36 of the best will be pitching for investment - Nick Frer

The EIE team has been running Scotland’s top tech investor programme since 2008, highlighted every year by a conference that brings investors to Edinburgh from across the globe. On the day, Thursday 10 June this year, 36 companies will pitch for investment from seed level to later stage funding.

Varun Nair from Two Big Ears

We have had the privilege of supporting the EIE guys for a number of years, and there have been so many great memories along the way. You get to see early stage companies at close quarters, some of whom end up going on to great success. Often, the companies are in what can be described as a fledgling stage - and you wonder if they will ever take flight.

At EIE in 2016, FanDuel co-founder Lesley Eccles recalled how the founding team engaged with over a hundred investors before one, venture capital firm Pentech, committed to back the company alongside the Scottish Investment Bank. The rest of FanDuel’s story is well documented, including around the fantasy sports startup achieving a $1 billion valuation, or unicorn status, in 2015.

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A year before, in August of 2014, EIE ran an event in Glasgow at Team Scotland’s headquarters when the Commonwealth Games were taking place in the city. I can still remember the sweltering heat outside and the windows wide open to let in air. One of the twelve companies featured on the day was Two Big Ears, founded by University of Edinburgh graduates Varun Nair and Abesh Thakur.

Varun and Abesh had founded the company eighteen months previously, and while Two Big Ears’ audio technology software for virtual reality games had only been launched three months before, it was already at the forefront of its field and big tech companies in the US were starting to take notice. In 2016, Facebook acquired Two Big Ears and Varun and Abesh moved from a small office above a Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh to Facebook’s Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Menlo Park, California.

I caught up with Varun, who recently returned to Edinburgh, last week and I look forward to him writing about the Two Big Ears journey in this column in the coming weeks.

The EIE21 Scottish Startup Survey, now in its fifth year, was launched this week and for the first time the survey is open to startups outside of the EIE alumni network. This year, the survey asks startup founders questions around how they have faced up to the pandemic, new ways of working, if funding plans have been affected, what kind of government support has been accessed, Brexit, hiring strategies, measures put in place to deal with wellbeing, physical and mental health during remote working, and plans to return to the office.

When we spoke to Amiqus CEO and founder Callum Murray as we were pulling the survey together, Callum pointed out that after the year that has just passed, protecting your team as a startup founder has perhaps never been so important. Yes, Murray remarked, startups are inherently about growth, but sometimes you need to push the pause button when people feel under pressure.

Nick Freer, Founding Director, the Freer Consultancy

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