When Luke Peake, founder of product review start-up Uberated, entered Retail Week’s hackathon last September he saw it as an opportunity for some “caffeine-fuelled brainstorming”.
What he hadn’t banked on was his team coming up with an idea that would be spun into a standalone business just eight months later.
“We got follow-ups from the businesses really quickly after the event, asking whether we were going to develop that proposition properly and bring it to market”
Peake’s team was crowned the winner by a judging panel that included digital directors from Tesco, Sainsbury’s, House of Fraser and Schuh.
Several of the judges said the prototype – which identifies and incentivises browsers online to purchase in store – provided a compelling solution to challenges they were all facing.
While Peake was flattered, he initially took their enthusiasm with a pinch of salt.
“You hear that and, of course, it’s really cool, but you also think it’s an event and everyone is just hyped up in the moment,” he says.
“But we actually got follow-ups from the businesses really quickly after the event, asking whether we were actually going to develop that proposition properly and bring it to market.”
The level of interest resulted in Peake restructuring Uberated to free up capacity to fully launch Journifi.
Converting browsers into in-store buyers
The start-up’s technology identifies shoppers browsing online who are not likely to click the buy button then and there. It sends them an alert with a personalised incentive to go into their local store, such as a meeting with a customer assistant to get more product information.
The concept has captured the imagination of several retail heavy-hitters – former Tesco boss and Uberated backer Sir Terry Leahy is acting as an advisor to Journifi, which has been selected as one of five finalists in John Lewis’ annual accelerator scheme JLab.
The scheme has expanded to include stablemate Waitrose for the first time this year and has a funding prize for the start-ups of up to £100,000.
Peake says JLab was his “first and only choice” of retail tech accelerator to pitch to.
“It’s a great fit for us. It allows us to be based out of its head office and get really clear direction and mentorship to define the product we’re building to match its actual needs,” he adds.
From hackathon participant to judge
It’s been a whirlwind year for Peake, whose other start-up Uberated only launched publically 18 months ago.
He says last year’s hackathon was the first one he or any of his colleagues had attended and that he initially saw it as “a chance to generate some good PR for Uberated”.
Peake is now at the helm of two businesses and will be judging at the Tech Sprint 24-hour challenge at Retail Week’s Tech., a two-day technology festival on September 13 and 14.
“If you go with the mindset that it will give you an opportunity to do some caffeine-fuelled brainstorming to find a real solution for a real problem, then it’s a great environment to do something intensively”
Peake stresses that participants will only get out what they put in to the hackathon.
“If you go with the mindset that it will give you an opportunity to do some caffeine-fuelled brainstorming to find a real solution for a real problem, then it’s a great environment to do something intensively.
“But if you go in thinking that you’re going to mess around it’s probably not that valuable – you have to approach it with the right mindset.”
Don’t miss your chance to enter the Tech Sprint, sponsored by Tesco Labs, at Tech. powered by Retail Week. The teams will spend 24 hours building the shopping experience of the future for a connected world. They will pitch their concept to our expert judging panel, with the three best teams battling out in a live pitch.
The deadline to enter is August 18 – sign up here.