The Scottish Enterprise Ecosystem Fund can help entrepreneurs
To paraphrase, being an entrepreneur and building a fast-growth business is inherently difficult, and one thing it’s not going to be is clean-cut.
Chief entrepreneurial adviser to the government and author of the Scottish Tech Ecosystem Review in 2020, Logan, who wrote for this column recently, remarked that “ecosystem builder” is now a noun in Scottish parlance for the first time, and that many of these ecosystem builders were present in the room. “What you do is not a career, it’s a vocation, and I know that you give your blood, sweat, and tears to that vocation.”
The Scottish Enterprise Ecosystem Fund is open to organisations that support entrepreneurs and startup activity or enterprise education, who can submit proposals to receive grants of between £10,000 and £50,000.
Government-supported interventions can, Logan believes, help to stimulate our ecosystem, and take it to the next level. The prize? A new, modern, enlightened Scotland, and an economic powerhouse to boot. But it requires a degree of patience and conviction - such investments take time to feed through to startup success.
At the same time, outcomes and successes can be quite “abstract”, what he describes as “second, third, and fourth order effects”.
Fast forward to the Q&A session at the close, and one question from the floor quizzed whether or not grants of £50k can really make a difference, or indeed if the total £1.6 million value of the fund can shift the dial. It turns out the questioner’s organisation has already received grant funding towards the top of the scale, but I guess you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
What is true is that this fund didn’t even exist a few years’ back, yes everyone would like it to be bigger, but we’re living in straitened economic times, although clearly not everyone has read the memo.
Back to Mark Logan’s address, which followed opening remarks from cabinet secretary Neil Gray in which he said there were gaps between the potential and reality of what the nation’s entrepreneurial scene can achieve, the former Skyscanner COO reflected on learnings from his time at the global flight and travel search site.
While you can put the three pillars of education, infrastructure, and funding in place, Logan said, the country’s startups must also face outwards: “Skyscanner actively learned from best practice worldwide. The same requirement applies to our entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
A previous grant recipient from the first fund, Nick Murray of Startup Grind Scotland and Foras, illustrated how much can be achieved with a £45k grant from the Ecosystem Fund when he got up to provide another keynote on the day. Taking twenty startup founders to San Francisco in 2021, one of the fixtures of the Silicon Valley trip was a collaboration with Scottish Development International which saw the founders pitch to 50 local venture capital firms, with three of the startups going on to receive related investment.
As they say, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or something like that.
•Nick Freer is the founding director of corporate communications agency the Freer Consultancy.
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