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Scotland: The new hub for entrepreneurs

Julie Meyer Thursday, 18 February 2016.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are both great cities with considerable charm. And they both have a growing entrepreneurship ecosystem and financial services nous.

scotland2There are some very good investors who live in Edinburgh who have backed winners consistently. In a beautiful building on Charlotte Square is Paul Jourdan of Amati Global, who early on backed Luca Pepere of DXI, a cloud contact centre firm, and made a healthy return when it was sold to 8x8 earlier this year. I also think of Steve and Heather Leach, who built Glasgow's Bigmouthmedia, which became a £200m revenue specialist search agency and according to the FT, one of the UK's best places to work. They have, through leachpartnership.com, gone on to back a new generation of entrepreneurs.

One of my company's portfolio companies, Orson & Co, is based in Edinburgh. Richard Mason and Benjamin Morse had the key insight that the coders shouldn't be in charge of making ebooks; the storytellers should. So Richard and Ben invented the eLume, which has been called the single greatest innovation in the making of books. The eLume enables a storyteller to immerse his audience fully in the tale by providing search, audio and video experience.

And Gavin Littlejohn founded Money Dashboard in Edinburgh. It shows an individual exactly where their money is so that they can make good decisions with it. James Varga's miiCard split off from Money Dashboard years ago, and is one of the hottest players in online identity.

One of the best known Scottish startups, however, is Skyscanner, the global flight search site, whose app has been downloaded more than 20 million times. Just like Lastminute.com, which was the first investment I made when I came to the UK, Skyscanner was founded because the founders had a problem: in this case finding the best value flights to ski resorts.

Last February, EntrepreneurCountry Global hosted our biannual Forum with a focus on Scotland in light of the referendum. Six hundred delegates came to the Royal Institution of Great Britain to hear Scotland swagger. And it did.

Nigel Chadwick of Stream Technologies keynoted, and showed that he had understood the requirements of the Machine to Machine (M2M) and Internet of Things (IOT) market since 2000, when he founded the firm. Stream has significant platforms driving global connectivity. Mark Simmers, CEO of Celtic Renewables — like Stream, backed by Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Investment Bank, who do great work, it has to be said — has a new type of biofuel that he's commercialised. Vicky Brock of Clear Returns gave a compelling keynote on her predictive returns intelligence platform, harnessing data for the retail sector.

Wikipedia lists more than a hundred major innovations as being Scottish. My own adventures in entrepreneurcountry have led me to realise that the Scots are an enterprising nation at heart.
 
Indeed, Ross Laurie, who worked with me in my previous startup, First Tuesday, to set up the First Tuesday Scotland franchise, has built and sold a number of companies. He's the quintessential Scotsman for me: a great businessperson, who's eccentric with a dry wit and innate generosity, and a global thinker.

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