Nick Freer: fostering Scotland's tech ecosystem and beyond

Last week, I met with Seattle-based entrepreneur and investor John Lusk who was on a research trip to Scotland. John has published books and blogs about his time in the world of start-ups and it was great to discuss innovating around technology, aligning organisational structure around your customer and the best trail-running shoes (we're both running addicts).

Nick Freer. Picture: Stewart Attwood
Nick Freer. Picture: Stewart Attwood

I’m hoping John will write something for this column as it’s always valuable to get a perspective on our tech ecosystem from someone who has spent their time in bigger, more established equivalents. Also, I enjoyed telling John about all the great things happening here.

As I said to John, I think it’s fair to say there is something of a Holy Trinity when you consider our tech scene. With a strong desire to avoid blasphemy and an even stronger desire not to suggest where the three components sit in the spiritual tech hierarchy, Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, travel search site Skyscanner and the UK’s largest tech incubator, CodeBase, can each easily lay claim to being a part of the city’s metaphorical tech trinity.

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Take away any one of the three elements and you can make a case that our tech ecosystem would not have blossomed the way it has. Sure, there are other moving parts that could stake a claim - our angel syndicates, Scottish Enterprise and the Scottish Investment Bank included. But the one sure thing about a Holy Trinity is it can only have three.

Skyscanner and CodeBase are coming off a couple of newsworthy weeks, with the former’s new owner, Chinese online travel agent Ctrip, announcing the creation of 200 more jobs at the company, while CodeBase opened in Stirling.

Tomorrow evening at Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, Informatics Ventures kicks off a new season of iV Tuesday speaker events with the former director of commercialisation from the school, Colin Adams. Adams had a seismic impact on the Scottish scene during his tenure and it’s encouraging to note that the University of Edinburgh is pushing ahead with transformational initiatives in 2017.

Later in the week, UK tech accelerator Ignite makes its first dedicated visit to Scotland, with former MindMate co-founder Gabriela Matic and team running the rule over our best start-up talent. With our own indigenous tech accelerator, Seed Haus, announcing its first cohort of early-stage companies last week and Scottish business minister Paul Wheelhouse unveiling the Start2Scale initiative at Venturefest in Glasgow last Wednesday, a day seldom now passes when there isn’t a big Scottish tech story to report.

It’s a sign of how far our ecosystem has come over the last few years, and John Lusk and I discussed something RocketSpace CEO and founder Duncan Logan previously said to me - how it’s wrong to think tech ecosystems are only made up of start-ups and investors. Well-functioning ecosystems need a range of skill sets to truly succeed.

Earlier this month, I became a founding director in Full Circle Partners along with Mike Welch of Blackcircles renown and former Dickson Minto M&A specialist Paul Jarman-Williams. You won’t hear me referring to us as a Holy Trinity but we want to establish Full Circle as an important player in the ecosystem, acting as a value catalyst for fast-growth companies with big ambitions.

However, we also want to continue to advise non-technology clients (although every company is a tech company in some way in 2017, right?). I have spent the last few years building a client base that includes legal firms, property specialists, conference venues, corporate financiers and recruitment agencies among others. Each client from across these sectors plays their own part in evolving economies and helps to lay the path for the new economy companies of the future. Who wouldn’t want to work with the full circle?

• Nick Freer is a founding director at Full Circle Partners