EIE adapts to keep fostering the Scots tech sector - comment

EIE has supported around 500 technology start-ups and scale-ups since 2008, a collective that has raised more than £750 million in investment to date.

A previous EIE event - this year's will take place on a virtual conference platform. Picture: Jane Barlow.
A previous EIE event - this year's will take place on a virtual conference platform. Picture: Jane Barlow.

Our year-round EIE Entrepreneurship and Investor Readiness Programme culminates with the annual EIE showcase in Edinburgh. EIE20, originally planned for the city’s McEwan Hall, will now be hosted by the University of Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre on a virtual conference platform on 14 October.

One unintended consequence of Covid is that by going virtual in 2020 we’ve been able to broaden the target market in terms of participants and supporters and that’s enabled us to go even more global. It’s encouraged us to look at a more hybrid EIE event going forward.

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This year’s EIE brings together one of our strongest speaker line-ups, with CBI president and Cobra Beer founder Lord Bilimoria, and TechUK president Jacqueline de Rojas joining eminent individuals like Baillie Gifford chair in the ethics of data and AI at the University of Edinburgh Shannon Vallor.

Start-ups are some of the most resilient businesses around and that will help, says Ewing. Picture: Stewart Attwood.
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Tech investor showcase EIE20 broadens remit with virtual event

In 2020, the EIE cohort of data-driven companies pitching to investors for seed to series A funding features innovative firms tackling real-world problems with cutting-edge solutions in sectors including energy, climate, cleantech, cybersecurity, fintech and digital health. The 2020 cohort is also characterised by the largest percentage to date of globally-founded ventures locating to Scotland.

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While our focus this year, like every year, is on our pitching companies, we retain strong links with our alumni, tech start-ups and scale-ups who have gone on to shape our tech ecosystem in Scotland. Companies like FanDuel, Mallzee, Current Health, ZoneFox, Two Big Ears, PureLiFi, Float, Citruslabs, and Amiqus. We know some of this year’s firms will make similar impressions on the Scottish tech scene.

2020 has been a monumentally challenging year for Scotland’s business community. We have a strong technology sector and start-ups are some of the most resilient businesses around – that is going to help in the months ahead in terms of helping to drive the economic recovery.

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As Amiqus founder and chief executive Callum Murray puts it: “Uncertainty and ever-changing variables are par for the course when you’re in the early stages of building an impactful business. Covid-19 has meant change for everyone, and while the tech sector has in some cases been insulated, we don’t take the upsides for granted.

Thriving

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"For five years, Amiqus has been among the thriving community of tech companies in Scotland in which EIE plays a central part. We’re fortunate to have had the support of the EIE team down the years and won pitch of the day at EIE twice, which has been fundamental to supporting our funding plans and visibility while also bringing to the fore Scotland’s ambitions to develop an economy around a world-class tech sector, inclusive growth and wellbeing.”

Last week, former Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan published the Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, to which we contributed. One of the main takeaways for me is around one of a series of calls to the Scottish Government outlined by Logan: “We recommend that these conferences are internationalised to showcase start-ups regardless of their origin country, and that a level of public finance support is provided, to ensure that ticket prices, pitch-entry prices etc are not prohibitive.”

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Logan continues: “The reason for doing so is to attract external investors and international industry expertise to Scotland that won’t come to see a solely domestic portfolio. In Scotland’s pre-tipping point ecosystem, there isn’t a large enough contingent of investible start-ups (and hence, deal-flow) at this stage to attract the parties. So, either they don’t attend the conference, or they don’t attend more than once.”

It is pleasing to see that the Scottish Government has accepted all of the review’s recommendations, and we look forward to hearing more from Logan and his route map for increasing success on the Scottish tech scene when he features at our investor-only event taking place the day before EIE20.

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Steve Ewing, director of entrepreneurship, Bayes Centre

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