LONDON — While speculation continues to swirl around a possible initial public offering at Farfetch later this year, the fashion e-commerce platform is forging ahead with new projects, the latest of which is a technology accelerator called Dream Assembly.
On Friday, Farfetch will begin taking applications from tech start-ups to join a 12-week program based in Lisbon, Portugal that will offer mentorship, networking opportunities and access to early-stage funding.
Burberry and the global venture capital firm 500 Startups will partner with Farfetch on the inaugural program, which is set to begin in September. Farfetch is planning to run two programs a year out of its Lisbon offices, with visits to London and the Burberry headquarters, and to San Francisco, where 500 Startups is located.
Up to 10 start-ups will take part in each 12-week cycle.
José Neves, founder and chief executive officer of Farfetch, said when he started the company 10 years ago, “we were a small start-up. Back then, I needed exposure to boutiques, brands and customers to try my service, and I needed technology support and mentoring.”
He said Farfetch Dream Assembly is dedicated to supporting “the best entrepreneurs and teams to scale to the next level. We believe that the whole luxury fashion industry, including Farfetch, can benefit from helping to support the next generation of technology companies dedicated to shaping the future of e-commerce.”
In an interview, Stephanie Phair, chief strategy officer at Farfetch, said the Dream Assembly approach was “entrepreneur first,” and that the program dovetailed with the company’s values around innovation and giving back.
“Farfetch is the global technology platform for the luxury industry. Now we want to give back to start-ups and the fashion technology ecosystem,” she said. “Our line has always been that start-ups shape the future, and we want the program to give them a leg up with mentorship, expertise and learning. There’s already a lot of money out there. What we can bring to the table is learning.”
Farfetch will invest 30,000 euros in each start-up taking part, with most of the expenses and accommodation to be paid for by the participants.
The program is aimed at commerce-focused companies, and Phair said the Farfetch team is expecting many applicants to be operating in the luxury fashion space.
The entrepreneurs selected will take part in a series of workshops, one-to-one sessions with senior leaders within Farfetch and mentorship meetings covering topics including e-commerce, marketing, technology, fashion, logistics and operations.
They will also be able to tap into Farfetch’s expertise in the luxury fashion and technology industries and work at its offices in Porto, in northwestern Portugal, Neves’ hometown.
Additionally, Dream Assembly will offer networking opportunities for the participating start-ups, connecting them to relevant contacts in the fashion industry through further talks and mentoring sessions.
Phair said the aim is to help the entrepreneur, the broader industry, and Farfetch. She said many of its team members already mentor inside — and outside — the company. “There is so much knowledge, we thought, ‘Why don’t we harness it?’”
She said the choice of Portugal, where Farfetch has a string of offices and photography hubs, was a reflection of the program’s global approach and a way for Neves to give back to his native country.
She added that Farfetch could potentially benefit from the start-ups taking part, and conversations will remain open with participants after the program finishes.
Burberry is the first brand to partner with Farfetch to provide modules for the Dream Assembly program. This is also the second partnership that Burberry has forged with Farfetch this year.
In February, Burberry and Farfetch unveiled a major commercial partnership that will see Burberry technology integrated into the Farfetch API — the platform’s operating system. The move will allow the brand’s entire global inventory to be available through an e-commerce platform. The technology underpinning the partnership with Farfetch will also enable Burberry to strengthen its ties with existing and new e-commerce partners.
Daniel Heaf, senior vice president of digital commerce and digital marketing at Burberry, said: “We believe open innovation, collaboration and sharing our expertise with earlier-stage companies will encourage more creativity across the whole luxury sector. We are excited to support the most promising companies of tomorrow.”
The firm 500 Startups, which has mentored and coached thousands of entrepreneurs through its Silicon Valley-based Seed Accelerator program, will provide sales and marketing expertise for Dream Assembly companies, in San Francisco and in Lisbon.
Applications to join Farfetch Dream Assembly’s first cohort open on Friday and close on June 10 on dreamassembly.com, and the launch of the program will take place in London next week.
During the interview, Phair declined to comment on speculation about a multibillion-dollar Farfetch IPO that would take place in New York.