CodeBase is the foundation of Scottish start-ups - Nick Freer

No one in the room was surprised when CodeBase lifted the Ecosystem award at the recent Turing Fest-run Scottish Tech Startup Awards in Edinburgh. Since launching in 2014, the tech incubator in Scotland’s capital makes a strong case for being the heart and soul of the city’s start-up scene, and in many eyes the Scottish tech scene overall.

CodeBase tenant companies have collectively raised more than 600m to date, says Freer. Picture: Stewart Attwood

Shame on the naysayers (I have come across a few) who have branded CodeBase a “property play” over the years – it was always so much more. In 2020 it is a bona fide tech cluster and a veritable beacon for the great stuff going on in Scottish tech. Again, no surprise that big name corporates like Barclays and PwC have fallen over themselves to secure tie-ups with CodeBase, which now has core sites in Edinburgh, Stirling and Aberdeen.

The team has carefully built a culture partly by design and, as I’m sure the guys would admit, partly by way of evolutionary flow at Argyle House in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Like it was yesterday, I remember the day of the official launch when Scotland’s First Minister opened the building and we ushered in press and photographers when the paint was still drying on app developer Kotikan’s shiny new HQ (Kotikan was a keystone tenant at CodeBase and was subsequently acquired by fantasy sports site FanDuel in 2015).

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As the saying goes, the sum is greater than the parts and CodeBase tenant companies have collectively raised more than £600 million to date. Around 400 companies are currently being supported and the CodeBase team is delivering programmes and mentoring across 24 cities in the UK.

In May, CodeBase launched a creative industries accelerator – Creative Bridge – in partnership with University of Edinburgh, Napier University and Creative Edinburgh – and in November the team brought LawTech Bridge, which had already tasted great success in London, to Scotland, offering an opportunity-rich environment for collaboration between law firms and start-ups. Watch this space for further industry sector announcements in 2020.

'A champion and protector'

CodeBase’s head of partnerships, Oliver Littlejohn, explains: “2020 is going to be a pivotal year for CodeBase. We’re putting together these meet-ups as part of a larger effort to work much more closely with partners from the whole tech ecosystem. The meet-ups will be a place where start-ups, scale-ups, creatives, corporates, academia and the public sector can all get together to learn start-up thinking.”

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Over the next fortnight alone, alongside yoga classes, coffee mornings and barbecue pop-ups (yes, really), two events taking place at CodeBase catch the eye. On 23 January, coding initiative Digital Skills 4 Girls rolls into Argyle House and five days later the first in a new series of CodeBase Edinburgh Meetups kicks off, aimed at bringing the tech community together to discuss best practice in building start-ups.

Tech.eu’s Natalie Novick, Dropbox’s Abhishek Lahoti, Bemo’s Matt Ferugia and Creative Edinburgh’s Briana Pedago feature on the panel for this month’s inaugural event. You can sign up to a monthly newsletter from CodeBase that has more detail on this and all the other wonderful things taking place in Edinburgh, Stirling, Aberdeen, London and elsewhere.

I caught up with Edinburgh tech ecosystem mainstay Russell Henderson last week – Russell has helped to organise tech community initiatives like Product Tank, ScotStartups and StartupSurf (aka CodeBase’s surf club).

Russell said: “The Scottish start-up scene has gone through a phase change and CodeBase has been present throughout; sometimes as a catalyst, often as a champion, invariably as a protector and most importantly as a curator of community. Theirs has been a unique perspective which means they are now increasingly recognised as the go-to repository for all things start-up.”

- Nick Freer, founding director, Freer Consultancy and Full Circle Partners.