Simon launches retail startup competition

Simon Property Group, expanding its quest to spur retail innovation, is launching a startup competition and will provide prizes and support to the winners.

Indianapolis-based Simon is partnering on “Simon Launch” with Plug and Play Tech Center, a Sunnyvale, California-based business accelerator. Organizers will select 10 finalists, which will pitch to a panel of judges who will select up to three winners.

The winners will receive $25,000 from Simon and Plug and Play, free office space for one year at any Simon property across the country, including a location in Silicon Valley, and acceptance into Plug and Play's accelerator program.

The companies also will be eligible for investment from Simon Venture Group, Simon’s venture capital arm, which formally launched this year. SVG is seeking opportunities to invest as little as $250,000 and as much as $5 million.

"Simon Launch is part of a broader company effort to identify and leverage technology that is interesting and relevant and enhances the shopping experience," Mikael Thygesen, Simon’s chief marketing officer, said in a prepared statement. "This competition will help us discover and connect with young, innovative companies that are pushing the boundaries of retail and creating new value for consumers and retailers."

Among SVG investments so far are Palo Alto, California-based Deliv, which uses crowdsourcing to provide same-day delivery from mall tenants; and Columbus, Ohio-based Jifiti, whose app allows users to send gifts to friends’ emails or Facebook pages. Recipients select the size and color before opting to redeem the gift in store or online.

Simon and Plug and Play say they will consider a broad range of companies for Simon Launch, including those involved in in-store retail technology, ecommerce, data analytics, inventory management and logistics, energy, security and real estate technology. Applications will be due Jan. 15.

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