Universal Basket wins corporate backed Future of Retail Challenge

Universal Basket, which helps to make the Internet one single shop, has been announced the winner of the Venturespring Future of Retail Challenge, which is backed by corporate partners IBM, Argos Home Retail Group, Iceland Foods and Unilever Foundry.

Universal Basket is a startup that allows consumers to shop the web with a single account. Users can add products to their universal basket from any retailer and when they're ready to pay, can checkout all at once with their pre-registered details. UB then automatically transmits the registration, payment and delivery details to the retailer via its automation platform. Because it doesn't require retailer integration, UB is truly universal and can work with any e-commerce site.

Marcus Greenwood, Co-founder and CEO at Universal Basket comments; "Online shopping is a £60bn market today and we're aiming to make online shopping experiences easier and shorter, removing barriers to complete transactions online. Because we're retailer agnostic - meaning the app has zero integration with retailers, shoppers can benefit from Universal Basket no matter where they shop. We're excited to have won the challenge and to work with major brands to help scale our business to become the defacto way people shop online."

The growth of capital being invested in retail driven tech start-ups underlies how technology and the internet are radically changing the retail buying experience globally. The Venturespring challenge invited early and growth stage start-ups to create new technology solutions which could transform the retail sector across four categories: FMCG, personalised shopping, commerce and Internet of things (IoT). Universal Basket will receive access to £750,000 worth of investment, £20,000 business acceleration support and exposure for the start-up from Venturespring, the international venture development studio, and it's venture capital ecosystem partners.

"By partnering with some of the biggest brands, our role is to find, incubate, scale and invest in start-ups that will transform key industries in the future. This challenge has surfaced a host of new and innovative ideas in the retail space. By working with industry leaders IBM, Argos, Iceland and Unilever Foundry and the likes of Innovate UK and Octopus Ventures, we're excited to drive greater innovation and build commercially successful businesses," says Cassandra Harris, Venturespring Founder and Managing Director.

There were close to 500 entries to the Challenge with all applications developed using IBM's BluemixⓇ hybrid cloud development platform. The shortlist of entrants included:


  • Airshop: shop while you fly from an app, taking advantage of a unique network of duty-free shops that are ready to take advance orders.
  • Unmanned Life: replaces heavily human-centric operations with fully software-driven autonomous fleet of drones and ground vehicles
  • Ringpay: merges real cash with mobile payment, eliminating coins from your shopping journey.
  • Parcelly: a mobile app that converts local businesses or individuals into parcel collection points, compatible with any online retailer or carrier worldwide.
  • Mishipay: a mobile app that allows customers to avoid large queues and use Apple Pay to pay for products in-store.


  • Foodmama: a digital food menu for restaurants and retailers.
  • Mucho: hand-picks grocery lists, recipes and products for every moment - whether you're going vegan for a week or if you don't want to wash up.
  • Wineta: the smart digital sommelier. Turns wine purchase into a personal, fun and simple experience.


  • Tess: Tess is an artificial intelligence personal stylist, based on the recommender system, which helps women choose the most fabulous garments from online retailers.
  • Blupath Kitchen Link: Kitchen Link connects supermarkets, fast food brands or other businesses with their customers by providing a connected fridge magnet that can present dynamic content, offers, social and other engaging content to the customer's mobile device.

Personal Shopping

  • The Moodboard: a digital signage totem exclusively created for fashion industry demands, which allows customers to virtually try on clothes.
  • SmartPower™: a hardware and software solution that makes it possible to embed luxury handbags with on-demand charging power and connectivity.
  • Rentez Vous: guilt-free unlimited wardrobe. Rent everyday designer pieces for a fraction of the price.

As well as the Corporate partners and Venturespring, judges of the Challenge included a panel of experts from a number of sectors such as retail, technology, venture development, and innovation. These included Angels Den, DN Capital, Edmond De Rothschild Bank, Envestors, Forward Partners, Harvey Nichols, Innovate UK, London & Partners, MMC Ventures, Octopus Ventures, Oxford Capital, Start-up Funding Club, Syndicate Room, TechCrunch, Tech.London, UK Business Angel Association and Unilever Ventures.

Partner quotes

IBM, Alison Say, Head of Ecosystems & Innovation, IBM Cloud, UK & Ireland
"IBM Bluemix was created to provide a dynamic plug and play platform for the development of cloud based applications. It's perfect for start-ups needing fast-paced development and we're really inspired by the creative ideas being built on the platform for the Future of Retail challenge. Universal Basket has the potential to scale out to impact our shopping habits on a global scale."

Unilever Foundry, Jeremy Basset, Head of Unilever Foundry
"Today, we're seeing a lot of inspiration coming from the start-up landscape and we work with these innovators to solve some of today's exciting business challenges. Universal Basket is an excellent example; we're seeing huge growth in digitisation of the shopping experience as retailers strive to find new innovative ways to better engage customers by making the retail experience more interesting and relevant."

Iceland Foods, David Devany, Managing Director - Online
"The way customers engage with retail brands and their expectations of in-store experiences are dramatically changing as new technologies transform our day to day lives. This means retail brands need to keep ahead of the inevitable change and work closely with the innovators that will bring about change. Universal Basket is a great example of such innovation in action."

Chris Wermann, Director of Communications at Home Retail Group and co-chair of the Digital High Street 2020 Steering Group. "Big business is not always easy to navigate, so we're finding new ways to become more agile to create change and introduce new services quicker. Working with Venturespring on this challenge has opened the door to a host of new ideas and start-ups that we can work with to build out new services and offerings at a pace our customers expect."

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