Smartphone apps development is helping Scotland

Picture: GettyPicture: Getty
Picture: Getty
Digital innovation can boost the economy, says Olga Kozlova

Much of our everyday life is consumed and transformed by elements of digital technology. Pick up your smartphone and you open up a world of online news, streaming music, multi-platform video services, social networking and millions of other content providers – all delivered through an app store. Digital innovation has become an intrinsic element in our lives.

So, does owning a computer, having an internet connection and a basic creative “nous” to code and write an app or similar interactive technology qualify you to become an entrepreneur? On the face of it, entrepreneurs do have to start somewhere and these early, tentative steps are relatively low risk. Even if they have another job, they can start an entrepreneurial career in their spare time and the likelihood of having to invest a lot of money is low. Time, arguably, is the only investment needed. There is no need to even register a company.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Take a look at the many thousands of individuals who spend their spare time doing this – creating smartphone apps or interactive websites. Why are they doing this? Clearly, many will seek some form of financial return from their endeavour. Some will aspire to great things – the next SkyScanner or AngryBirds, perhaps – while others may be content with a less aspirational approach.

When people develop an app, the product development cycle is very different from, say, a drug discovery or heavy machinery. The idea for software in general, and an app in particular, is that you develop a very basic product and start selling it without ironing out all the problems. People are quite prepared to buy a product for 99p or through a “freemium” model, even if it’s a prototype. So these budding entrepreneurs often trade while doing proof-of-concept for the idea using a receptive audience of family and friends to try out the first version of a newly created app or website and developing a full product according to obtained feedback.

Such an approach is not possible in other industries such as, say, Life Sciences or Food & Drink.

From these early stages and basic equipment, the low-cost entry to a world of innovation and entrepreneurship may be the start of a new career, which opens up myriad exciting opportunities.

Then there are other challenges to overcome. How can you be heard above the noise of the competition? There are millions of app and web developers, clamoring for a slice of the pie. Therefore, a robust promotion plan, proactive social media engagement, a strong belief and, very often, a slice of luck can help you along the path to success.

It is my belief that these humble beginnings set you on a path to becoming an entrepreneur and as this year’s Converge Challenge is now underway, we’re fully expecting app developers across every university faculty to take their place in the pantheon of innovators which we nurture, mentor and develop.

Between now and the beginning of May, universities across Scotland will bring forward applications from these app developers, as they would a scientist on the cusp of a commercialisation success which may transform lives across the globe. The scale is unimportant.

The “can do” attitude and willingness to engage in the spirit of entrepreneurship across our universities is what helps to drive the ambition of the innovator and inventor, and let’s not forget that app or web developers have a short product development cycle, which makes it very suitable for an “accelerator model”.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Incubators across the country, such as Edinburgh’s Codebase – the largest tech incubator in the UK – are brimming with developer talent and universities such as Abertay and Edinburgh are home to a burgeoning stronghold of university undergraduates and postgraduates developing apps and interactive websites that may help to transform lives.

Developing the next generation of technologies to support this ongoing growth in the web environment and a well-developed infrastructure supporting company growth and enabling the production and distribution of digital technologies, content and services provides Scotland with a significant opportunity to build a globally competitive 21st-century tech industry.

Through our universities, our incubators and the creative wealth of talent emerging through start-up competitions such as Converge Challenge, we are giving a voice to a new breed of entrepreneur who may only need a laptop and a broadband connection to put them on a path to success.

Olga Kozlova is director of Converge Challenge,

Related topics: