EIE: Scotland's first tech fest

This week, EIE19 takes place in Edinburgh for the eleventh time. Every year for over a decade, Informatics Ventures has selected 60 of Scotland’s most promising early stage technology companies to pitch to investors for seed to series A funding. Down the years, investors from Scotland, London and the rest of the world have had the opportunity to meet Scottish tech success stories like FanDuelpureLiFi and Two Big Ears (acquired by Facebook in 2016) in their relative infancy.

As Skyscanner’s former CFO and current SVP of Growth, Shane Corstorphine wrote in a recent blog, “If you’re thinking of founding a startup, fundraising is likely to be very near the top of your to-do list.” Having been fortunate enough to advise Skyscanner’s leadership team through its scale-up and funding phases, today’s aspiring Scottish startups would be well advised to study Shane’s guidelines around how crucial it is “to understand the funding landscape in order to identify the types of investors that match the maturity of your business.”

Skyscanner is one of the few Scottish technology startups not to have gone through Informatics Ventures’ EIE programme, speaking volumes to how integral the support programme for Scotland’s technology entrepreneurs has been during its time. In 2019, we have a string of other prominent players supporting our tech scene and there are now other well established industry events like Turing Fest and FutureX’s Startup Summit but back in the day EIE really was the only show in town.

Perhaps most refreshing, the long-serving team of Colin Adams, Gordon Stuart (both recently retired), Steve EwingDanny Helson and Ronnie Johnston has always left its ego at the door and has been 100 per cent about the cohort of companies and their founders. As an adviser, it’s always nice to work with good people who show humility at every turn, and Informatics Ventures encapsulate these characteristics in spades.

Interviewed last year, FanDuel co-founder Lesley Eccles identified EIE as “an important part of our early journey, to be able to grow our investor base outside of Scotland.” Of course, getting our tech startups onto the radar of investors in London and further afield continues to be a significant hurdle. Earlier this month, in a similar vein, I wrote about ADV, an early stage venture capitalist that focuses on areas outside of London, that has actively encouraged heavyweight funds like Legal & General to invest in Scottish tech. 

Getting the media outside Scotland to cover the Scottish tech ecosystem can pose a not too dissimilar challenge. The media and investment community have something of a symbiotic relationship in that investors will pick up and act on press coverage. Advising the likes of Skyscanner, BlackcirclesCodeBase, pureLiFi, AdministrateCare Sourcer, Informatics Ventures and others has allowed me to open strong lines of communication with London-based journalists who, on an occasional basis, decide (often after some mild persuasion) to report on what is going on in what is still considered to be a satellite tech hub.     

We know we need to get more of our startups in Scotland to what can accurately be described as scale-up status. As former Skyscanner director Richard Lennox wrote in this column a couple of weeks’ back, “We have proven experience of growing globally successful tech businesses but the biggest challenge is whether we have the depth of talent pool to accelerate more such organisations in the near term.”

I am currently advising three startups who genuinely look like they could achieve significant scale-up success. If you want a clue to their identities, keep an eye out for some of the high quality executives with track records of scaling tech companies who are set to be hired by this clutch of Scottish startups over the next few weeks.