'˜Majestic pull' of Edinburgh is attracting tech start-ups

Capital's historic attractions can help attract cutting edge start-ups to the city in a competitive marketplace, writes Chris McCall

Edinburgh is attracting tech start-ups from across the UK, such as big data specialists Brainnwave. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor/JP Resell

That’s the view of Steve Coates, CEO of Brainnwave, a data analysis firm that recently relocated north of the Border from Jersey.

“Having been based in London, you quickly realise how easy it is to do business in Scotland,” he said.

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“In Edinburgh, it feels like everybody is there to help you and wants you to succeed. You can’t underestimate that.

Steve Coates, co-founder and CEO of Brainnwave, a tech start-up that chose to relocate to Edinburgh from Jersey. Picture: Contributed

“In the wider start-up world there are a lot of people who think you will fail or are competing with you for investment and talent. But then you come to Scotland and it’s the opposite.”

Brainnwave was set up by Coates, a former UK entrepreneur of the year, Don Baker, a complex and secure data specialist, and Graham Jones, former senior software engineer at Bloomberg.

The start-up, which now has a team of 20 based in Edinburgh, has secured “significant” seed equity from two private equity firms as well as a Scottish Enterprise grant of £500,000.

The Data Lab also played a crucial role by funding an academic partnership with the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow, which allowed Brainnwave to develop the technology behind its unique data marketplace platform.

Steve Coates, co-founder and CEO of Brainnwave, a tech start-up that chose to relocate to Edinburgh from Jersey. Picture: Contributed

This allows quick access to datasets from around the world, including Skyscanner, Ordnance Survey and Airbus Defence and Space, all in one place for the first time.

The online data discovery marketplace aims to slash the time and resources spent by data scientists and business analysts in finding the right data.

Brainnwave’s decision to move to the capital was one welcomed by Coates.

“I did a maths degree at Edinburgh University in the ‘90s,” he added. “When we founded the company we realised we had to work with academia and we weren’t really sure where to start.

“I emailed my old professor, Toby Bailey, and thankfully he remembered me after all these years, and in true Scots fashion he invited us along to meet his team welcomed us with open arms. That planted the seed.”

The attraction of Edinburgh, with its three universities and supply of graduates, is obvious to start-ups. But the capital’s more traditional charms also help its standing in the tech world. “Relocating your family when you work for a start-up is a bit of a gamble,” added Coates. “You’re not working for a multinational that’s offering a relocation package.

But the buzz that’s being created about data in Scotland took the risk out of it for me.

He added: “I talk to our staff that have relocated to Edinburgh from elsewhere and they went through the same emotions I did 20 years ago.

“When I stepped off the train at Waverley for my interview at university and instantly rejected all the other offers I had.

“Edinburgh does have that majestic pull. I don’t hear people talking about Jersey in the same way.”
Jude McCorry, head of business development at The Data Lab, said: “The Brainnwave service will make sourcing data much easier for businesses and allow them to reap its value and help them enhance their services.

“The easy-to-use site will enable them to locate data sets, and smaller parts of big sets, quickly, to better understand their customers and enhance their services.

“We were delighted to support Brainnwave and partner them with the University of Edinburgh so they could fine-tune their technology and take it to market.”