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Frequently asked questions


What’s the deadline for applying?

22nd May 2019 at 23:59

What happens once I’ve applied?

Once you’ve submitted your details via our application form on L Marks’ Bridge platform, a member of our team will review your responses to confirm your suitability for the programme. Our partner L Marks may be in touch to gather further details and answer any questions you have before your details are submitted to the AO Innovation Lab committee for review. Up to 15 teams will be invited to attend the AO Pitch Day for a chance to pitch their business to the committee.

I don’t live in the UK, can I apply?

Of course! Companies, entrepreneurs and startups from across the globe are encouraged to apply. Bear in mind that you may need a visa to participate in activities in the UK and that you will be required to travel to the UK during the programme.

Is there a minimum age?

You must be at least 18 years old to enter the AO Innovation Lab.

What is the process for applying?

Step 1 is to complete the application form, which you can find here bridge.lmarks. Once the application is submitted, L Marks will get back to you on next steps.


What type of products are you looking for?

We are particularly interested in products which can help us create in-store experiences online through digital sales assistance and a personal shopping experience for our customers as well as solution which can help us scale our IT, optimise our delivery routes and AR technologies. Of course, please take a look at our Areas of Interest to read more about the categories of the Lab. If you have an idea that doesn’t quite fit any of those, but you still think it would work for us – send it through!

Who can participate?

Companies, entrepreneurs and startups from across the globe who are prepared to develop their products and services in collaboration with AO.

I’m quite an early-stage startup – am I right for the AO Innovation Lab?

We’re open to businesses of any stage of their development and will ensure the activities you’re invited to take part in are tailored to your needs. If you feel that your business and products would benefit from the collaboration with AO then we’d love to hear from you.

I’ve been in accelerators before and have customers – is this right for me?

We know that your needs will be very different from an early-stage business. That’s why we make sure that any mentoring or activities you’re involved in are tailored to your needs. Your time is precious and we won’t waste it. So long as you have an ambition to test out your product and ideas in the AO Innovation Lab, we can work together.

Do I need to give away equity to participate?

No, we do not ask for equity for participating in this programme. However, we may ask you to keep us notified about future funding rounds. There is also an opportunity to pitch for investment from AO and from L Marks.

Are you asking for exclusivity?

No, we’re not asking you to sign an exclusivity agreement. We want to build a relationship based on trust and, if we like each other, we hope that you’ll see us as the first port of call when you need feedback on your new products. Please be aware that we will ask you to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) which you will need to adhere to, even when working with other parties within this sector.

Will I need to disclose confidential information about my business?

If you are invited to join AO Innovation Lab, we will ask you to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement (NDA) – this means that we’ll keep your information confidential, and you’ll need to do the same for us. This will ensure we can work together productively on the programme. However, when you’re applying to join, neither party will be under NDA, so please only share with us information about your product or business that you consider in the public domain.

What are the terms of entry into the Lab?

Selected teams will be required to sign a Participation Agreement to join the programme. This will be shared with teams invited to Pitch Day for early review.

Are you offering any travel support or assistance?

Travel support to participate in activities in the UK is at AO’s discretion

If selected, what are the key dates I’ll need to be available?

At the very least we will require you to be onsite for the following dates and events:

  • Pitch Day (Thursday 8th August 2019)
  • Week 1 (Tuesday 3rd September 2019)
  • Demo Day (Thursday 21st November 2019)

What do I need to attend in person?

If selected for the programme we will provide a list of required onsite dates. Currently, we will require you to be onsite for the following dates and events:

  • Pitch Day (Thursday 8th August 2019)
  • Week 1 (Tuesday 3rd September 2019)
  • Demo Day (Thursday 21st November 2019)

Otherwise you are welcome to work from the dedicated Lab space at any time, which will be in AO’s Head Office, Parklands based in Bolton (5a, The Parklands, Bolton BL6 4SD, UK). From time to time, you may be required to travel within the UK to meet and work with the relevant teams.

Is the AO Innovation Lab like other accelerators?

We believe we are unique. We’ll provide your business with the opportunities to:

  • Trial your product with AO
  • Receive mentoring from senior AO executives
  • Gain insights from subject matter experts through a top-notch education programme

When is the AO Innovation Lab running?

The ten-week Lab will run from 3rd September through Demo Day on (Thursday 21st November 2019).

Where is the Innovation Lab held?

AO have various offices across the UK. However, the Lab will have designated space in AO’s Head Office, Parklands based in Bolton (5a, The Parklands, Bolton BL6 4SD, UK). From time to time, you may be required to travel within the UK to meet and work with the relevant teams.

Do I have to relocate to participate in the AO Innovation Lab?

No, however we do require onsite attendance for only a number of key dates (please see above the key dates). We can discuss the needs of your individual company on a case-by-case basis.

Will AO and/or L Marks invest in every company that joins the Lab?

AO and/or L Marks will decide which startups to invest in at the end of the programme, subject to the results of the ten-week acceleration phase.

If successful, when will I receive investment from AO and/or L Marks?

Investment decisions will be finalised at the end of the programme, and successful companies will be informed accordingly.

How many startups will be chosen for the ten-week innovation programme?

We will aim to select approximately five startups to participate in the Innovation Lab.

What are the benefits of joining the AO Innovation Lab?

The Lab enables startups to trial their products at scale, network with industry experts, receive mentoring from the senior leadership team. By working directly with AO, opportunities such as pilots, contracts, and further introductions are directly in line with this Lab’s mission.

Who is L Marks? What is their role in this accelerator?

L Marks is a leading advisor in applied innovation and experienced investor in early-stage technologies. Led by Stuart Marks and Daniel Saunders, L Marks has created the UK’s largest network of corporate accelerators and launched over fifty innovation programs across Europe, Israel, Japan and the US. Their unique approach and methodology is building bridges between large organisations seeking to innovate and young companies looking to scale.

They work with some of the world’s best-known brands, including BMW, Lloyd’s of London, Arsenal FC, and British Airways to identify business challenges and transform them into opportunities for growth. The L Marks collaborative, results-driven programmes provide insight and access to startups whilst embedding their pioneering technologies into corporates to enhance operations, improve customer experience, and cultivate an entrepreneurial ethos across the business.

Through creating these relationships and experiences, L Marks is achieving rapid digital transformation across industry sectors and bringing about the future of business, today. Each programme is tailored to deliver real solutions to the corporate partners and create real opportunities for startups to test and grow their product with a major partner.

Where will the mentors come from?

Mentors will include senior executives from AO (see the bios), experts within the wider AO business, entrepreneurs and external subject matter experts. A full list of mentors will be announced in due course.

What does the day-to-day look like?

The Lab’s itinerary is designed to help startups create game-changing products. You’ll accelerate your working to rapidly develop your product, receive essential guidance on key decisions in real-time from your mentors. Each startup’s experience on the programme will be unique; we tailor the mentoring and education activities to meet your business’s specific needs.