My Column

Scotland’s got talent

  • Date: Sunday 27th September 2009
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I was really surprised to read last week that Scotland is failing the entrepreneur test.

New research shows that Scotland's business start-up rate continues to lag behind the rest of the UK and other similar countries.

The findings by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor Scotland 2008 claim that Scotland continues to suffer from a "less dynamic" entrepreneurial culture.

I'm pretty astonished by that, considering some of the enterprising Scots I've come across in the past 12 months.

Just a couple of weeks ago I was down in London to judge the O2 X Awards.

The gongs support like-minded entrepreneurial men and women who are committed to doing things differently and creatively across the country.

From fledgling talent to established success stories, the awards aim to recognise and reward a new breed of exciting British talent.

It was great to be involved in the judging process and, as a proud Scot, it was even more inspiring to see that six of my fellow countrymen were in the running for the top award.

The finalists all come from varying backgrounds, but each has seized an opportunity to develop a thriving and sustainable business amidst the economic downturn.

Amongst the finalists was butcher Paul Conway, who appeared on Gordon Ramsay's F Word, and Sadie Jean Sloss, of DollyLeo Apothecary, which supplies exclusive beauty products to men and women.

There was also Sunil Kadri, of Optoswim Technology. His company has developed an incredible technology to improve the production of farmed salmon.

Optoswim's products use a special LED light to stimulate the fish into swimming, making them leaner, healthier and tastier.

The business has been operating for nearly two years and its technology will soon be used in fish farms across the globe.

How's about that for world-class innovation?

So it would be interesting to know what criteria the study used to conclude that us Scots were lacking in dynamism.

The male and female winners will be announced at a ceremony in London tomorrow and, hopefully, I will have news of another great Scottish success story in next week's column.

Despite witnessing a growth in the Scottish entrepreneurial culture, I still believe more could be done to encourage business start-up activity.

I have said before that the development and growth of small to medium-sized enterprises will be at the heart of our economic recovery.

Small business development is now in the hands of local authorities and the objective has been to encourage and foster the growth of business at a local level. I'm not convinced.

We clearly have the talent and the innovation to pull the country out of the current economic cycle.

However prospective start-ups are being tied up in bureaucratic wrangling and don't have access to proper advice and grant seed-funding.

We should be encouraging and making it easy for people to go it alone and we now need a framework support system that matches the ambition of Scotland's budding entrepreneurs.


Related Content Video: My Journey As An Entrepreneur - How I Started


Women Can Get Net Careers

FOR more than ten years now, girls have been out-performing boys in education. Again exam results in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, reflected this.

For those same ten years, women have been gradually overtaking men in computing expertise, but are not yet reaping the financial rewards.

I'm surprised women are still under-represented in web-based entrepreneurism because they are the heaviest users of computers. They browse, blog and buy online more than men.

Statistics show women are becoming more web-savvy, start using computers at an earlier age and are more likely to set up blogs and websites. Why not go the next step and investigate an e-commerce or other online business?

The internet is still an incredibly under-used medium that is developing all the time.

The majority of people controlling the web at the back end are those who stand to make money from enterprises and these are IT programmers, creators and generally, men. It's lucrative work that anyone could do with the right training.

There are exceptions - Martha Lane Fox co-created and became one of the 100 richest women in the UK after the company went public in 2000.

Natalie Massenet set up the popular shopping site Net-a- Porter and has also become a multi-millionaire through her expertise.

Girls at school are now beating lads in traditionally boyish subjects like computing and information technology, but have not quite broken into the business the way I know they can.

I don't know if guidance teachers are telling girls with good grades just how lucrative e-commerce and IT can be or, instead talking them into other supposedly get-ahead careers.

There are some great online networks in Scotland to share your expertise and make connections with others who want to get ahead in their dotcom careers.

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