Having spent last Thursday morning at the‘Aligning Interests: Entrepreneurs and Investors’ seminar at the excellent Turing Festival in Appleton Tower, one would be excused in thinking that the tech startup community in Edinburgh was taking some unjustified criticism.
The general feeling from the panel was that Scotland was not ready to produce the next Google, Facebook or Apple, Edinburgh’s startup environment wasn’t up to scratch, and its VC and Angel syndicates in particular just didn’t “get it”.
No one is of course suggesting that Edinburgh is in line to become the next Silicon Valley, but the experience that this firm has with tech startup investment in recent months does suggest that there is strong reason to be extremely positive about the future. As Nigel Eccles ofFanDuel mentioned in the seminar ‘Billion Dollar Babies’, Edinburgh University sits in the top 30 universities in the world for Computer Science.
Combine this with the incentives provided by theSEIS and EIS tax benefit schemes and a sophisticated Angel community, and the result should be a fertile environment from which a tech startup monster could grow. The Scottish Enterprise Co-Investment Fund was also identified as a key advantage.
While Edinburgh (and indeed Scotland and the UK) may not yet be the “promised land” for tech startups, some participants pointed to the need for a long-term view. Ecologies evolve over time; they are not created over night!
Frequent reference was made throughout the festival to the man that started the entrepreneurial revolution in Boulder, Colorado - Brad Feld. Brad emphasised simply that “leadership matters”, a point that we've written about previously on this blog. The panel argued that this key entrepreneurial leadership did not exist in the Edinburgh community and was essential to driving what Brian Caulfield of DFJ Esprit describes as “meithal” (Irish Gaelic for “community unity through co-operation”).
We all have differing views on this but most agree that there are at least promising signs for the development of entrepreneurial leadership of Edinburgh with the birth of TechCube, and the success stories of businesses like FanDuel,FreeAgent and Mobile Acuity.
I managed to fit in another couple of the events and I’d like to congratulate the team behind the Turing Festival for once again putting on a great programme. I’ll certainly be returning next year and I suggest that you do the same.
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