Scotland – the home of bagpipes, haggis, and increasingly, multi-billion-pound tech businesses

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]When you think of ‘unicorns’, nine times out of ten it conjures up images of mythical beasts found in fairytales. What you might not know though is that it’s also the name given to high flying start-ups desperately sought after by investors. Why? Well to use another mythical animal analogy, these are the technology golden gooses whose valuation exceed $1 billion. There are just under 200 in the world and Scotland has been the birth-home to two of them.

Located in Edinburgh’s Quartermile, travel search engine site, Skyscanner, which was sold to Chinese firm Ctrip for £1.4bn and fantasy sports firm FanDuel valued at $1bn (£690m) have gained international recognition. Additionally, what they have also been able to do is showcase Scotland’s tech industry – a sector which isn’t just buoyant, but one that is booming. Research by ScotlandIS, the country’s trade body for ICT, has shown that Scotland is only second to London in tech growth, with increasing start-up activity creating a wide range of new entrants to the market.

While all these signs are positive, it’s important to recognise that the road to success for Scotland’s tech sector has not always been smooth. Still feeling the effects of the decline within its heavy industry sector, the late 80’s saw the emergence of the internet and the explosion of personal computers transform Scotland as a centre for electronic manufacturing excellence.

Coined under the name ‘Silicon Glen’, multi-national tech firms ploughed money into building factories and research facilities along the M8 corridor. By the mid ‘90s, Scotland and technology went together like neeps and tatties. Fabrication plants blossomed across the land, people spoke excitedly about Scotland as the gateway to electronics in Europe and with the region employing an estimated 55,000 people and producing 35 per cent of all of Europe’s PCs, what could possibly go-wrong?

Almost as quickly as it had risen, the dotcom crash of the early noughties burst the bubble – and with it, Silicon Glen. Costs for creating new fabrication facilities sky-rocketed, and a general aversion to investment saw manufacturing moved offshore. From this, an estimated 20,000 people lost their jobs. The fallout left the country in a state of flux; Silicon Glen was meant to usher in a new age of industry. It didn’t, but as the curtain came down, another began to rise driven by those left unemployed from the downturn. Putting their skills to good use and driving innovation and life back into Scotland’s tech sector, it was these first shoots of recovery that were so critical to putting Scotland on the path to becoming the vibrant and bourgeoning market it is today.

Gareth Williams, the CEO of travel search engine site Skyscanner, was once interviewed about what he saw as the advantages of being head-quartered in Scotland. In his response he spoke at length about the importance of having easy access to world-class universities excelling in computing and digital skills, the availability to a rich source of people with the right qualities to drive innovation, and also having the support of a strong startup community that is willing to support one another.

These factors have been critical in establishing Scotland’s technology industry on solid grounds. In Edinburgh, industry heavyweights such as Microsoft, Apple and Amazon all have a presence within the city. Additionally, CodeBase, the largest technology incubator in the UK and one of the fastest growing in Europe, is home to over 80 of the brightest, upcoming technology businesses in existence, and has recently expanded into central-Scotland, with a new operation in Stirling.

Glasgow’s transformation from industrial powerhouse to leading digital technology cluster is highlighted by the development of the Fairfield Offices in Govan – now home to Rookie Oven, and one of several locations in the city providing a home to a new breed of digital tech start-ups. In Aberdeen, the opening of a new £180m oil and gas technology centre aims to become one of the top three sites globally for innovation and technology development, with a particular focus on subsea production, drilling and wells, mature basin asset management, ensuring decommissioning excellence, and oil and gas data science.

Dundee, the birth place of the world’s biggest-selling video game Grand Theft Auto, is now a globally recognised hub for video game design and home to a third of all of Scotland’s video game developers. In central Scotland, companies like enterprise mobility specialists, DOGFI.SH Mobile, have made the Stirling University Innovation Park their home, capitalising on the city’s excellent transport links and access to a talented pool of graduates coming from the University.

The Scottish government has been central to this success, making significant investments to keep the country at the forefront of digital technology. These factors have been essential in establishing solid foundations and as we look ahead the future looks very bright for Scotland’s digital technology sector.

Nick Bird, Spreckley, guest-blogger[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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STEP wins Stirling Business Gateway contract

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]STEP Scotland will continue to deliver Business Gateway services across Stirling for the next five years, as it has been doing since Business Gateway’s inception.  

