How two Scottish start-ups raised funding for their business

Since it was founded in 2008, Engage Invest Exploit '“ or EIE to its friends '“ has become one of the highlights on the Scottish technology sector's calendar, with start-up companies gathering in Edinburgh to pitch to potential investors.

Leah Hutcheon of Appointedd

Over the past two years, Informatics Ventures – the organisation behind EIE – has added a London leg, putting Scottish start-ups in front of investors who may not otherwise come into contact with tech firms from north of the Border.

Around 60 early-stage businesses from the energy, information and communication technology (ICT) and life sciences sectors will gather in Edinburgh on 12 May for this year’s event.

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As those companies begin to prepare their pitches, two firms that have already taken part in EIE share their experiences.

Mallzee shopping app. Picture: submitted

“I made the opening pitch at EIE back in 2012 and so I often joke that Sir Jackie Stewart was my warm-up act, because he gave the keynote speech before I went on stage,” laughs Cally Russell, founder and chief executive of Edinburgh-based Mallzee, which has grown to become the UK’s largest multi-retailer personal shopping app.

Mallzee has taken part in every EIE event in Edinburgh since 2012, and has also featured in both EIE gatherings in London, with Russell carrying off the “Pitch of the Day” prize last November. [2015]

The app allows users to view clothes from more than 150 retailers – ranging from big high street names like Gap, H&M and John Lewis through to boutique independent outlets – and swipe the image to the right if they like it and to the left if they don’t like it.

Mallzee shopping app. Picture: submitted

Mallzee learns from its users’ likes and dislikes, saving the clothes they like and then sending them an alert if the price of the garment drops.

“We have three revenue streams: we earn commission on the clothes sold through the app; retailers pay a fee to be listed; and we can also help retailers to analyse the data we collect about their customers’ shopping habits,” explains Russell.

So far, the company has raised more than £3 million in funding and since taking part in EIE15 in London it has grown its headcount to 25 members of staff.

“EIE is great because it puts you in front of potential investors and it helps to raise the profile of your company,” says Russell.

“It’s hard to put your finger on how much of our funding we have raised through taking part in EIE because investment is a processes that involves lots of conversations.

“Last week, I was speaking to a pair of venture capitalists who I first met at EIE, so it’s great to have those connections.”

Since EIE was launch in 2008, the companies that have taken part in the investor technology showcase have raised more than £40m in total and Leah Hutcheon, founder and chief executive at Edinburgh-based Appointedd, looks set to add to that total.

Appointedd has already raised £220,000 in finance and is on the verge of closing a further funding round.

“One of the investors taking part in our current funding round heard us pitch when we took part in EIE in 2014 and we’ve kept in touch since then,” says Hutcheon, who founded her company in 2011 after being made redundant from her post as a magazine editor.

“As an editor, I worked very long hours and never had the time to get my hair cut or my roots coloured,” laughs Hutcheon. “So I had an idea that hair salons could use an online booking system.”

That original idea has now morphed into Appointedd, which not only allows customers to book appointments online but also includes software that allows small businesses to manage their client relationships, launch email and text message marketing campaigns and even produce staff time reports.

After featuring on the BBC Scotland series The Entrepreneurs, Hutcheon was contacted by a whole range of businesses from skip hire companies to language schools, which all wanted to use her software.

“We took part in EIE down in London last year [2015] and that introduced us to lots of venture capital firms that we just wouldn’t have had the chance to meet in Scotland,” Hutcheon adds. “Those relationships will become even more important as we continue to grow the business.”

– This article was produced in partnership with Informatics Ventures and investor technology showcase EIE16