5 min read
Why digital tech founders should attend Startup Summit 2019
Founded by entrepreneur-focused community organisation FutureX, the summit was born out of a desire for a conference that brought together entrepreneurs and business support organisations from Edinburgh and wider afield in a collaborative and non-competitive environment.
“A big milestone was seeing all the different organisations that support business, who maybe felt like they were competing against each other, getting together to adopt a collaborative mindset,” says FutureX cofounder and CEO Bruce Walker.
“Part of Startup Summit today is about showcasing local talent, but really importantly it’s also about bringing in people from all over the world,” he adds. “It’s a celebration of what’s happening, and an opportunity for us to all learn together and recognise that nobody has ever been successful on their own.”
Founders who attend Startup Summit can rub shoulders with lawyers, accountants, investors, the media and other ecosystem players from across Europe. Walker says that this was done by design.
“The idea is that a founder can listen to somebody on one of the stages, hear who they need to speak to, and then walk through the exhibition hall and find that person,” he says. “It’s also about honing in on challenges we’ve had here in the last few years – from scaling rapidly in a sustainable manner to supporting entrepreneurs not just in London but across the UK.”
Today, Walker is able to bring an international perspective to Startup Summit having taken the conference to places such as the US – including LA, San Francisco and Chicago – in addition to Abu Dhabi and Hong Kong. When abroad, he connects with local startup hubs to develop a network of prospective speakers.
“When I started meeting people from all over the world, I thought, why not bring them back to Edinburgh to speak?,” he says. “That was really cool, as suddenly the summit went from being a local to an international event. And I think that we’re one of the only kinds of festival-sized conferences that really prioritises building companies that are sustainable and scalable.”
Chewing the hops
Scotland has a digital tech turnover of £3.86bn and more than 9,045 digital tech businesses, according to the latest available figures from Tech Nation Report. As heard at our Tech Nation Talks event in Edinburgh (summarised here) earlier this year, Scottish tech has many strengths – from strong home-grown engineering and developer talent to expertise in areas such as AI, robotics and blockchain.
It has also benefitted from the success of its tech Unicorns Skyscanner and Fanduel. While reflecting all of the above, it’s also important for the summit to speak to early-stage founders who value motivational talks but also require practical advice, says Walker.
“We try to go through everything – from big inspirational success stories from those at the end of the journey to others who are experiencing the raw emotion of running startups,” he says. “The latter are not necessarily experts in growing a company, but they can give you an honest, unvarnished experience.”
A number of memorable talks have lit up Startup Summit’s stage during its seven years. One of the most interesting ones, Walker recalls, was in 2017 when Scottish businessman and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter chewed the fat (or hops) with James Watt, cofounder of Brewdog, which had just raised investment to achieve Unicorn status with a $1.24bn valuation.
“It was pretty cool to have Scotland’s first self-made billionaire interviewing Scotland’s newest ‘billionaire’,” he says. “Together they had such a great rapport on stage.”
Past speakers have also included serial entrepreneur Stacy Ferreira, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, and Survey Monkey CMO Leela Srinivasan. Additionally, Duncan Logan, a St. Andrews native who in 2011 founded the San Francisco-based tech accelerator RocketSpace, which helped to nurture household names Uber and Spotify, spoke in 2016.
Set to speak
This year’s line-up includes Marta Krupinska, Head of Google for Startups UK, who is set to talk about supercharging startups. Starling Bank’s Chief Technology Advocate Jason Maude will talk scaling rapidly while focusing on sustainability, and Pietro Invernizzi, Head of Series A Programme at The Family, will cover raising a Series A round.
Perhaps the most intriguing addition this year is David Hunter, founder of golf smart tech company Shot Scope, who is likely to offer a unique perspective when he takes to the stage.
“David was a teacher who skipped class to attend the first Startup Summit, and since then he’s raised around $8m for Shot Scope which sells in 50 countries worldwide,” says Walker. “He was inspired to quit his job as a teacher, become an entrepreneur and join us on FutureX’s Silicon Valley programme – and now he’s back to speak!”
Also in attendance will be Tech Nation’s Scotland Entrepreneur Engagement Manager Hazel Gibbens, who will be on the lookout for networking opportunities in-between hosting the summit’s main stage.
”I’m really looking forward to welcoming some of the incredible speakers the FutureX team have lined up this year, as well as meeting the next generation of entrepreneurs from across the UK,” she says.
Offering practical advice, a solid networking opportunity and a day out in one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, Startup Summit has blossomed into an event that Europe’s entrepreneurs won’t want to miss.