Sir Tom Hunter told Scotland’s biggest-ever gathering of start-ups and investors yesterday that collaboration among agencies was working and that they should celebrate the opportunities the country offered.
In a keynote speech in Edinburgh, the Scottish tycoon urged them to ignore those who claimed there was too little support or finance for young companies. “I just do not buy it,” he said.
“We have fantastic support networks. Four of our universities are in the top 200 globally and for a country of five million people we are punching above our weight. So don’t moan about it.”
Addressing more than 500 delegates at the EIE13 conference at the Assembly Rooms, he said there were “unbelievable opportunities” and if finance was not available then it was necessary to come up with new ideas.
He referred to the brewing company Brewdog’s “equity for punks” fund-raising scheme that raised £3 million from 6,500 investors, some paying as little as £95.
He said 2,000 attended the annual general meeting. “This is innovation. So rather than moan that there is no finance, innovate.”
This was the sixth year of EIE (Engage Invest Exploit) and was twice the size of last year’s event. It drew 60 entrepreneurial companies from the informatics, computer science, energy and life science sectors to showcase their services and products and to pitch for investment. Sixteen were selected to present their case to 150 investors.
Organiser Informatics Ventures joined forces for the first time with Edinburgh BioQuarter and the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) alongside sponsors Johnston Carmichael, MBM Commercial and Open Innovation.
Hunter said the small firms represented at the event were his “heroes”, providing the lifeblood of the economy, and he urged them not to fear failure but to embrace opportunity. “Perhaps one day we will have our own Facebook or Google. Why not?” he said. “I believe we are getting the climate right for start up businesses. This event today is an example: bringing together three organisations. We also have the government listening to business. There is public and private collaboration.”
He thanked Royal Bank of Scotland for supporting another support agency, Entrepreneurial Spark.
Offering some advice to those pitching for investment, Hunter criticised business plans that only ever showed growth.
“The only people I am interested in investing in are the ones who tell you how they dealt with adversity and failure. It is OK to fail, but fail fast and fail cheap and learn and get on with it. They are the true heroes.”
He described himself as an “entrepreneurial anorak” and said Scotland had plenty going for it for companies to achieve success.
“We need to start blowing our own trumpet, not in an American way, but let’s do it in the Scottish way, understated but recognising our brilliant ideas and innovations,” he added
Gordon Stuart, senior executive of Informatics, said there was still a shortage of venture capital companies in Scotland and there had been a particular effort this year to draw investors from elsewhere, including a number of VCs from London.