Academic hails Skyscanner effect on Edinburgh

An academic specialising in entrepreneurial ecosystems believes Edinburgh is well-placed to thrive as a tech hub due to the ripple effect of global success stories such as travel giant Skyscanner.

Ben Spigel is senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Edinburgh University Business School.
Ben Spigel is senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Edinburgh University Business School.

Ben Spigel, senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at Edinburgh University Business School, told Scotland on Sunday that he specialises in the geography of high-growth entrepreneurship.

He examines the factors that make a location a hotbed for the creation and growth of such firms, which comprise about 6 per cent of all businesses in the UK but are responsible for more than half of new jobs created, “so they’re really important for building strong economies”.

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US citizen Spigel has looked at how Edinburgh is benefiting on the back of Skyscanner, which was sold to China’s Ctrip for £1.4 billion, and FanDuel, with the duo emerging as Scotland’s first “unicorns” (tech firms with a valuation reaching the billion-dollar mark) and helping foster a culture of collaboration.

He said some companies have really capitalised on highly prized and relevant skills coming out of these organisations, citing travel tech firm TravelNest, which he said has hired about half a dozen ex-Skyscanner staff, and care-matching service Care Sourcer, which recently hired Ilana Munckton, a former senior director at the travel search engine giant.

Both firms have former Skyscanner chief operating officer Mark Logan on their board, while Current – formerly known as Snap40 – has also hired a handful of former Skyscanner staff.

“The important thing is that this talent is staying in Edinburgh and Scotland,” says Spigel. “The knowledge workers are really going to help companies grow.”

He has also been studying how many start-ups Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams has invested in – including shopping app Mallzee and online booking management firm Appointedd – with the academic counting more than a dozen in the Scottish capital and surrounding area.

Williams brings “smart money” including crucial knowledge of potential challenges, notes Spigel, who believes the “biggest prize” of Skyscanner’s success is the skills it has created, which will “flow into the rest of the ecosystem and power the next generation of entrepreneurship”.