The Scottish technology companies that featured at EIE London were agritech star Intelligent Growth Solutions, ultrasound sensor specialist Novosound, facial animation scale-up Speech Graphics, and online brand protection business SnapDragon.
SnapDragon CEO Rachel Jones recounted how a car seat for kids her previous company developed was faked, an episode which led to Jones founding SnapDragon to “fight fakes online”. Half a million dollars is lost to illicit trade every year, and fakes lurk in both B2C and B2B, said Jones. The software developed by SnapDragon can help to remove an illicit product or seller from Amazon in less than five minutes, and the company has already saved organisations over £100 million, including the Scottish Government in relation to PPE during the early days of the pandemic.
Speech Graphics shot to International fame working on music videos with Kayne West and video games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, with its facial animation technology now seeing uptake from various industries outside the entertainment sector, particularly around the advent of the metaverse, web3, and avatars. As CEO and co-founder Gregor Hofer put it, “avatars are a great way to interact with your audience, and increase your chances of concluding an e-commerce transaction”. With a sales force in San Francisco, a developer unit in Budapest, in addition to the core team in Edinburgh, Speech Graphics is in classic scale-up mode.
Novosound was the youngest company to present at EIE London, only founded in 2018 as the University of the West of Scotland’s first ever spin-out. CEO and co-founder Dave Hughes described himself as a “recovering academic”, although in 2022 Novosound has a commercial nous that many much more established startups would envy. Customers include GE Aviation, the world’s largest manufacturer of jet engines, and the company has grown headcount to 30, while more than quadrupling year-on-year revenue in four short years.
David Farquhar, the CEO of Intelligent Growth Solutions (IGS) who announced a £42.2 million Series B funding round at COP26 in Glasgow last November, explained how the company’s 42 square metre vertical farms produce the equivalent of 4 hectares, and are one thousand times more efficient than a standard field. By way of a different explanation, Farquhar says an ISG farm can grow broccoli in 11-12 days, rather than 11-12 weeks. The company hit £100 million of sales last month, is hiring three people every week, and its technology was recently positioned as one of the 15 technologies that can change the world by The Economist.
On my way to pre-dinner drinks on my first night in London, I spotted friend and adviser George Mackintosh with two of his young children at a cafe in Covent Garden, a miraculous spot all things considered. I didn’t know George was going to be in London, a city of however many million people. On the other side of the street, and in a rush to avoid being late, I didn’t stop to say hello, but somewhat spookily George texted me about something only a few minutes later. As they say, what are the chances?
Nick Freer is the founding director of strategic communications agency the Freer Consultancy