Walmart Launches Tech Incubator Dubbed Store No. 8

FILE - In this Monday, May 2, 2016, file photo, Jet.com CEO Marc Lore speaks during an interview in Hoboken, N.J. Wal-Mart said Monday, Sept. 19, 2016, that it has completed its deal to buy fast-growing online retailer Jet.com for $3 billion in cash plus $300 million in stock. As part of the deal, which was announced in early August, Jet.com co-founder and CEO Marc Lore will oversee both that site and Walmart.com and will report to Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Retailers have been advised to act like a start up and now the largest retailer in the world is doing more than that. Walmart has created an incubator to internally nurture startup businesses called Store No. 8.

The initiative was announced at the Shoptalk conference today in Las Vegas by Jet.com founder and CEO of Walmart's U.S. e-commerce business. Lore was a keynote speaker at Shoptalk's inaugural event last year and just a few month's later his company, Jet.com, was purchased by Walmart for more than $3 billion. 

Lore and his team have been moving fast to grow digital commerce and have bought four digital startups under the Jet division, most recently ModCloth for an undisclosed sum estimated at between $50 to $75 million.

These moves have added online commerce companies to Walmart's stable, each with a unique set of customers, attributes and strengths. The goal, Lore told Shoptalk attendees, is allow these businesses to grow and flourish under the umbrella of the world's largest retailer.

And now that retailer has an official incubator. Store No. 8 is named after an Arkansas location where Walmart founder Sam Walton was known to experiment.

These businesses will run just like any other startups but, said Lore, "will be ring fenced by the rest of the organization and backed by the largest retailer in the world," Lore said. 
Store No. 8 will be headed by Seth Beal, previously senior vice president for global marketplace and digital store operations at Walmart and Jet's Katie Finnegan.

Walmart already has a research arm, @walmartlabs in San Francisco. The difference here is that Walmart will invest in these businesses like a VC and grow the group as a portfolio.
"We'll be bringing in entrepreneurs and giving them capital," said Lore. "And give them the opportunity to change the course of retail five or 10 years out."

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