell said this limited time couldn’t give the retailer access to as much innovation as a small start-up could.

Last year, the Made.com began working with a handful of start-ups, including Hullabalook, Hubstairs and Go Instore. The new innovation team will formalise the process of finding and working with start-ups going forward. The retailer said the team will work closely with the rest of the business to get the innovations into its core platform as quickly as possible.

Howell said Made.com is focused on a number of interesting areas, but one of the most important is finding technologies that help customers visualise what products look like in their home.

“There’s lot of interest in 3D technology at the moment, and there are a number of ways to help people design.”

He pointed to French start-up Hubstairs which is now available to Made.com customers and uses AI and 3D technology to redesign the interior of a room. Interior design consultation is traditionally very costly, but this technology-enabled service provides photo-finish images in a week and costs only £89.

“Start-ups are free of legacy and preconceptions of how things should be,” said Howell, when asked why he likes to work with smaller companies. “They can pursue unencumbered, great ideas and new, disruptive technology usually comes from start-ups and not the big players.”

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