We want to build a world-class start-up ecosystem in Scotland - Robert Gelb

I attended the TechScaler launch event in Glasgow last month and wasn’t really sure what to expect. The announcement on CodeBase securing the £42 million contract to run the government’s TechScaler initiative, as with the appointment of the Chief Entrepreneur, have certainly generated headlines.

But for founders like me, our focus is on our businesses, and often (with good reason based on experience) we’re used to ignoring the latest initiative announcement, usually assuming it to be a showcase of buzzword mastery popular with politicians and professional services firms.

Cynical, I know! But Scotland’s tech ecosystem has long suffered from tribalism, with a sometimes uncomfortable rivalry between groups who all purport to be aligned on helping entrepreneurs succeed, but without much in the way of collaboration, openness to feedback, and public self-reflection. Often, more barriers are built than removed.

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Don't get me wrong, I'm glad there's movement. I'm glad the government has tasked an ecosystem leader to solve an ecosystem problem. It builds on the very positive introduction and expansion of the Scottish Growth Scheme that helps empower venture capital (VC) firms like Techstart Ventures to actively invest in pre-seed and seed stage companies. A game-changer for start-ups needing early institutional capital.

Robert Gelb is a serial founder and advisor to startups based in Edinburgh. He is the former CEO of HeySummit, and founder of Kindaba.
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I’m hopeful that Tech Scalers might have similar impact addressing unmet needs that previously were unmet responsibilities of public institutions. But as founders, we don’t really focus on initiatives until we think they directly affect us. It’s easy for us to sit back atop our perch and moan about the latest initiative, judging and whining about the lack of founder inclusion.

So how do we get more founders off that perch and involved with the process? We think it’s by giving them an opportunity to express their perspective. So, that’s why a group of us came up with The Founders Survey and Awards, precisely to give founders in Scotland that voice.

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We want to highlight what’s working, what isn’t, and provide direct and actionable feedback so that Scotland’s start-up ecosystem becomes world-class.

Our first questionnaire (which is live now) covers the Scottish investment landscape for early-stage start-ups. Who are the most helpful angel investors? What funds offer founder-friendly terms? What syndicates are respectful of a founders’ time even if they decide not to invest? With this data, we’ll announce a series of awards recognising the best angels, funds, and syndicates in Scotland based on founders’ views, along with a report on the state of the landscape.

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Start-ups need a healthy environment to enable them to flourish

Each quarter we hope to run more awards including around evaluating the best local professional services providers, ecosystem partners, and unsung heroes helping start-ups.

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The current Founders Survey is available at www.founderssurvey.com. It’s open to any founder that’s taken or applied for funding from Scottish-based angel investors, VCs, family offices, and syndicates. The survey closes at the end of September.

Scotland’s ecosystem is only as strong as the intent, humility, and self-reflection that everyone involved brings to the table. Our hope is that the Founders Survey and Awards elevate and celebrate progress, while identifying opportunities to improve the ecosystem in a productive way.

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Robert Gelb is a serial founder and advisor to start-ups based in Edinburgh. He is the former CEO of HeySummit, and founder of Kindaba.



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