Cyber growth needs soft skills as well as finance - Xavier Bellekens

Scotland’s cyber sector is brimming with potential. It’s a brilliant place to be, but there must be no complacency that funding alone is enough to get us to achieve the growth we’re aiming for as a sector and as a country.

Funding opportunities for Scottish cyber start-ups are key for our growing industry. There’s no doubt that we need finance to grow, compete and develop our products. However, what’s too rarely considered are the soft skills that will enable us to successfully pitch for, and make the most of, investments. The skills that don’t come naturally to many in our industry but are critical to being able to win over investors, clients and industry partners. Overlooking and underestimating the value of soft skills - like being able to communicate effectively, or to present well - risks failing a talented, developing industry.

Money itself is only half the equation. The truth is that no matter how good a company’s idea or expertise is, it will struggle to get the venture capital it needs if those holding the purse strings don’t understand that company’s purpose or value proposition.

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At Lupovis, we’re a deception as a service start-up that works to protect businesses from cyber threats. We trick adversaries into believing that they are attacking real systems, while they’re actually attacking decoys. It’s a tailored and well-informed solution – and to grow our customer base and capabilities, we’re seeking seed funding at Cyber Showcase.

Xavier Bellekens, CEO of Lupovis
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Launched by Scotland’s digital economy membership organisation, ScotlandIS, Cyber Showcase is an event offering tech start-ups the opportunity to pitch ‘dragon’s den’-style to a panel of investors and industry buyers. It’s the first of its kind in Scotland. Usually, these types of events take place south of the border, and many Scotland-based start-ups simply cannot afford to take days out to travel and attend.

We’re looking forward to pitching – but it’s been the lead-up to the event that we’ve really valued. Our team has taken part in public speaking training and pitch-perfecting courses, learning skills that level the playing field for companies pitching. They enable us to showcase our product and business plan without the barriers of fear, poor communication or inexperience in presenting.

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Our industry needs more support like this. We’re expert engineers, developers and analysts, but the nature of our profession means that we don’t often get the chance to perfect the non-technical skills that give us the confidence to convince a panel of investors, and latterly customers, to believe in our product.

To ensure Scotland can develop as a leading cyber centre, companies need to be taught to lead. As bright as our sector is, the young tech trailblazers within it don’t suddenly wake up one morning with the skills needed to approach the varied business growth challenges ahead.

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If funding is the doer for a cyber company to grow to its full potential, these soft skills are the enabler. And if we don’t turn our attention to improving these areas where support is lacking for Scotland’s cyber start-ups, we invite the dangerous possibility of seeing the sector’s talent undersell its brilliant ability, and lose out on its opportunity to earn the status of the UK’s cyber hub.

Xavier Bellekens, CEO of Lupovis

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