Capita and CodeBase team up to grow tech start-ups

Jamie Coleman, left, and Gordon Lee are joining forces. Picture: Jane Barlow

Jamie Coleman, left, and Gordon Lee are joining forces. Picture: Jane Barlow

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Outsourcing giant Capita has thrown its financial weight behind ­Edinburgh’s CodeBase technology ­incubator in a move aimed at accelerating the growth of start-up companies.

The FTSE 100 firm, which generates annual revenues of almost £4 billion, said the partnership would also open up opportunities to learn from early-stage firms and apply their technology to its own range of services, spanning the public and private sectors.

CodeBase managing director Jamie Coleman told The Scotsman that the ­facility, which opened in March last year, is already the largest technology incubator in the UK, “which is kind of crazy, but we’re on track to become the largest in Europe within a year or so”.

He added: “That rate of growth has been hard, as we’re a tiny team and I’ve effectively been funding this on my own, but we’ve got to the point where we have 50 companies with well over 300 staff. Now it’s time to scale it up, and properly deliver on the promise of helping these people grow to become the next Google or IBM.

“I’ve got companies from all over ­Edinburgh and other parts of Scotland lining up to come in here, but I personally wouldn’t be able to afford the costs of the physical expansion and fit-out without this partnership.”

Coleman said he has received “many knocks at the door” from potential partners, but he wanted any deal to create “meaningful value” for start-ups, rather than just a blank cheque.

“I want some young millionaires here, and I want them to get access to people who really know the software industry, and that’s how the partnership with Capita came about.”

Capita remained tight-lipped on the size of its investment, but marketing ­director Gordon Lee said the “substantial” funding would help at least ten new tenants – employing more than 100 people – take up space within the 11-storey Argyle House, a brutalist edifice on Lady Lawson Street that once housed government agencies.

Lee said the group had been looking at various “digital innovation” hubs for some time before deciding to partner with CodeBase, because its tenants were at a more mature stage than those at other incubators, and had a stronger focus on enterprise-class software.

Lee said: “Our clients include government organisations and big PLCs who want that standard of software.

“It’s a chance to get close to a group of innovative digital companies who are doing that standard of work and see if we can draw on ways in which they can help us with our proposition.”

Fledgling firms at the site include security software spin-out ZoneFox, ­online training management specialist Administrate and Peekabu Studios, which turns pictures into online passwords.

Capita chief executive Andy Parker said: “CodeBase has succeeded in creating a superb grouping of innovative technology start-ups and we’re proud to be able to support its further expansion. In addition to funding, Capita will provide business support and much-needed market access for these businesses.

“Currently around 20 per cent of our external spend is with SMEs – they bring us innovation and we help them strengthen and grow.

“This new partnership provides the opportunity to maximise the contribution that smart, digital SMEs can make to our business.”

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