With big ideas but little capital, start-ups need all the help they can get. Simon Venture Group is part of a growing community of venture capitalists investing in the business of the future. As the new venture capital arm of Simon Group, the largest retail real estate property company in the United States, Simon Venture Group is seeking start-ups for the Simon Group Launch – Retail Tech Startup Competition & Accelerator program.


MUIPR hosted a Google Hangout with Simon Venture Group’s managing partner J. Skyler Fernandes on Wednesday. We spoke about the accelerator program and what Fernandes envisions for the future of the tech retail space.



Fernandes began his career in venture capital on the floor of Standard Bank as an intern. A chance meeting led him to a position at the South African Chamber of Commerce in America (SACCA), where he eventually became the vice president, COO, and ultimately a board member. While at SACCA, Fernandes led a number of venture capital initiatives. His slideshow “The Best Startup Pitch & How to Present to Angels/VCs” has more than 200K views and downloads and is the number one pitch deck resource for start-ups to use when pitching venture capitalists.


Fernandes’ interest in venture capital for the retail tech segment is inspired by the inherent lack of resources for startups in the sector. With so many startups pitching brands and other businesses in the general tech space, Ferndandes saw a need for venture capital in retail tech and e-commerce:


“I looked at the overall ecosystem of other venture funds, other corporate venture funds, other accelerators, and there really wasn’t a big leader in the pure, in-store retail technology and e-commerce. A lot of venture funds and accelerators are more general. They do all Internet technology, all biotech, or all health care. There was a great opportunity here to take the lead and be the center venture fund in the industry for in-store retail technology and e-commerce – kind of the Google ventures of retail. There wasn’t a great retail accelerator that I could find, so I said  ‘Let’s make one!’ ‘’


According to Fernandes, e-commerce isn’t the retail heavyweight we suspected. Although e-commerce brings in about $300 billion in annual sales, it represents only five to ten percent of retail sales. Online sales are on the rise, as companies like Amazon dominate the space, but e-commerce, Fernandes asserts, is slowing down:


“2014 was the first year that mobile commerce and e-commerce had decelerating growth rates. They’re growing, but they’re decelerating. Physical retail is going to be the foundation of omni-channel retailing and will be a big part of e-commerce going forward.”


The Simon Launch will give retail tech start-ups the boost they need to break into retail and provide the platforms necessary to elevate omni-channel retailing. The winner of Simon Launch will win 25K in investment funds, as well as 12 months of free Simon Group property office space. Perhaps more valuable than any financial investment or office space, mentorships from experts and industry leaders from Simon Group, Plug & Play, and other top companies will provide the industry knowledge startups need to succeed.


Visit Simon Group for more information on how to apply to the Simon Group Launch – Tech Retail Startup Accelerator. The deadline for applications is January 14.


What trends do you see forming in the retail tech space? Do you think ecommerce will ever replace physical retail? Leave your thoughts in the comments section, or tweet me @nataliepetitto.