Fostering a resilient entrepreneurial ecosystem - Bruce Walker

Scottish successes like BrewDog had to blaze the trail, says Walker. Picture: contributed.
Scottish successes like BrewDog had to blaze the trail, says Walker. Picture: contributed.
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The entrepreneurial world brings with it its own jargon.

One of the most well worn is the “entrepreneurial ecosystem”: the local environment and network affecting new businesses.

London and European-based venture capitalists will be speaking at the Startup Summit this week. Picture: contributed.

London and European-based venture capitalists will be speaking at the Startup Summit this week. Picture: contributed.

Seven years ago, as an emerging entrepreneur, I took note of the support available in that ecosystem – but felt that it was fragmented. Entrepreneurs like me were hungry for a cohesive community that could support them in their business ambitions.

When I first took charge of Startup Summit, I hoped to bring those elements together and see the ecosystem laid out in front of us. By the second year of running the event, we started to see those pieces connect and the foundations of the current network forming.

Since then, with a massive collective effort from across the country, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has gained momentum. The environment – inter-sector support – and network – a cohesive community of organisations –– have matured, creating a space primed for the future of business and the challenges and opportunities that entails.

An empowering network

As those fragments have connected, the community has formalised into Scotland Can Do, connecting more than 100 organisations across Scotland. It is a focal point as we work together, share support and resources, and create a culture empowering people to develop new initiatives.

Alongside this community, support from public and private sector organisations enables new companies to succeed. Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway, Entrepreneurial Scotland and Scottish Edge, among others, have cemented themselves as pivotal backers in this network.

Tying these together is how closely the Scottish private and public sectors work together by exchanging data and analysis. The Data Lab, in particular, plays a fundamental role in this data exchange.

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Scottish culture & connection

While this close collaboration is new, Scotland’s entrepreneurial spirit is not. From television to penicillin to modern geology, Scotland’s DNA is built on innovation. Scottish successes like Skyscanner and BrewDog had to blaze the trail, leading the way and showing where opportunities and challenges lie. They also became role models for success and growth: if they could become global businesses, so could other Scottish entrepreneurs.

These examples of high-growth companies and the emergence of a thriving community are encouraging more talented people to relocate to Scotland. The country benefits from its intimate size and global reach. Increasingly, international investors and companies are looking to Scotland.

London and European-based venture capitalists, including Octopus Ventures, Episode 1 and ADV, are interested in Scottish businesses and will be speaking at Startup Summit this Wednesday in Edinburgh about start-up investment.

Other Startup Summit speakers, from Google for Startups UK and Starling Bank, have voiced interest in increasing their representation outside London – and see Scotland as ideal.

What’s next?

As we look to the future of entrepreneurship in Scotland, we need to act with intention. We are moving into an era of further digitisation, AI and increased personalisation. But we must always keep ethics, purpose and people at the heart of our decision-making.

We’ve set the foundations of a healthy, supportive and encouraging entrepreneurial ecosystem. Now, we need to make sure we move into the next phase of building robust companies prepared for investment and growth.

We’re delighted to be back this week for the eighth Startup Summit and continue to champion the Scottish and European entrepreneurial ecosystems. While it may look a little different than 2012, the driving force remains the same: to create a cohesive international community of ambitious entrepreneurs building sustainable and scalable companies.

Bruce Walker is the CEO and co-founder of FutureX