Bruce Walker: Raising the bar for Scottish start-ups

Today is going to be a special, if somewhat daunting, day for myself and the WeAreTheFuture team as over one thousand entrepreneurs, business leaders and advisers assemble at Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms for the fifth Startup Summit.

Bruce Walker, founder of the Startup Summit, says Scotland's fledgling firms can take on the world. Picture: Greg Macvean

It’s a concept and event that I dreamed up as a schoolboy in a classroom near Stirling and it is immensely satisfying to see how far it’s come in a relatively short space of time. We have a raft of high-profile speakers and companies who exemplify entrepreneurism at its highest standard jetting in from across the globe and that fills myself an the team with a lot of pride.

Startup Summit has been designed to mirror the journey of a start-up, from its inception and early stages through to what is now commonly termed the “scale-up” phase and onto, maybe, globalisation and, maybe just maybe, world domination. While former summits have featured success stories like Google, Uber and Virgin, this year sees Skyscanner, IBM and RocketSpace pass on their experiences to the gathering. In our own way, we will go global too with over 20,000 people watching live streaming online worldwide.

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We’re excited to have Duncan Logan, the Scottish entrepreneur who founded RocketSpace – the Silicon Valley tech campus that helps accelerate start-ups’ growth and has produced 17 “unicorns”, or billion dollar-valued start-ups – as our keynote speaker alongside a unicorn of our own in the form of travel search engine Skyscanner.

We want to inspire the many young entrepreneurs in the room and I fully expect that we’ll hear first hand about how big things can be achieved with a burning desire to succeed, combined with the right kind of support and with the odd bits of luck and chance that tend to make up the back stories of most of the entrepreneurs and companies I’ve met in recent times – and not forgetting the usual growing pains along the way!

As well as having a great product or service to take to the world, having a community or ecosystem that supports the growth of a start-up is crucial to its success. Our own entrepreneurial support ecosystem in Scotland is at a high point, with strong connectivity among supporting organisations, collaboration and some amazing companies emerging – think for example of how start-ups like app developer Kotikan helped drive the global user base of our tech stars or how Scottish Equity Partners provided the first chunk of external investment to fuel Skyscanner’s incredible growth trajectory. And there are many more stories like this in the making.

At WeAreTheFuture, we see ourselves as an increasingly important cog in the ecosystem and we want to help our tech scene flourish and, where possible, conquer the world. I see our role as being one which helps build a global community that will allow our most exciting young companies to connect with the right people – partners, investors, advisers and customers – across the planet.

We definitely need to develop more of a global mindset in Scotland, attract more international talent and address the venture capital funding gap so that growth companies can get access to the investment they need to really scale – just some of the topics I’m sure we’ll be discussing at the Startup Summit today.

• Bruce Walker is the chief executive of WeAreTheFuture and founder of the Startup Summit, which takes place at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh today