Walmart appoints new head for its startup incubator Store No. 8

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Walmart Inc said on Monday it has hired Scott Eckert to run its investment arm and startup incubator, Store No. 8, whose aim is to expand the retailer’s e-commerce business in partnership with retail startups, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

FILE PHOTO: Walmart's logo is seen outside one of the stores in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 20, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski/File Photo

Eckert, a former executive of Bain Capital Ventures, will take over from Lori Flees, who ran Store No. 8, in addition to working as senior vice president of health and wellness at Walmart-owned Sam’s Club, according to a memo sent by retailer’s head of U.S. e-commerce, Marc Lore, to its employees on Monday, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Flees will focus on her role at Sam’s Club.

Store No. 8, which is based in California’s Silicon Valley, works with startups that specialize in areas that include robotics, virtual and augmented reality, machine learning and artificial intelligence.

It has so far launched several startups such as JetBlack, a same-day delivery service where customers can place orders using a text message and Spatial&, a virtual reality merchandising company.

Walmart has kept the startups separate from the broader organization so that do not affect the retailer’s bottom line, according to former executives who ran the investment arm.

In the memo on Monday, Lore said that Eckert has “built companies, raised substantial venture capital and brought disruptive technologies to market.”

“He has a record of turning innovative ideas into successful businesses and building them to scale, either within large organizations or as stand-alone companies,” Lore added.

At Bain, Eckert evaluated potential new investments along with advising chief executives of existing portfolio companies, the memo said.

Eckert will be based in Hoboken, New Jersey and report to Marc Lore.

Reporting by Nandita Bose; Editing by Steve Orlofsky