baking a tasty startup scene in Scotland

Scotland: The Foundations Of A Startup Community

By · Startup Talk

There was a guest post on TechCrunch over the weekend by American entrepreneur Brenden Mulligan. In it, based on his travels to visit startups around the world, Brenden outlines what he feels makes Siliocon Valley such a startup friendly environment. Personally I think the post is excellent and I was wondering how Scotland stacks up.


In Scotland there has always been support for startups, things like Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway and PSYBT. This kind of support is highly visible and accessible however I (rightly or wrongly) have a always felt startups shouldn’t rely on such services. If you want support and help go out and get it yourself. For example financially the bank is always there or for mentoring there are a large number of successful entrepreneurs willing to give their time to startups. I think support is something that Scotland isn’t short of.


I think this is one that Scotland is getting better at. Even informal meetups like the RookieOven ones in Glasgow play a part and get people taking to each other. The amount of meetups and user groups popping up across Scotland is fantastic, for example there is TwitAyr in Ayr, Dundee Web Standards, Glasgow UX Bookclub and of course TechMeetup.


This is an area Scotland doesn’t do too well at. People are often very timid about sharing ideas for fear of them being stolen, some going as far as to ask to sign an NDA. Personally I don’t mind talking about ideas, I find it’s the best way to flesh them out. A viable business idea is hard to reach but it’s really not worth a lot, the thing that matters is the implementation. As I’ve written in previous posts ‘hard questions‘ are coming and you won’t be prepared for them if you don’t talk about your idea.

Embrace Failure

Failure in Scotland isn’t handled well. Doing something wrong is the quickest way to learn how to do it right. So you balls something up, in my opinion great because next time you wont make the same mistakes. That isn’t an automatic pass to success but as long as you learn from doing things wrong it certainly means it’s one less thing you can balls up.

Form Startup Hubs

Scotland performs well here, the Edinburgh University Appleton Towers is packed full of great startups, not only that but others have sprung up around that core. On Friday there was the announcement of Entrepreneurial Spark, a totally free incubator in Glasgow offering free office space, meeting rooms and mentoring. So things are looking up in this respect but that doesn’t mean more can’t be done, for example how about a Startup Weekend in Scotland?

Invite Outsiders In

We are doing a decent job here, its difficult to get Scotland on the startup radar when a short hop away are the big players such as London and Berlin. Getting big names to Scotland regularly isn’t easy but some pretty big names do come on occasion, Dave McClure came to Edinburgh a few years ago and the Turing Festival had some amazing international speakers in August this year. 

Send Insiders Out

All around the world there are people with a strong link back to bonnie Scotland, so it’s safe to say Scotland has never had a problem in sending people out. In past few months both Anne Johnson and Andrew McCalister who are now based in Silicon Valley have came back to Scotland to share their insight and I expect many more Scots do the same.

Be Patient

Apparently Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same goes for startup communities. The problem is as things stand Scotland is quite a bit behind other European startup communities such as London and Berlin never mind Silicon Valley. A lot of talent is being drawn to other locations as they simply can’t afford to be patient.

That’s not to say in Scotland there isn’t a lot of great stuff happening because there clearly is from the small (RookieOven Meetup) to the big such as Entrepreneurial Spark so with a bit of patience we will eventually get there. We’re doing a lot right and as Brenden says get the foundation right and the rest will come.

  • Jamie McHale

    So what can we do next to accelerate the growth of the startup community in Scotland? What can the community do to encourage more people to come to Glasgow / Edinburgh with their startup ideas? Can we make more links with London and Berlin?

    • Anonymous

      I think the way to make it happen is to have more successful startups coming out of Scotland. It’s a classic chicken and egg but the people who will break the status quo are entrepreneurs, like you Jamie, creating startups here.

      No point waiting for something magical to come along, nobody is going to do it for us and we need to put the graft in to change things.

  • Code

    I agree with most of what you say, other than the support bit. I’ve had experience of both incubators and the likes of business gateway/SMART awards etc.

    Neither helps in the right way as incubators are simply expensive office space and government support asks for or focuses on onerous amounts of business planning and hoop jumping to get anywhere and in reality they only really get involved in businesses that are somewhat down the line.

    also.. banks? really? come now..

    which is why im so excited to see a reality based set of help from the likes of tom hunter et al, ok things have barely gotten started, but its nice to see people with the resources trying to put something back into scotland.

    • Anonymous

      My point regarding support is there are ‘things’ about already. Totally agree they wont suit everyone but they do exist. As I said I personally don’t think any startup should rely on these support services but it can’t hurt to have them on your radar.

      Also getting money out a bank these days is like blood from a stone but it is potentially an option.