Comment: Why Scotland is the ultimate place to launch a tech start-up

Scotland is famous for many things: whisky, kilts, shortbread, the list is long. But today it’s the digital start-up scene stealing the limelight and showing a new side to the nation.

Robin Knox (left) and Paul Walton are behind smart home security alarm Boundary. Picture: Greg Macvean.
Robin Knox (left) and Paul Walton are behind smart home security alarm Boundary. Picture: Greg Macvean.

I know this from experience, having launched and successfully exited my own tech start-up Intelligent Point of Sale (Ipos) with my co-founder Paul Walton. For five years we grew fast, fuelled by Scotland’s powerful digital ecosystem.

So when it came to kickstarting our latest venture, a smart home security alarm called Boundary, we didn’t consider launching anywhere else but our home turf. Here’s why.

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Support is available in bucket loads. Accelerator programmes like Seedhaus – where I am a co-founder – offer young companies the hothouse environment needed in the very early days. Then there are tech incubators like CodeBase and TechCube that have created close-knit digital communities that thrive on collaboration and support.

The concentration of start-ups of all sizes and stages in Scotland presents a valuable opportunity for peer mentoring and the chance to share knowledge.

The reinvestment of talent back into the community is also very valuable as it matures, and many experienced individuals get back in the saddle, with the battle scars needed to counsel and guide a new wave of entrepreneurs.

Our former chief operating officer at IPOS, Graeme Horsfall, is a good example of this. He is now at Travel Nest, a high-growth scale-up that recently secured £7 million investment. Horsfall and others boast a wealth of valuable experience that fledging entrepreneurs can benefit from.

Industry events like Turing Festival and Startup Summit generate excellent networking opportunities and are attracting world-class tech leaders who engage and inspire by sharing powerful insights into their own business journey. And with these events come investors from down south and overseas.

Scotland is full of local investment too. Angel syndicates and lone investors are on the hunt for the next big thing and recognise the potential the sector has to offer. What’s encouraging is many of those who have seen success within their own tech business are recycling their money straight back into the digital economy by investing in local companies to help them move to the next stage in their journey.

Initiatives like EIE and Scottish EDGE are also about supporting homegrown entrepreneurial talent and have created a platform for promising young companies to share their innovation and secure investment.

What’s certain is that Scotland is a nation that “gets” digital and can compete globally. Just look at Skyscanner and FreeAgent. Our digital sector has experienced exponential growth – and is showing no signs of slowing down. This is exactly why Scotland has become the ultimate place to launch a tech start-up.

Robin Knox, co-founder, Boundary