AI powers tech startup to win clients including Costa, John Lewis and WH Smith

AI powers tech startup to win clients including Costa, John Lewis and WH Smith

A tech startup is working with leading retail and hospitality brands including Costa, John Lewis and WH Smith.

Oxford-based Quorbit builds tailored operating models to help companies plan their resource allocation and investment more accurately.

Workforce management expert and co-founder Matt Brown says: “To date companies have used top-down budget allocations and HR decision-making to forecast staffing costs.

“Quorbit works from the bottom up, by creating long-term strategic labour plans based on future customer demand and operational reality. We want to remove the dark art of workload budgeting so that decision making is data driven.”


The company was set up as a niche consultancy business called Brown et al. From this, Brown and his partners developed the modelling tool to help with workforce management, distribution logistics and long-term planning.

A spin off company, Quorbit, was created in 2017 to develop the software business. Following a soft launch in 2019, the company has now morphed into AI to optimise the recommendations that come out of the team’s modelling – such as capacity planning, optimising contract mix, and balancing supply with fluctuating demand.

Last year was spent piloting the cloud-based solution with existing consultancy clients and on-boarding their first international client onto the platform.

Quorbit has helped Costa understand how many hours its stores need to run, and how to operate post-Covid; John Lewis to revolutionise the way it allocates ‘resource to shops’; and WH Smith to become more agile.

It’s also given all three companies the ability to understand and quantify the impact of new initiatives, or ‘what if’ scenarios, on their business.

The results show a 65% improvement in efficiencies. Also, more than 4,800 sites have been planned using Quorbit models and more than £2bn in annual wage budgets managed.

The business is self-funded and generates income from subscriptions to the modelling tool, as well as its consultancy service.

Brown adds: “COVID-19 has been challenging for us, as we’ve had to put a hold on the consultancy side of things, but it has given us the time to focus on building new features, such as AI, into the product and really get the business off the ground.”

The aim now is to build on the business foundations, develop partnerships and secure funding to support the team’s growth strategy, which it is hoped will come through a mix of grants and external investors. Longer term, they aim to support businesses across the globe from an R&D hub.

Although the team is international, three of the partners work close to Oxford so the Barclays Eagle Lab at the Wood Centre for Innovation is “an ideal location post lockdown,” Brown adds.


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