Scottish tech sector urged to focus on scale at inaugural

Shaun Milllican and Dan Halliday

SCOTTISH technology firms must place more emphasis on achieving sales and scale. That was the advice from leading investor Dan Halliday, from Foresight Group LLP, who was guest speaker at Johnston Carmichael’s first Meet The Tech Investor event.

Addressing the session, held in the firm’s Dundee office, Dan said that Scotland is producing many exciting technology businesses.

He said: “The most attractive businesses for investment are typically in the B2B space, where they are less exposed to consumers’ disposable income. Software as a service models, which attract income through subscriptions, are especially appealing as investors like to see predictable revenue.

“When seeking companies to invest in we are looking for businesses that have already achieved commercial traction. We’d rather companies had attained their first sales than creating the perfect product, because the market can move on in the time spent on R&D.”

He also recommended that Scottish tech entrepreneurs consider achieving greater growth before exiting: “There is lots of exciting early stuff happening at an early stage in Scotland, but Scottish start-ups tend to get sold at an earlier stage in comparison with their counterparts in London or San Francisco.

“As investors, we have to work out how to let founders get some equity while also incentivising them to stay on in the business and achieve scale.”

The Meet The Tech Investor event was the first in a series of sessions, Talking Tech in Dundee, being offered by Johnston Carmichael to support businesses in Dundee’s growing life sciences and technology sectors. More than 60 guests attended the session last week, where they were also treated to a gin tasting from Persie Distillery, located in Perthshire.

Dan, who is based in Foresight’s recently opened Edinburgh office, and helps to operate the £20m Foresight Growth Fund, highlighted the opportunities and challenges for Dundee.

“What is great for investors about Dundee is that it potentially has some good, under-the-radar businesses which haven’t attracted the attention of investors yet as well as strong universities producing high quality graduates,” he said.

“But there is a challenge around retaining talent in the region and ensuring they don’t go elsewhere because there isn’t yet an ecosystem around the sector as there is in Edinburgh or London.

“Success breeds success. Edinburgh, for example, has Skyscanner, which creates a large pool of developers that other technology businesses benefit from.”

Shaun Millican, Head of Technology and Life Sciences at Johnston Carmichael, said:

“We’re extremely encouraged by the positive discussions that took place at our first Talking Tech in Dundee event. Scores of business figures attended to hear more from our speakers from the investor community, and we hope that some rewarding connections were made.

“We’re committed to helping the city’s businesses to grow and flourish and we look forward to hosting our next Talking Tech in Dundee event.”

The next Talking Tech in Dundee event is scheduled for April. Among the future topics which will be examined as part of the series are the journey from start up to scale up, innovation tax reliefs, employee incentivisation and international expansion.

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