The free Business Gateway support service is crucial to entrepreneurs looking for advice about how to start a business, as well as businesses that are looking at ways to expand. Business Gateway Stirling’s experienced advisers have provided invaluable support to many successful local businesses including Our Place Café, HEAT Fitness and Venachar Lochside. This support will continue to have a positive impact on the local economy.

Louise Evison, Business Gateway Stirling’s Growth Manager said:

“We are delighted to have secured the contract to continue the delivery of Business Gateway support across Stirlingshire and look forward to working with our clients – old and new – over the next five years.

Over the last year we have helped more than 200 businesses start up, worked with more than 280 growing businesses, and we’ve supported more than 100 companies with specialist consultancy support. Nationally, over the last 9 years Business Gateway has supported more than 92,000 businesses to start up and grow.”

Louise added: “We are thrilled to be continuing to work with businesses across Stirlingshire at this exciting time for the area. Myself and my team of advisers already have great relationships with many local companies and are committed to building on this to enable the local business community to thrive. If you are operating a business in Stirlingshire and would like to have a chat about what we can do to help, please just contact me or one of the team for an initial meeting.

To arrange to speak to the Business Gateway Stirling team please call: 01786 498496.

Click here to find out more and register for the free workshops coming up at Business Gateway Stirling – they run from August 8.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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Make Stirling City Deal a deal for everyone

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We welcome guest-blogger Hisashi Kuboyama, Development Manager for West of Scotland, Federation of Small Businesses. 

In last year’s Autumn Statement, the UK Government confirmed it would open talks over a £500 million City Deal for Stirling. According to Stirling Council’s master plan, City Deal has the potential to create 3,000 jobs, AND increase tourism by 25 per cent.

At FSB, we welcome the capital investment City Deal represents and the partnership working it generates among local authorities. We hope that City Deal will benefit Stirling’s businesses, particularly micro and small businesses.

There are over 4,000 registered businesses in Stirling, and almost nine out of ten of them are small and micro firms. They account for 30% of turnover, and employ nearly 15,000 people – which is around two in five private sector jobs. Clearly, they play a significant part in our local economy.

We want City Deal to deliver for these local smaller firms, particularly through procurement.

Once finalised, City Deal investment will bring huge supply chain opportunities. It’s vital that smaller businesses are given a fair chance to access these, because our research has consistently pointed to the economic benefits of buying from small, local firms.

Take our research with the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES). It shows that every £1 spent with local SMEs generated an additional 63p of benefit for the local economy, compared to just 40p when it is spent with large local firms.

So, if you spend money with a local smaller firm, more money will stay in your local neighbourhood and that should create more jobs and opportunities.

For City Deal to deliver benefits to local smaller businesses, it is critical to make sure that we do everything we can to help local smaller businesses win city-deal related contracts, and benefit from supply-chain opportunities. This is one of the reasons why we called for an independent Small Business Champion for the deal. While this might be difficult with large infrastructure projects, on other fronts there’s a real opportunity.

City Deal could give the local economy the shot in the arm it needs, but we need to squeeze every drop of value from its spending power. We have to make sure that local businesses get their fair share.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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Business Gateway praises Scotland’s SME’s

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Scotland’s national business advice service, Business Gateway, has praised the continued ambition of Scotland’s SMEs.

The recognition of Scotland’s business community’s drive was made following the release of the service’s Annual Review, which shows a growing number of businesses and people across Scotland using Business Gateway’s services.

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer at the Business Gateway National Unit, said: “Scotland’s business community must be praised for its ambition and determination in an environment that continues to present economic challenges. Our Annual Review shows that record numbers are coming to Business Gateway for the first time for support and advice to grow their businesses and to help address hurdles they may find in their paths, demonstrating a desire to develop and achieve more.”

Throughout the 12 month period ending March 2017, 12,669 existing companies looked to expand and develop with support from Business Gateway, a record number, AND an increase of 37% on the previous year.

A record number of businesses (33,237) also engaged with the service for the first time, up by 26%. A total of 58,860 enquiries were received during the year from people who contacted the service seeking business support, the highest figure on record.

Business Gateway support helped a total of 10,629 new businesses to start trading during the year, with 8,983 of these supported directly by a local office, a marginal decrease of 1.1% from the previous year. Research shows that a further 1,646 businesses started trading after they had received support from a local office, accessed information from the Business Gateway Enquiry Service or downloaded templates guides or market information from business Gateway’s website.  It is estimated that these new starts created 11,600 jobs.

