Nick Freer: With the right care Scotland can be a hub for healthtechs

Scotland Can Do Fest moved into full swing last week with the EIE19 tech investor conference in Edinburgh and Entrepreneurial Scotland’s annual summit at Gleneagles among the early highlights. Billed as “Scotland’s spring festival of impactful entrepreneurship”, Can Do Fest features events for aspiring, budding and established entrepreneurs across the country, from Aberdeen to Oban with many stops along the way. In 2019, themes like female entrepreneurship, our nation’s young people, sustainability and business for good are to the fore.

Scotland is now producing digital ventures which marry health issues with tech, says Freer. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Scotland is now producing digital ventures which marry health issues with tech, says Freer. Picture: Stewart Attwood

One of Scotland’s fast growth companies that can lay claim to being our brightest example of a business geared towards the benefit of everyone in society is Leith-headquartered civil justice start-up Amiqus, and no one was surprised when inspiring chief executive and founder Callum Murray walked away with another pitch of the day award at EIE this year.

I had the good fortune to meet a less heralded start-up founder recently who also pitched at EIE, whose early stage healthtech venture could very well be one to watch in the months and years ahead. Pranav Shakti is the Indian co-founder of CogniHealth, a company aiming to transform dementia care via its free CogniCare app for families who support dementia sufferers at home. CogniHealth has a partnership in place with Alzheimer Scotland, and has built up an impressive user base in relatively short space of time since launch.

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For me, there are some parallels between the rise of Scottish healthtech start-ups and the now more established fintech sector. Fintech took a while to take off in Scotland, which is surprising on some levels given the longstanding strength our 
financial institutions. Similarly with healthtech today, I wonder if we need to get more behind this segment of the tech scene. We have a world class reputation in medicine and health and we are now producing digital ventures which are showing they can marry health-related problems with technology solutions to great effect.

CogniHealth developed its app for Android in the first instance, with co-founder Pooja Jain targeting the Indian market, but lack of smartphone penetration convinced the team to switch its efforts back to the UK market and an iOS application that is now making impact. It was the kind of entrepreneurial masterstroke that was celebrated at Entrepreneurial Scotland’s annual summit last Thursday.

When I caught up with Entrepreneurial Scotland’s chief executive Sandy Kennedy post-event, Sandy reflected on how far the organisation has come in recent years and the importance of the Can Do Fest.

“Just over 4 years ago we launched Entrepreneurial Scotland with what some said was a mad and unachievable ambition to crate a more entrepreneurial Scotland. Today, we had speakers and participants from around the world to share their experiences and insight of what it takes to become globally entrepreneurial. If we could just bottle that up – put it in the water – our job would be done,” says Sandy.

“With speakers like Sonia Lo, who is behind one the world’s most successful vertical farming initiatives, to our very own Steven Gray of Rovop who has built a successful, global renewables business with high value jobs in eight years, we had a really inspiring line-up.”

“However, no one person or organisation can do this alone – we need to come together and work together and that’s why the Can Do Fest is so important. Just a year in, there are over 30 events and thousands of participants across Scotland. We’re now more ready than we’ve ever been to take the next step towards making the impact we’re all working for. We need everyone with an entrepreneurial mindset to get involved So, if you’re reading this and you are not already connected to the CAN DO movement, check out what’s happening and get involved!”

- Nick Freer, founding director of the Freer Consultancy and Full Circle Partners