A Rallying Call for Scottish Startups

June 19, 2011
Michael Hayes
Michael Hayes

Co-Founder of RookieOven and Add Jam

*This post originally appeared on The Social Penguin Blog and was co-authored by Christopher McCann and myself. *

Scotland has a long tradition of innovation and entrepreneurship, from the Logarithms of John Napier to James Watt’s work on the steam engine. But who from Scotland has innovated in the modern age? Scotland has fallen behind on the world stage of innovation and we must seize that back and once again become a global centre of excellence in technology and entrepreneurship.

The Internet has provided an outlet for a new breed of entrepreneurs but the Scottish mindset has not moved with the times. We are a country with a mindset for manufacturing but that can now no longer compete with the emerging markets of China and India. So how can Scotland compete with other countries? Well, we should look to our strengths; in particular we have a long tradition of excellent education giving Scotland a highly skilled workforce.

We have the skills in Scotland to compete internationally in the tech industry but what is holding us back? In our opinion there are several things that must change before we can truly realize our potential.

Firstly, our universities need to recognize their role in shaping future entrepreneurs and members of the community. Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone but it must be presented as an option and inspiration should be provided at every opportunity. We believe it to be crucial that inspirational and successful entrepreneurs are welcomed into our universities on a regular basis and that students are actively encouraged to consider starting their own businesses. Instead, 90% of computer science graduates will enter the financial sector. This must change.

We must also challenge a lack of ambition and a “someone else will do it” attitude, which is prevalent in Scotland. We have been told on many occasions 99.99% of businesses fail and not to get ahead of ourselves. We don’t think this is the right attitude. You can be the next Facebook. Why not? No one will be the next Facebook until someone just does it!

We also have a startup community in Scotland, which is disjointed and incohesive. In our opinion it is essential that a tight startup community exists to assist, nurture and support entrepreneurs and startups. A close community can swap skills, support and advice and it is essential to the success of Scotland on a global stage. We must all take the time to go out and meet one another, attend events and create a close community of support and exchange.

Lastly, there is the investment community and a risk-averse and hidden culture that exists throughout Scotland and the UK as a whole. In our view investors must be willing to take a step forward to support the tech startup community. Capital must be available to allow good startups to succeed and investors must look towards a new mindset. We meet a lot of business-to-business and service-based startups in Scotland as opposed to in the US where there are more business to consumer and product-based startups. A lot of this is due to UK (and probably EU) investor fear of consumer-based business models. That isn’t to say all investors are that way inclined but a healthy proportion are. We have to change that.

Scotland has the skills and the talent to become a global icon for technology and entrepreneurship but there must be changes. Our universities must promote entrepreneurship and show it as an exciting and reward opportunity. Communities must be grown to support fledgling startups and capital must be available from investors who truly understand the technology industry. These are just some changes that we believe must happen for Scotland to truly flourish in the global technology industry.

So what do you think? Join the debate over on The Social Penguin Blog.

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