49% of new start businesses set up with support from Business Gateway during the period were owned or managed by women, significantly above official UK (21%) and Scottish estimates (20%) for women-led businesses (see notes to editors).

The number of clients projecting significant growth, e.g., by taking on new employees, increasing their sales or entering new international markets, is over 5,000.  These companies receive support from a Business Gateway Growth Adviser and are able to access some additional support from the Enterprise Agencies.  Last year, a total of 2,648 new referrals were approved into this growth portfolio.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “Scotland’s small businesses are fundamental drivers in securing sustainable and inclusive economic growth. So it is extremely encouraging to see that record numbers are seeking out support to continue their growth.

“The success of the Digital Boost programme, which I launched at a conference attended by over 250 Scottish businesses last year, proves that Scotland’s business community is building its skills to respond to the boom in the digital economy.

“This Government will continue to do everything it can to support businesses of all sizes. Scotland already provides publicly-funded business support and help for exporting, and is simplifying regulation, reducing taxation, making it easier to find the finance businesses need to thrive and grow, and encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship.“

Councillor Steven Heddle, Environment and Economy spokesperson for COSLA said: “Local authorities continue to play an important role in the successful delivery of Business Gateway’s local services through their ability to be flexible based on the needs of its own business community. The increasing use of the service by companies who are already actively trading, as well as those new starts, is good news for national and local economies.”

Skills training workshops to help businesses work more efficiently continued to see significant growth with an increase of 30% in the number of people attending (31,903) 3,551 workshops. Included in that figure are 5,037 people who attended 818 digital skills workshops delivered by Digital Boost, a training programme launched in January 2016 and developed by Business Gateway in partnership with Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise on behalf of Digital Scotland.  The programme also provided 707 businesses with specialist, digital consultancy support.

The objective of DigitalBoost is to provide businesses in Scotland with opportunities to improve their technical and digital capabilities and help them use digital technology to enter new markets, trade internationally, increase efficiencies and potentially, employ more staff.

The Business Gateway service continued to see a significant rise (12.7%) in the use of its digital resources with a record 685,860 visitors to bgateway.com, up 13%. Over 2,600,000 pages of information were accessed, an increase of 14% from last year.

Hugh Lightbody, Chief Officer at the Business Gateway National Unit, added: “Business Gateway is about making connections for Scotland’s SME community.  That may be connecting them to the right people or it may be connecting them to the right advice and knowledge.  Everything we do is geared towards helping them with their own business objectives.

“As local authorities delivering the Business Gateway service continue to develop support for businesses, we will look to work ever more closely with our partners, including Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and others, to ensure that businesses have access to a support package that meets their individual needs, wherever they are based.”

Would you like to read Business Gateway’s Annual Review? Find it here. 

Click here to find out about FREE upcoming training workshops at Business Gateway Stirling.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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EU funding options for SME’s to be discussed at July 25th event

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Are you keen to access EU funding for your business, but not sure what’s out there following Brexit? 

An EU-funding event is being held in Edinburgh for ambitious and innovative SMEs on Tuesday, July 25th. The aim of the event is to promote European funding options, raise awareness and stimulate SME participation in the European funding programmes – Horizon2020 SME Instrument, and Eurostars. There will  be a particular focus on close-to-market support and internationalisation.

The aim of the event is to raise awareness and stimulate SME participation in the European funding programmes Horizon2020 SME Instrument and Eurostars, with particular focus on close-to-market support and internationalisation.

The purpose of the EU funding event will be:

  • To promote improved awareness of EU funding options for regional businesses keen to innovate;
  • To reassure target businesses that such funding routes are still available, despite lead-up to Brexit;
  • To help SME’s to understand which options are most suited to their innovation project;
  • To provide practical information and discussion to help SMEs make informed choices.

The agenda for the event is yet to be formalised, but the morning session will include overviews of SME Instrument and Eurostars from NCPS, as well as presentations from expert evaluators on: how to write a successful proposal; demonstrating impact in EU funding proposals; financial imperatives, and EEN support. Presentations will be followed by a panel Q&A.

