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LONDON – UK clothing retailer Marks & Spencer has launched a new joint venture (JV) to bolster its digital transformation plans. The business is working with Founders Factory, a tech business co-founded by Brent Hoberman founder of lastminute.com and Henry Lane Fox and focused on launching and scaling start-ups across a range of sectors.

The JV, Founders Factory Retail, is focused on discovering and developing start-ups. It is hoped that working with Founders Factory will give M&S direct access to cutting-edge technologies through investment in talented entrepreneurs and businesses.

M&S will become 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.

Steve Rowe, chief executive said: “Partnering with Founders Factory as their exclusive retail partner gives M&S access to a global network of start-ups and entrepreneurs which will 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.”

Brent Hoberman, co founder and executive chairman, Founders Factory said: “We are excited to partner with M&S as our exclusive retail investor in the UK and combine the company’s scale and experience to support early-stage founders. 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.”

The launch of Founders Factory Retail bolsters the ongoing transformation of M&S, which is seeking to place digital at the heart of the business. M&S recently announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft, which is testing the capabilities of technology and artificial intelligence in a retail environment.

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