Coutu to pump ‘significant sum’ into Scottish firm

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SHERRY Coutu, the Canadian entrepreneur and angel investor, has revealed plans to invest a significant sum in a high-growth Scottish firm.

She declined to give details of the firm but it will be her first investment north of the Border, adding to a portfolio of 45 companies, of which 37 are in the UK.

They have a collective turnover of more than $1 billion (£645 million) and include LoveFilm and Zoopla.

Coutu spoke at last week’s highly successful Engage Invest Exploit (EIE13) conference in Edinburgh, which brought investors and start-up companies together. It was the biggest in the six-year history of the event, drawing some 500 company leaders, investors, advisers and academics.

Coutu’s investment in Scotland would be seen as a coup for the organisers of EIE, who are keen to attract interest from outwith Scotland.

A number of venture capital and corporate finance houses from London were among those who attended and heard 16 firms pitch to 150 investors.

Coutu told Scotland on Sunday she is particularly keen to encourage companies to scale up but she said there are a number of obstacles 
facing young firms, including tax rules, access to finance and immigration restrictions, which make it difficult for companies to hire those with the required skills.

“It is easy to start up but difficult to scale up,” she said. Recent research showed the UK matched the United States for the number of start-ups but less than half then scaled up.

Coutu, who in 1999 became the youngest female chairman of a FTSE 100 company at Interactive Investor and in 2003 the youngest senior independent director, is keen to promote entrepreneurialism in schools. She has set up Founders4Schools.org.uk to encourage entrepreneurs to pass on experiences in the classroom.

A pilot scheme involving 2,500 children resulted in a surge in the number who wanted to study science-based subjects.