The afternoon will give SMEs the opportunity to meet 1:1 with evaluators/ NCPs to discuss projects, with priority going to those who have previously submitted an EU funding proposal, or currently developing a proposal. If you are interested in attending, you are of course free to leave following the morning session.

Companies can register at the links below for the morning and afternoon sessions.

Click here to book on to the morning information session.

Click here to book on to the afternoon information session.

Spaces are limited so book your place now to avoid disappointment! 

To see an example of a funded O&G project for an SCR Tensioner please click here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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Stirling start-up business Beezer wins £30,000 Scottish EDGE funding

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]A Stirling-based start-up business, Beezer, has won £30,000 and a business support package as part of Scottish EDGE – Scotland’s leading business competition for innovative, high growth potential entrepreneurial talent.

Beezer, founded by Brian Smillie, is a SaaS platform that allows SME’s to build, publish and manage an App quickly and cost effectively using its plugin and styling marketplace with no coding or App store approval required. The businesses’ game-changing USP allows anyone with a Beezer App to share the App instantly across hitherto incompatible platforms/devices.

Announcing the award on Thursday evening, Scottish EDGE CEO, Evelyn McDonald, said: “In this ever-growing technology focused world, there are approximately 1000 new apps created every day and these are often expensive and challenging to develop.  However, our next winner has a disruptive solution to help SMEs build, publish and manage an app quickly and cost-effectively”.

The business was one of 12 businesses to receive funding of over £1m as part of the Scottish EDGE’s tenth competition round, which launched in February of this year. Scottish EDGE, which looks to support Scotland’s innovative, high-growth potential entrepreneurial talent, received a total of 240 applications for the current competition round.

Having received their award, which was presented by Scottish EDGE board member and Head of Entrepreneurship at Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest, Gordon Merrylees, Brian commented: “The support of EDGE is essential in helping small companies achieve their potential. Winning EDGE has meant that we are now able to take full advantage of the opportunities currently available to us”.

Renowned Scottish entrepreneur and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter remarked Beezer’s achievement; “I’m delighted that Beezer have secured Scottish EDGE funding and support as part of the competition’s tenth round. Brian’s passion for his business and knowledge of the market impressed the panel and they could see great potential in his product. We welcome the business as it joins our network of high-profile Scottish EDGE alumni, and look forward to supporting their development.”

Find out more about Beezer here. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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Stirling Business Month highlights

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]We have now recovered (just about!) from a very busy Stirling Business Month 2017.

Delegates were introduced to the theme for May – Investing in Our Future – at the opening conference on May 2nd. There was even a hot yoga taster, courtesy of Stirling studio HEAT Fitness.

We’ve taken to Twitter to compile some of the best tweets that were shared during Stirling Business Month!

We heard from speakers that have faced challenges…

“The worst part of my job is military discipline,” explains Sarah from 225 Scottish Medical Regiment #StirlingBusinessMonth

As well as rugby, Iain was also a successful businessman, but things changed in 2000. “I was crying on my own at home. Then I broke down.” – Iain Milne, former Scotland rugby player

“Scottish Presbyterian men – we think we’re indestructable, but we’re not!” Says Iain. #StirlingBusinessMonth

There were some fantastic insights…

Juliette explains how she received great business #start-up support from @STEPScotland #StirlingBusinessMonth @French_Duncan

“The mission of @BrewGoodr is to reach 1 million of the poorest people by drinking our beer” @BrewGoodr #StirlingBusinessMonthZoe Cuthbert, Brewgooder

“The City Deal is more than just infrastructure based. We’ve interacted with business, third sector & communities.” #StirlingBusinessMonthStewart Carruth, Stirling Council

“From a Council point of view we want to put our young people in touch with businesses across the region,” Stewart Carruth @StirlingCouncil

Tenants of @CodebaseTech benefit from support & mutual learning. “We want to collectively address gender balance too,” says Janine.

@Senscot at Building #socent from the Ground Up @STEPScotland. Hearing from @nataliemaver @StirVolunteer

Martin Stepek explains that family businesses account for over 70% of all businesses in Scotland. #StirlingBusinessMonth #familybusiness

Steamship Sir Walter Scott has moved on & diversified…bikes are now available which have been hugely popular. #StirlingBusinessMonth

Lt Col Sarah Lambirth explains that #leadership is involved in everything the army do. #womeninleadership #StirlingBusinessMonth

Lynne has raised over 2 million pounds for @itsgood2give and has now opened her retreat for young cancer patients. #womeninleadership

And some great advice…

“Encourage ur employees 2 speak 2 you. You need to learn to say no sometimes. Your business & ur family is the most important,” says Iain.

