Slingshot launching retail accelerator ahead of Amazon’s arrival: “It is no coincidence”

Karen Lawson

Karen Lawson, CEO of Slingshot

Ahead of Amazon’s arrival in Australia, corporate accelerator Slinghot and retail network NORA have partnered to launch Australia’s first retail tech accelerator.

According to Slingshot CEO Karen Lawson, the 12-week ‘RetailTech’ program will assist a consortium of four large-scale retail companies (including logistics and payments businesses) to ‘fast-track’ the development of new revenue streams, processes and business models by enabling them to collaborate with a cohort of 10 to 12 ‘agile and highly-disruptive’ start-ups and scale-ups and “tap into cutting-edge technologies and ideas”. She added, “Not only will this give consortium members a competitive edge, it will also equip them with an ongoing strategy for R&D.

Regarding the startups that will be selected to participate in RetailTech, Lawson told Dynamic Business that Slingshot is accepting applications from startups already working in the retail space as well as ‘wild cards’, i.e. startups with great ideas that somehow touch – or are on the fringes of – retail.

“Sometime the startups whose ideas are just on the edge are the most exciting and compelling,” she said. “It could be a payments provider or a logistics business or an entrepreneur in the data and analytics space or a product.”

Asked how important initiatives such as RetailTech are in terms of equipping retailers to survive in the Amazon era, Lawson replied, “the timing of our program isn’t a coincidence”.

“There’s reluctance amongst many in the sector to really embrace innovation and, indeed, startups. Whereas other sectors, like FinTech, are very advanced in terms of innovation, products and their development pipeline, retail isn’t. Amazon is coming – and yes, it’s an absolute threat to anyone in a retail business… but retailers should consider what Amazon does really well, which is they’re really focused on delighting the customer and delivering a great customer experience. Any retailer that isn’t focused on that, through innovation and the development of new products and services, is going to fall behind. With Amazon entering Australia, if retailers want to enjoy growth it’s imperative that they have a pipeline of internal and external innovation.

“With a lot of large retailers, their pipeline for rapid product iteration and deployment is still far too slow. For many, it’s almost going to be too late if they try doing it by themselves. So, their only option now is to come into this program to work with startups because they’re actually going to have products, services and solutions they can effectively deploy in 12 weeks.”

Founder of NORA Paul Greenberg, who will be joining Slingshot’s mentor network, said NORA is encouraging its network to consider how they can grow their businesses by optimising rapidly evolving technology and consumer trends. 

“We’re excited to be partnering with Slingshot on the RetailTech accelerator, as it’s through innovation that Australia can compete on a global scale,” he said. “The Australian retail industry is at an inflection point with new entrants to the market. The pending arrival of Amazon has been a great mobiliser for new ways of thinking and doing”

“As an industry, we recognise that we need to do a better job of understanding and improving the customer experience. Given the path to purchase is no longer linear, we must innovate on disjointed models, or accept the inevitable stagnation or decline of sales.”

RetailTech is set to launch later this year and Slingshot is currently inviting interest from Australia’s largest retailers as well as payments and logistics businesses to participate.