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by
11 December 2014
Aiming high

Aiming high

“It has the potential to be life-changing,” said Evelyn McDonald. This week, budding entrepreneurs found out whether they would receive up to £100,000 each, putting them on the path to developing world-class businesses (see below this article).

McDonald is the new chief executive of ScotEdge, the Scottish Edge Fund (Edge standing for ‘encouraging  dynamic growth entrepreneurs), which was established by the Scottish Government, Sir Tom Hunter and the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and previously managed by Scottish Enterprise.

The intention always was that it would become a standalone organisation and over the summer Sir Tom and RBS agreed to take the fund forward with a new board comprising leaders from the public and private sectors. “Our ambition is simple,” says its website, “support high growth businesses in every way we can, build Scotland’s success as an entrepreneurial nation and have a bit of fun doing it.”

The fund, which was endowed with more than £5m by the Scottish Government, Sir Tom and RBS, describes itself as being “more than money, it’s a destination for entrepreneurs keen to realise their objective of building world-class businesses”. It provides mentoring, master classes and is developing an alumni programme.

McDonald, formerly head of growing businesses at the Prince’s Trust Youth Business Scotland, was appointed last month and brings to ScotEdge the experience of working with fledgling businesses that have gone on to become international success stories.

“I established a growth fund for the trust in 2002, to provide ‘follow-on’ loans of up to £25,000 to businesses that had been supported by the trust and were looking for further funding to develop and grow but were struggling to raise that funding commercially. We provided gap funding at ‘soft rates’ but delivering with that a fairly intensive support service.

“So in addition to the funding they got access to a mentor, we ran quarterly alumni events, supported them in entering competitions, provided speaking opportunities, published a newsletter and so on. We tried to provide the best possible service we could to help these businesses grow. They were typically businesses that were a year old and were looking to get to the next stage. We had some fairly major successes with that in terms of the clients that came through.”

McDonald worked with Brewdog, begun by two 24 year olds, which today has more than 200 employees, a ‘crowd-funded’ craft brewery at Ellon in Aberdeenshire and 13 Brewdog bars in the UK and Europe (and the reflected glory of having a fake bar in their name opened in China). Other companies included Aircraft Medical, the developer of devices for critical care professionals around the world, and Wild West Foods, based on the Isle of Lewis and the UK’s ‘original Beef Jerky producer’.

“We supported some great businesses and generated an excellent return on investment for the fund. It generated a lot of goodwill, also, with people we had supported giving back time and advice to other businesses. So, I’m aiming to bring some of that good practice here,” said McDonald.

“There is a huge opportunity; in this latest round, the fifth so far, we have the facility to put up to £100,000 – a prize of up to £50,000 and a loan of up to £50,000. That’s a really significant injection. It has the potential to be life-changing. That’s exciting for the businesses and exciting for those of us involved in the competition.”

ScotEdge has now applied for charitable status and will become more independent. Sir Tom confirmed his long-term backing of the funding programme in August with a pledge for the Hunter Foundation to put in £700,000. This added to £2.5m from RBS and £2.35m from the Scottish Government to carry the competition through to 2017. The move from giving out solely grants to a mixture of loans and grants will allow the fund to become self-sustaining.

Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise have seats on the advisory board. McDonald said: “Scottish Enterprise and HIE have done an excellent job and we will be building on this bringing other parts of the enterprise eco-system on board, creating partnerships with private sector organisations and giving the businesses we support the best possible service and the best chance of succeeding.”

In the wake of her appointment, ScotEdge announced partnerships with Amazon, Samsung, Harper Macleod and Johnston Carmichael.

Finalists received Amazon Web Services credits to allow them options to run their companies in the cloud and receive online training options. Samsung is running one-to-one consultancy sessions for finalists as well as workshops and technology showcases. Legal firm Harper Macleod and accountants Johnston Carmichael are providing tailor-made packages of support for the finalists and winners.

McDonald added: “We will be standalone, but very much linked to the business support ecosystem in Scotland.”

In that vein, ScotEdge is part of Scotland Can Do, the framework developed by the Scottish Government in conjunction with business and the third sector and which was highlighted last week by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in a speech to the business sector. In February, the inaugural Scotland Can Do Assembly will be held.

“The entrepreneurial and business support ecosystem in Scotland is already fantastic, but we want to make it the best in the world,” said McDonald.


ScotEdge 2014 Winners

Beauty Kitchen UK Ltd - Awarded £30,000
Celtic Sea Spice Company (T/A Mara Seaweed) - Awarded £50,000
Chocolati Ltd - Awarded £27,000
Dunnet Bay Distillers Ltd - Awarded £50,000
Hectares Food Limited - Awarded £50,000
Lobster Pod Ltd - Awarded £100,000
nooQ Ltd - Awarded £32,000
Pulsetta Foods Limited - Awarded £50,000
Safetray Products Ltd - Awarded £31,000
Smoother Spirits Ltd - Awarded £52,000
snap40 Ltd - Awarded £40,000
Sunamp Limited - Awarded £50,000
Swipii - Awarded £20,000
The Kiltwalk – Awarded £50,000
Trans World Soccer - Awarded  £45,000
West Coast Fisheries & Butcher Ltd - Awarded £100,000

Young Edge Winners 
Blind Spot Gear - Awarded £10,000
FreeFlow Technologies - Awarded £5,000
Hannah Whisky Merchants – Awarded £7,500
Hidden Armada - Awarded £6,500
Intelligent POS - Awarded £7,000
Reinvent Life Sciences - Awarded £5,000
Space Budgie - Awarded £10,000
Speyside Craft Brewery - Awarded £7,500
TRTL - Awarded £10,000
VH Innovation - Awarded £6,500

The Judges were: Sir Tom Hunter, Alison Rose, Bill Morrow, Kevin Dorren and Eleanor Mitchell.
 

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