The seventh round of Scottish EDGE took place this week but only the first time I was able to make a final out at Gogarburn. After a very early start for most (the small matter of the bridge being closed and aftermath of Storm Desmond made travel just that little bit harder!) we were treated to a day packed full of impressive pitches while being kept in suspense as a virtual reality dome was erected behind a wall of mystery.
First off, there’s no denying the EDGE awards are hugely impressive – where else can you witness over £1million being awarded to, and fundamentally changing the lives of, fledgling entrepreneurs before your eyes? However, more impressive for me than the money, was the global ambition and foresight of this steadily growing band of entrepreneurs.
Scaling is a key focus of ours at Informatics Ventures and is the latest buzzword thanks to the work by Sherry Coutu highlighting the need to support companies as they grow, and not just when they are starting out. The reality is, however, to become a scaling company you need to think ambitiously and strategically about your markets from day one and this will mean looking beyond the safety of our own shores. That’s why I was so impressed by a number of the companies pitching at EDGE who are already doing this.
Take Ocelot, the luxury chocolate company run by husband and wife duo, who make 15,000 bars a week in their Edinburgh flat before shipping to Singapore, China, Moscow & Hong Kong to name but a few. Thankfully they keep some for the locals (which is a relief as that’s the crimbo stocking fillers sorted!).
Then you have NomadixMedia who have a patent protected overhead digital advertising board that can also catch a nation’s most wanted criminals using facial recognition…why haven’t these two needs been connected before I hear you cry?! Perhaps it makes more sense when you see their customers to date are based in Colombia, South Africa and now pertinently France.
The digital age has made finding and connecting with customers in foreign markets much easier. For Dehumaniser, our EIE15 pitch of the day winner and recipient of £50k at EDGE under the HIGGS technology category, it has allowed them to follow a lean startup model and get their voice distortion technology into the fingertips of Hollywood and production companies around the world[SMGE1] . The channels are there and through CEO, Orfeas Boteas, the ambition is too.
My other takeaway from the event was the diverse range of entrepreneurs pitching. There has long been a mismatch between the entrepreneurial stereotype and the demographic of those actually making headway. 40 years old is thought to be the average age of an entrepreneur according to US based research and in terms of establishing a high growth company it seems age and wisdom are key ingredients with those over 55 twice as likely to succeed than those under 35. Obviously there will be differences between sectors but I have to say it was refreshing to see a real mix of ages and backgrounds on stage at EDGE, which only goes to prove that anyone can spot an opportunity and make it happen. Scotland Can Do indeed…and at any age.
Finally, as an organizer of a pitching based event (EIE16 – 12th May, get it in your diary!) I am always looking at the quality of pitching and I have to say I was very impressed, and not only with the pitching but how all the entrepreneurs handled the Q&A which were particularly tough at times. Scotland has a fantastic support ecosystem and the increasing number of pitching events from EDGE, E-Spark, Converge Challenge &, of course, EIE to name but a few, are really starting to pay dividends. We attend pitch events throughout the UK and recently held EIE London where for the first time we had European companies pitching and Scotland is definitely standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of the world on this front. However, there’s always more that can be done and next on our own hit list is good visuals!
To get back to the soggy Scottish Borders I had to leave earlier than I would have liked so unfortunately missed most of the prize giving, but a massive congratulations to all of those who received money on the night, and those who didn’t but did just as good a job up on stage. You can check out the full list of Scottish EDGE round 7 winners here and if you want to be a winner in round 8 you can register your interest now ready for applications opening in January.