Scots march on high-tech trail in Silicon Valley - Nick Freer

Last week, Startup Grind Scotland held an evening event at CodeBase in Edinburgh to welcome the 20 entrepreneurs who have been selected to join the Silicon Valley trip next month, made possible by the Scottish Government’s Technology Ecosystem Fund.

Nick Freer 
Picture by Stewart Attwood
Nick Freer Picture by Stewart Attwood

Nick Murray, Carolina Melendez, Dec McLaughlin, Anna Brow, Emma Loedel, and the rest of the Startup Grind Scotland team have organised an amazing programme, matched by the quality of startup founders picked for the week-long visit to the world’s most successful tech scene.

As an agency, we’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the startups heading for California through the years - companies like Administrate, PlayerData, Robotical, Coastr, and R3-IoT, who will undoubtedly put their best foot forward and be shining examples of our own tech community here in Scotland.

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I would have loved to join the Scottish cohort jetting out to San Francisco, but a special family birthday back at home - I guess every birthday is a special one when it’s one of your children - ruled that out. All the same, I can’t wait to keep up with regular posts when the guys and gals are away, and to hear a few good stories when they return.

The architect of Scotland’s tech ecosystem fund, Mark Logan, was one of the speakers at CodeBase on the night. Logan recounted his many trips to the Valley, including at the time of the dotcom bubble, its subsequent burst, and for the purpose of learning from other companies during his time at Skyscanner.

When on the ground in Silicon Valley, Logan says you soon learn about the “enormous sense of belief”, a mindset to “take on much larger companies”, a “strong sense of competition”, and “how to scale an enterprise”. He says there is a palpable reverence for best practice, and these learnings can be brought back to Scotland and propagated.

“Great companies come from great ecosystems”, said Logan, “and great ecosystems come from great companies.”

Commenting on the make-up of the company cohort, the University of Strathclyde’s Head of Investments, Poonam Malik, also a Scottish Enterprise board member, praised the “diversity of age groups, sectors, stages of development, not just the diversity in terms of gender and ethnicity”.

Victoria Ross from Scottish Development International’s capital investment team, who are hosting a ‘pitch party’ with local investors and GlobalScots on the last night of the Silicon Valley trip, placed importance on “researching the local market”, “using their terminology”, “making relationships”, and having a short and longer pitch deck available.

In a reverse of the famous Ottoman saying, “if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”, tech news this week shows that early stage European startups don’t always have to go to Silicon Valley to engage with the Valley’s top venture capital firms.

US venture capital giant Sequoia has just launched an accelerator programme in Europe for seed-stage companies, with 15 companies being selected for an eight-week programme that comes with a $1 million investment from Sequoia.

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Applications close in early April, with the programme kicking off in late May. It would be great to see Scottish representation in Sequoia’s first European cohort.

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

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