Scottish start-ups show their pandemic strength - comment
As economies worldwide battle to navigate the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, mounting evidence suggests the Scottish start-up scene remains resilient, with the tech and fintech sectors in particular demonstrating their ongoing strength.
Recent data from the Scottish Startup Survey 2021 reports that almost three quarters (72 per cent) of Scottish start-ups expect to emerge from the coronavirus pandemic in a stronger position than when they started, with 68 per cent having grown their businesses over this period.
The survey, run by the University of Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre, also found that this is against the 7 per cent of respondents who estimate the outlook will worsen, and the 11 per cent whose businesses have contracted during the pandemic period.
Particularly heartening for Scotland is the country’s growing reputation as a tech and fintech hub. According to Tech Nation’s survey of Scotland’s tech start-ups, the number of venture capital funding rounds completed increased from 87 in 2019 to 96 in 2020, despite the challenges of the pandemic, for a total investment value of £345 million.
Not only that, but Scotland maintains its place as the UK’s most attractive region for financial services foreign direct investment outside London in EY’s latest UK Attractiveness Survey for Financial Services.
Within the fintech sphere, there is another emerging trend that has captured headlines of late: that of cryptocurrency. While many traditional bricks-and-mortar sectors have struggled during the pandemic period, lockdown unleashed an explosion in the cryptocurrency markets, with total market capitalisation increasing from some £120 billion at the beginning of lockdown in late March 2020 to more than £1.75 trillion at its May 2021 peak.
This is in addition to growing signs of rapidly increasing cryptocurrency usage and adoption, with the Financial Conduct Authority recently reporting that 2.3 million adults in the UK now hold crypto assets, up from 1.9 million last year.
We at Edinburgh-based Zumo are one of the Scottish-born start-ups pioneering mainstream cryptocurrency adoption. I founded it with fellow entrepreneur Paul Roach, with the mission “smart money for everyone”, using technology to provide a secure, yet simple way to engage with a new, digital and decentralised economy.
Now with staff based in locations across Scotland, London and Slovenia, the business is a purpose-driven fintech with transparency, accessibility and financial inclusion at its core. We aim to make cryptocurrency accessible to the everyday consumer with a mobile app (already numbering some 50,000 users) that provides a safe and secure way to buy, store, send and spend both cryptocurrency and traditional money.
Our investors include Murray Capital, tech entrepreneur Jon Claydon and Coldplay’s Guy Berryman, and we’ve completed three successful funding rounds.
Zumo App, our direct-to-consumer mobile application, allows individuals to exchange, store, send and spend cryptocurrency alongside their ordinary money. And ZumoKit, our business-to-business crypto-as-a-service platform, allows fintechs and financial institutions to rapidly go to market and offer their users the capability to securely hold, buy and sell digital currencies.
With adoption of cryptocurrency overwhelmingly driven by millennial and younger generations, a key focus for us is “financial wellness”, providing a suite of financial products that allow anyone the opportunity to build wealth, especially those underserved by legacy financial systems.
Zumo’s growth during the pandemic was led by an increasing number of people turning to crypto as an alternative investment for their accumulated savings, as well as a successful referral programme that encouraged people to get comfortable with crypto and try it out for themselves with free crypto rewards for referred users.
We have just relaunched the campaign again for 2021 and will be hoping to facilitate that process for even more people with a further £100,000 crypto giveaway to anyone who is introduced by a friend or introduces someone else.
When we unveiled this giveaway, we said we passionately believed that crypto is for everyone, and this move was our way of offering people a super-simple way to get comfortable with crypto without needing to put up any of their own money.
Zumo also hopes that people in Scotland eventually use such funds to pay for day-to-day purchases and support the reopening of the Scottish retail and hospitality sectors.
At Zumo, we believe in a sustainable and inclusive financial future. Our mission is to bring the benefits of blockchain and cryptocurrency to everyone, everywhere, giving people and businesses that sense of financial self-sovereignty: real control over their money.
What’s more, we are a partner to WasteAid; member of CryptoUK; signatory of the Crypto Climate Accord; and supporter of the UN Global Compact.
Scotland has always been at the forefront of innovation and we’re proud to be a Scottish-born business. As we approach the end of our own Series A fundraising, it’s great to see the strength of the surrounding start-up ecosystem and the reputation Scotland is building for itself, particularly in the tech and fintech sectors.
We are just one of the Scottish start-ups pursuing ambitious plans, and the future looks bright as the Scottish economy looks to build back better and stronger in the years ahead.
Nick Jones is the co-founder and chief executive of Zumo
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