Harvey Wheaton, CEO of CodeClan, shares his take on why Edinburgh is a great city to found your tech startup in.
When people think of Edinburgh they think of its iconic castle, quirky parliament and buzzing arts festival that takes over the city in August.
However, in recent years something else has been courting the limelight – its tech scene.
Since Skyscanner’s 2003 relocation to the capital, Edinburgh has experienced a complete tech revival, seeing it hot on the heels of London and punching well above its weight with innovative startups.
Hundreds of entrepreneurs have turned to the city to launch their products and now it’s filled with fast-growth tech startups such as FreeAgent and Float as well as more established organisations like Craneware.
Together, these companies live alongside our tech heavyweights, Skyscanner and FanDuel, who gained ‘unicorn’ status after being valued at $1bn.
Edinburgh’s startup ecosystem has seen a lot of positive changes, making it the ultimate city to launch a tech startup. Here’s why:
Edinburgh’s tech community is close-knit, supportive and has a real sense of camaraderie.
It also plays host to a staggering number of events that give budding entrepreneurs the chance to dust off their networking skills, make friends and pick up some business cards.
Getting into the entrepreneurial spirit is easy and there is usually something for everyone in Edinburgh.
Informatics Ventures, who offer support to tech entrepreneurs and encourage the scaling of Scottish startups, also host a formidable array of events and workshops, as do the city’s tech incubators.
Co-working office spaces are becoming increasingly important to Edinburgh’s startup scene. Not only do they offer affordable hot-desking opportunities but they also allow access to fellow entrepreneurs and provide support when necessary.
TechCube launched in 2013 and was city’s first incubator. It offers a co-working and hot-desking space to fledgling tech start-ups, bringing them together into a collaborative environment.
The most recent tech incubator to launch in the city is Codebase, which currently houses over 60 startups in its 250,000 sq ft property that lies in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.
Accelerators are one of Edinburgh’s strengths when it comes to startup support.
Entrepreneurial Spark offers chosen participants free collaborative workspaces, Wi-Fi, IT facilities and support from a pool of over 50 expert mentors for up to 18 months.
There’s also the Scottish Government’s CivTech initiative, which aims to harness the power of digital with a cross-public-sector tech accelerator.
It will bring together private sector innovation, public organisations and citizen groups to develop more efficient and effective products and services. Due to launch this summer, CivTech aims to appeal to aspiring entrepreneurs.
Edinburgh University is also an integral part of the city’s startup scene. Known for supporting the research and development cycle of new innovations, the University significantly contributes to the tech community. In 2014 alone it supported an impressive 44 startups and three spin-outs.
For those looking for more general support on how to get started, Business Gateway offers great mentoring for startups. Partnered with Scottish Enterprise, Business Gateway is a publicly funded service that provides free access to business support services, including fully funded local workshops and events. Scottish Enterprise offer more specific, tailored services to start-ups including intensive startup support and support for enterprising academics.
There are an increasing number of funding opportunities available to tech start-ups in Edinburgh; for example, the Small Business Loan Fund offers an interest-free loan of up to £2,500 to help get ideas off the ground, while the East of Scotland Investment Fund provides a match-funded loan offering up to £50,000 to commercially viable businesses.
Scotland’s angels are also becoming a growing source of funding in Edinburgh’s tech sector, particularly with angel syndicates like Equity Gap and Archangels. Informatics Ventures helps to bridge the gap between start-ups and investors by hosting its annual Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) conference, an event for entrepreneurs to meet with potential investors and share their business ideas.
Access to talent
Boasting three universities and a number of colleges, skill levels in Edinburgh are high.
For budding developers and techies, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to cut your teeth. Scotland alone has up to 11,000 job opportunities in tech per year. Initiatives such as CodeClan, an accredited digital skills academy that produces job-ready software developers after a 16-week course, are really trying to bridge this skills gap so tech companies have access to quality talent.
Edinburgh’s School of Informatics is also doing a great job of producing a growing body of quality tech talent. The School has a focus on encouraging entrepreneurship as a realistic route and has a wide variety of undergrads, masters and PhD students studying with them. Over the years the school has produced an impressive number of start-ups and spin-outs in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh has a population of half a million and is small in size, so it’s easy to navigate. Its central belt location also makes it accessible, with Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, less than an hour away by train.
Edinburgh airport is flying to an increasing number of European and international destinations, making it practical for businesses operating on the continent or further afield.
Recently, the city has been praised for its quality of life and was voted second best city in the UK to live in. It’s also known for its high average salaries, low unemployment levels and great diversity that gives people the opportunity to work with others from around the globe.
Edinburgh is a city where successful companies stand out. Tech startups truly are supported and the wide range of networking opportunities can lead to inspirational encounters with some of the biggest names in the industry.
The city’s tech scene has seen exponential growth recently and now it’s a hot bed for startups and innovation. It’s no surprise Edinburgh is the city of choice for many entrepreneurs and will continue to be the ultimate city to launch a tech startup.