Paul Reid: Successful start-ups have their own culture

With the festivals in Edinburgh complete for another year, the word 'culture' has never been far from our lips, or indeed from the pages of this newspaper, for the last month.
A cultural hotspot  not just in the arts, but in business tooA cultural hotspot  not just in the arts, but in business too
A cultural hotspot  not just in the arts, but in business too

High brow; earthy; musical, comedic and more – it was all there again this year for everyone to enjoy or endure depending on your own personal experience.

And while I enjoyed August as much as I always do, I’m reminded that the word culture has two definitions. There’s the arts and their many manifestations, but there’s also the behavioural one which speaks to the ideas, the sense of belonging, and the way that we go about our daily business.

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I’ve spent the last 10 weeks running Appointedd, a successful tech business in Edinburgh, while its founder, Leah Hutcheon, has been on maternity leave. During this time I’ve seen many great examples of what it is that makes Edinburgh such a hot-bed for successful start-up businesses.

A fair amount has been written on this phenomenon in recent months. These articles point to the support systems provided by organisations such as Entrepreneurial Scotland, Womens Enterprise Scotland and others. Or the incubators such as CodeBase and E-Spark and, of course, the availability of investment capital from business angels such as Equity Gap, Archangels and Par Equity.

Then there’s the ability of the cloud to enable online businesses to be built anywhere in the world. These support systems all play their part, but they’re not at the top of my list of what makes a successful start-up: it’s about culture – fostering an environment that facilitates success.

And I think we’re brilliant at that here in Scotland. Firstly, there’s an attitudinal thing going on that permeates the entrepreneurs who are emerging to start these businesses.

To some extent it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy – the more we see these success stories around us, the more we recognise that there’s nothing stopping us from doing it ourselves.

It’s the ideas and the conviction to turn them into thriving businesses. How many times have you read about a successful venture, marvelling at its simplicity and thinking: “I wish I’d thought of that”?

We Scots have long had a reputation for inventing things, but now it seems we have built ecosystems to act on these ideas and have a go at turning them into a viable business.

But if I’ve been reminded of anything working at Appointedd it’s the importance of fostering a culture that turns all this into reality. Clichéd I know, but surrounding ourselves with energetic, “can-do” people; involving them in problem-solving and decision-making; and encouraging them to have a voice are in my view the keys to success. And it strikes me that this is something Scottish start-ups are proving to be very good at.

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So, we see the support network, the chutzpah, the ideas and the can-do culture coming together to create the perfect environment for entrepreneurial success.

Right here in Edinburgh – one of the world’s cultural hotspots.

Paul Reid is interim CEO/director at Edinburgh-based software business Appointedd

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