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Tech in Scotland: The August roundup

Edinburgh
Steven Drost, CSO of Scottish technology incubator Codebase, brings you a roundup of the top tech news to come out of Scotland in August 2017.

Infrastructure

On the infrastructural side, the “Halo” project has been formally announced, which is the redevelopment of an old Johnnie Walker bottling plant in Kilmarnock. Halo sees an interesting mix of new housing, but also a new enterprise and innovation hub being created. Corporate giants Diageo and the Scottish government are footing the bill, which is calculated at £65m.

This is a much-needed Scottish version of an Industry 4.0 effort. There is to be an emphasis on engineering, manufacturing and textiles companies on the new site.

Textiles, in particular, are such a large part of the Scottish economy – a billion pound industry – and to see efforts to innovate and integrate textiles into a wider technology play is encouraging. I don’t think there is an existing playbook for how to do this, so Halo is a bit of an experiment, and it’s good to see Scotland daring to do so.

Events

The beginning of the month saw Turing Fest take place in Edinburgh again, with a large number of local, national and global big hitters coming to present onstage at the tech gathering. To give a an idea of the calibre of the talent, marketing guru Rand Fishkin, Heroku CEO Adam Gross, Qasar Younis from Y Combinator, Skyscanner CEO Gareth Williams and many more took part in what is arguably one of the best tech events in the UK.

Attendance was higher than ever, serving to help cement Edinburgh as the UK’s top tech ecosystem outside of London.

Investment

It’s been a good month for investment into Scottish tech companies. Sumdog is one of those companies, raising £1.4m to continue to build its EdTech platform and help young kids develop their maths skills.

Of course, there are also quite a few success stories from the CodeBase tenants. Blockchain tech company Wallet.Services raised an undisclosed round of investment from private investors (but judging from the smiles on the founders’ faces of late, I’d say it was a nice number…).

Fellow tenants Money Dashboard raised over £1.3m on Crowdcube. This is a great local story, showing that crowdfunding is a viable route to investment, provided you have a good product.

Interestingly, both Wallet.Services and Money Dashboard are tech companies in the FinTech space, so perhaps the Scottish tech world is actually slowly taking its first serious FinTech steps. After so much talk of FinTech in Scotland and so little evidence of it on the ground, these recent funding rounds could represent a great start to a new trend.

Speaking of CodeBase, several promising companies newly joined the tech product community, including Airts – creators of resources planning and scheduling software, and also Airsorted, a management service provider for Airbnb hosts. Both companies are very different, but give a good view of the diverse nature of new businesses being built and grown in Scotland at the moment.

Expansion

In Glasgow, super-successful Swipii continues to grow and has now set its sights on expansion in France. Louis Schena, one of their co-founders, is French, while French investment firm Kima Ventures is one of the startup’s backers, so expanding across the channel seems like an obvious and appropriate next step.

In Stirling, CodeBase opened its first new tech incubator outside of Edinburgh. Led by ex-Creative Edinburgh MD Janine Matheson, and created in strong partnership with Stirling Council, CodeBase Stirling is a new hub for local tech startups. Stirling will also serve as one the main hubs for CodeBase’s Scotland-wide educational drive to help startups scale.

In Edinburgh, the photographer marketplace findr.me secured an exclusive national contract with Deliveroo to co-ordinate and book photographers for all of the restaurant partner shoots. It’s exciting to see startups and scaleups work together!

That’s all for this month’s roundup. Hopefully September will prove to be another busy month for Scottish tech.