Logan’s plan for successful tech ecosystems - Nick Freer

Tech conference Turing Fest at the EICC this week seemed to hit all the right notes, and there was a real buzz about the conference centre, in no small part because there were so many international delegates in situ this time.

Diversity and inclusivity were among the big themes at Turing, and one of the breakout sessions I found most informative was a roundtable organised by digital skills academy CodeClan and online travel site Skyscanner.

The ‘Building an Inclusive Team’ conversation covered the importance of unconscious bias training, and on the gender front it was interesting to hear that Skyscanner plans to have women in 40 per cent of its senior management roles by 2025.

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One of the main fixtures at Turing was a Q&A with the Scottish Government’s recently appointed Chief Entrepreneur Mark Logan, with Logan interviewed by global tech news site TechCrunch’s editor-at-large Mike Butcher.

The Scottish Government's Chief Entrepreneur Mark Logan on stage with TechCrunch's Mike Butcher at Turing FestThe Scottish Government's Chief Entrepreneur Mark Logan on stage with TechCrunch's Mike Butcher at Turing Fest
The Scottish Government's Chief Entrepreneur Mark Logan on stage with TechCrunch's Mike Butcher at Turing Fest

There was some amusing preamble, including how Mark found one of his first tech jobs in a newspaper ad for a company whose hiring policy seemed to revolve around appointing “odd people, because they thought if you were odd you were intelligent”. The startup, Atlantech, was acquired by Cisco for $180 million in 2000.

The chat quickly moved on to building successful tech ecosystems, with Logan confirming his well-documented view that Scotland is still pre-tipping point and has yet to achieve a key yardstick for success, namely true network effect.

In terms of reaching the tipping point, education, infrastructure, and investment are key pillars for Logan, first outlined in his 2020 Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review, but these three descriptors are nuanced. “If you had to choose an order though”, said Logan, “it would be education first, infrastructure second, then investment”.

There is also an X factor, agreed Logan and Butcher, which is serendipity. I have seen this first hand, with a number of startups, including one of our most celebrated tech companies which was only founded here because the CEO followed his girlfriend to Edinburgh and then settled in Scotland’s capital.

As the Scottish Government and its Ecosystem Fund, born out of the 2020 Logan Review, moves through the gears in its backing of Scottish tech, Logan reminded the audience how Silicon Valley “was always supported by government, and still is”.

What else does our tech scene need to work on, in order to reach the transformative tipping point phase? “Belief”, said Logan. “Don’t accept mediocrity, believe we can be as impactful and successful as any other ecosystem.”

So, how do we get there? Logan continued, “Ecosystem builders, mentors, and founders will take us to the tipping point”.

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Earlier this month, the Scottish Government announced its ‘Tech Scaler’ initiative, via a £42 million contract awarded to CodeBase to create tech scaler hubs across Scotland.

Enter stage right, and next up at Turing was CodeBase’s Chief Strategy Officer Steven Drost, outlining his own definitions around the terms ecosystem and tech scaler, and laying out how CodeBase and its multiple partners are going to drive this unique and pioneering opportunity to add serious rocket fuel to our most promising startups and scale-ups.

As I’ve now run out of word count, more on that next week.

Nick Freer is the founding director of strategic corporate communications agency the Freer Consultancy

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