Yoox Net-A-Porter Group has unveiled its new Tech Hub in London’s White City which will be home to a 500-strong team of technologists who will drive the group’s future growth.
CEO Federico Marchetti officially declared the facility open this morning in a ceremony attended by the architect of the space Sir Nicholas Grimshaw and London’s deputy mayor for business Rajesh Agrawal. Marchetti said the facility, which is part of a wider €500m group-wide technology investment, was testament to the group’s commitment to London.
“We are happy to invest in London and we are here to revolutionise the luxury industry,” he said. A further 100 jobs are expected to be created at the facility in the coming two years and YNAP is also investing in the community with a partnership with Imperial College London, called Imperial Codelab, to teach local schoolchildren technology skills such as coding.
The Imperial Codelab initiative has a significant focus on girls as Marchetti wants to encourage more women into the technology space. He said the business wanted to “mirror” its customers in every way and that included in its gender mix. “61% of our 4,200 staff globally are women, our executive committee is 50% women and the top 200 women in the business are paid on average 14% more,” he said.
In addition, every staff member across the company will be given an iPhone which will allow them to access all of the company’s apps, business systems and even its buildings (the phone effectively acts as a digital key). This focus on mobile is again part of Marchetti’s strategy to mirror customer behaviour. Some 50% of the group’s €2bn sales are now generated by mobile.
Architect Grimshaw hailed Marchetti as a “true European” for continuing with the investment in London in the face of Brexit. “Throughout his idiotic business we are going through at the moment with Europe, [Marchetti] has been steadfast in dealing with his business,” he said.
Grimshaw described the 70,000 sq ft facility, which features six “tea rooms”, video conferencing pods, and many flexible and collaborative working spaces as “one of the most human spaces” around. “We set out to create a space that is good for humanity,” he said. “We have gone away from the regimented office space,” he continued, adding the the space was designed to be flexible and could be reconfigured based on staff feedback.
Deputy mayor Agrawal, who is himself an entrepreneur having founded London-based commercial foreign exchange company RationalFX, described Marchetti’s decision to build the hub in London as “a smart move”. “We have the largest tech eco-system in Europe. We have 46,000 tech companies with 240,000 employees,” he said. “Also London is a big fashion capital.” He said the initiative fell into what he and Mayor Sadiq Khan called “good growth” where businesses not only create jobs but also work to support the local community.
YNAP also employs 500 staff at its Tech Hub in Bologna and the two hubs will work closely together. During the opening, the business revealed some of the key technology initiatives it was working on at the hub including introducing AI to its personal shopping service and AR to the retail experience.