Tanya’s tips: Every day is a learning day. Push urself outta ur comfort zone. Find a job tht u enjoy #StirlingBusinessMonth @glaze_and_save

“As business people if u dont recognise that the world is changing then u will be left behind!” #StirlingBusinessMonth @French_Duncan

“When you give people empowerment, it’s amazing what they can achieve” – Diane Mulholland #WomenInLeadership #StirlingBusinessMonth

“Society has to move forward. You can do anything – you just have to be brave!” @Enterprise #StirlingBusinessMonth #womeninleadership

We’ve had great feedback…

Really inspirational @STEPScotland. Great event @French_Duncan #StirlingBusinessMonth

  • Hazel Burt, French Duncan

Great Rural Event today in picturesque Balmaha hosted by @STEPScotland #StirlingBusinessMonth meeting local Stirling Alpaca’s

  • Allan Campbell, RBS

Thanks to everyone that attended our range of events. Look out for a Stirling Business Month 2017 video coming soon…

Thanks also to our partners French Duncan, Business Gateway, University of Stirling Management School and RBS.

See you at Stirling Business Month 2017![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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The Ripple Retreat, STEP’s Charity of the Year, is now open!

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We’re delighted that the Ripple Retreat has now officially opened. The retreat, designed for children suffering from cancer, was officially declared open in May by Lorraine Kelly. 

The Daily Record featured this story, by Gareth Iwan Jones, last week:

A new facility for children suffering from cancer and their families opened earlier this month on the shores of Loch Venachar.

Daytime television star Lorraine Kelly performed the opening ceremony at the £1 million Ripple Retreat.

The building with its striking wave-shaped roof has three bedrooms and will be used to give those suffering from the disease a well-earned break.

Lynne McNicoll, founder of the charity It’s Good 2 Give , has raised over £2 million in donations while working with her husband, Ian, who has project-managed the 18-month construction of the complex near Callander.

As she cut the ribbon, Lorraine said she was impressed by the facility. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” she said. “There is a real story to it all as well. I’m absolutely delighted to be here and to declare the Ripple Retreat open.”

Joining Lorraine for the opening ceremony were presenter Grant Stott and former Rangers owner Sir David Murray.

“I just look at this building and I am blown away,” said Lynne, who had to take a break from the project in 2015 when she faced a breast cancer fight.

“Seven years ago we had this dream of building a retreat for young cancer patients. And yes it has been a long project, with lots of very hard work, but it is very rewarding when people can come and see what we have built.”

The designer house is modern and sleek with all the comforts of home including toys, books, games and activities.

The house also benefits from fishing rights on the loch, is next to a national cycle path and is 10 minutes by car from Callander.

Also at the launch were Tabitha Lawson,12, a former cancer patient who received support from the charity at the age of six; Alfie Byrne, 7, whose sister died from cancer, and Kira Noble, 13, who are all now active young ambassadors for It’s Good 2 Give.

Businesses who have supported the project include John Dennis Construction, Cundall, Harley Haddow, Kitchens International, James Morrow, Walker Group, Spifox and KDMedia.

And the project would not have been possible were it not for David Ferguson and his family. After hearing about the Ripple Retreat project, David decided to give up land at the stunning site by his home.

“We wanted to build something for charity as well, but we didn’t know how we could do it,” he told the Observer.

“I contacted Alycia Hayes, who was a councillor at the time, and she advised me that if we wanted to build something here, it would have to be really special. A few days later I got a call from my brother-in-law and he told me about a charity that was looking for land. It all went from there really.”

Stirling MSP Bruce Crawford was among those who attended the opening, and said that the loch was the perfect setting for the centre.

“I am hugely proud that the Ripple Retreat have chosen Loch Venachar as their location,” he said.

“I first saw the designs three years ago and I was blown away at that stage but the reality is even better.”

To donate to the Ripple Retreat, please visit uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fund/RippleRetreat[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row full_width=”stretch_row” css=”.vc_custom_1476020186894{padding-top: 40px !important;padding-bottom: 40px !important;background-color: #f0f4f6 !important;}”][vc_column][vc_column_text]

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