Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, director of Converge, notes that Scotland has witnessed promising academic success and the pipeline shows no signs of slowing.
NovoSound, a Scottish sensor technology firm, has just received a £1m grant from Scottish Enterprise to boost its research and development. Novosound was the first spinout company to emerge from the University of the West of Scotland, raising £1.5m at its seed investment round in April 2018. This happened just after Dave Hughes and his team took home the coveted top Converge Challenge prize (£50,000) in 2017.
Competition for Converge was incredibly high that year,with companies like Clinspec DX and Invizius contending for the same prize. Moreover, in the same year, Clinspec DX was awarded the runner-up prize and since then the team has grown and completed a £1.6m funding round earlier this year.
Moving from one sector to another, Rebecca Pick (Converge Challenge -third prize winner in 2016), founder of Pick Protection, is taking the business to new heights by closing deal after deal, the latest of which is with a London-based security provider.
Clearly, success comes from a combination of factors, as explained by the Timmon Model, a widely accepted model for company creation.
Novosound, Clinspec DX, and Pick Protection operate in different markets, fulfil different customers’ needs, but what they have in common is the entrepreneurial nature of their leaders.
Entrepreneurs have a different mindset to others, and this is hard-wired into their success.
A credible, backable and successful entrepreneur will have strong belief, resilience and passion, combined with self-awareness, work ethic and coachability. These traits are the differentiators between a good idea and a great business.
Several investors still claim a general inability by academics to understand the challenges of industry, that they work to interminable timescales, and that risk is not in their DNA. However, those with a strong business ethic, coupled with a strong scientific academic background, exemplify the opposite.
Converge, the national company creation programme dedicated to Scotland’s Higher Education, puts a lot of emphasis on the entrepreneur. Over the years, the programme has had an exceptionally positive impact on business creation by helping to mould and shape the entrepreneurs that can drive the business agenda.
Our exciting news this year was announcing a non- exclusive partnership with Techstart Ventures LLP, a leading investor of seed capital across Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The aim of the fund is to accelerate the growth of early- stage, ambitious businesses enabling them to access the funding they need to grow and scale up.
The partnership is great news for our alumni looking to significantly grow and scale their businesses as they now benefit from dedicated access to the Techstart Ventures team.
In Scotland, Techstart manages the Scottish Growth Scheme – Techstart Ventures Equity Finance LP Fund which is a multi-million-pound early stage venture capital fund financed by support from the Scottish Government and the European Regional Development Fund.
As we’ve seen, there is now a growing and well- established line of successful entrepreneurs that ‘graduated’ from the Converge programme who are now fully-fledged businesses across a raft of sectors – cutting-edge pioneers who have set out to disrupt and transform areas such as life sciences, robotics, construction, recycling, AI and digital technology, amongst so many more.
So far, between its inception in 2010 and last year, Converge has received over eleven hundred applications from all Scottish universities and research institutes.
Around 300 aspiring entrepreneurs have been trained, coached, connected and supported, and a new cohort is currently on a similar journey. An impressive £1m has been invested by Converge in training and non-dilutive funding for the best innovative business propositions. This, in turn, has resulted in the creation of around 140 companies (of which 30% have been established by females) who have collectively raised more than £80m in follow on funding.
Our plan is to keep working with Scotland’s academic institutions to support their efforts in becoming more entrepreneurial, to grow the network, and attract talent and capital to Scotland. The key to unlocking the universities’ potential is people. Scotland has a great history of attracting highly skilled and talented individuals who share a passion for innovation.
Our job is to keep inspiring, supporting and investing in the next generation of entrepreneurs.