Scotland’s tech ecosystem is flourishing — but there’s still work to be done...

October 29, 2018
Brian Corcoran
Brian Corcoran

CEO and CO-founder, Turing Fest

Why we’ve launched the first-ever Scottish Tech Startup Awards

I moved to Scotland from Barcelona in 2010 — for the weather, obviously. I came here to build a SaaS startup, joining what was then a pretty small and fragmented tech ecosystem. 8 years later, everything has changed; that startup is no more (RIP Stipso), and this ecosystem is no longer quite so small or fragmented — it’s growing into a thriving organism.

It’s an exciting time for tech in Scotland, which is why we’ve launched the inaugural Scottish Tech Startup Awards. There’s a long road ahead of us if we’re to become Europe’s top tech ecosystem — I believe we can — but I reckon it’s about time we brought the community together to take stock of how far we’ve come, and celebrate (with a party to remember!) some of the outstanding people and companies that are driving our growth and progress.

The future of the Scottish economy is going to be driven by the tech industry, and the success of our startups and scaleups is tightly entwined with the future success of our nation. It’s on all of us — national and local governments, universities, industry, but most importantly startups ourselves — to invest in building a robust community that supports and enables businesses to start, scale and succeed.

The outlook is positive, but there’s a lot of work to be done (attracting & retaining technical and leadership talent in Scotland; ensuring that startups can access funding to grow, and the resources and support systems to enable that growth) to ensure that Scotland’s technology sector can fulfil its promise and drive growth in the broader economy.

Since 2016, I’ve been leading the team behind Turing Fest, and it’s been really remarkable to see how the demographics of our community have evolved over the past three years, reflecting the changing face of Scotland’s tech industry. We’re seeing a striking proliferation of new product and SaaS businesses — and more importantly, we’re seeing more and more those companies raising serious investment, scaling their operations and moving beyond the ‘startup’ label, becoming real, viable, growing businesses.

Not only that, but we’re now seeing more and more Scottish businesses hit the success milestones that create a virtuous cycle: notable fundraising (CareSourcer, Snap40, Flick), IPOs (Nucleus Financial, FreeAgent) and acquisitions (Skyscanner, IntelligentPOS, Converse.AI, ZoneFox) that return talent and capital to the ecosystem to start new ventures.

There are big challenges ahead, but we’ve also got a lot to celebrate - and that’s just what the Scottish Tech Startup Awards intend to do. We’re giving out gongs in 10 categories this year, to recognise people and organisations building exciting, ambitious businesses (whether B2B or B2C; startup or scaleup; product or service) and contributing to the continued development of the ecosystem (the Diversity in Tech Champion and Ecosystem Award.)

The whole point of the Awards is to bring the community together, and to help strengthen our collective identity; people are by far the most important element of a technical ecosystem, and Scotland doesn’t actually have that many opportunities for the startup community to get together. It’s really amazing, looking at the public nominations so far, to see so much enthusiasm and goodwill in the community — nominations close next Wednesday (31 October), so you’ve got a few more days to let us know who’s inspiring you.

We’ll be announcing the shortlist on Monday 5 November, and we’ve got an all-star lineup of judges to help us choose the winners:

But the main event is happening at Edinburgh’s glorious Central Hall on Thursday 29 November: the Awards Party, where we’ll announce the winners — and raise a few glasses to them! We’re going all out to make it a fantastic evening and a fitting capstone to 2018, with a little help on the entertainment from our friends at We Throw Switches, the interactive entertainment maestros behind the Games Are For Everyone nights. Tickets are available now — we’d love to see you (and your team!) there to be part of it all.

Offline and online we’re working to connect the Scottish tech ecosystem. Join our Slack Team.

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