“Over the following days and weeks, I discovered the striking parallels between a startup failing and a close relative dying”

ficult to grow. Te harder we tried the worse the results. l Second, although we raised a

fairly sizeable chunk of funding, it came through five separate rounds of investment over a peri- od of just four years. Any founder who’s raised equity investment knows how much time and effort is involved in courting investors, agreeing a deal and getting it over the line (for those that haven’t, it’s at least three times as much as your worst estimate). Doing that as often as I did was insane. I spent more than half of my time fundraising—time that could and should have been spent on the product and growth. It would have been more sensible to raise enough to buy the time to get a handle on growth, or steer clear of investment altogether. A small

initial raise set us on a trajectory I simply didn’t anticipate. l Tird, while the support and

incentives on offer to Scottish startups is envied around the world, it can have a downside. When you take into account EIS relief, the board and consultancy fees often imposed by inves- tors, and the commissions angel groups partnering with the SIB Co-investment Fund routinely deduct from your investment, it’s entirely possible for an investor to find him or herself in profit regardless of the success of the venture. Having investors without any real skin in the game exert- ing influence is a particularly unhealthy place for a founder— especially when you’re expected to risk everything against future success. We had some brilliant

investors whose support was unconditional (literally), but I’ve had first-hand experience of this scenario playing out too. l Fourth and finally, we have a

wonderful, thriving tech startup scene in Scotland, but it’s easy to get a bit of investment and recognition within that commu- nity and feel like a winner—the success of your business will naturally follow, right? Wrong. It’s no coincidence that few of us heard of this weird startup called Skyscanner until they were doing a million in monthly revenue; in- stead of being seen in all the right places they’d been focussing their energy exactly where it needed to be—on the product, users and growth. When the Blipfoto fallout began to settle I discovered what it

means to be middle class, middle aged and unemployed—it’s called ‘consulting’. I’m really enjoy- ing the opportunity to bring some of my experience to bear on other companies and was particularly fortunate to join a small core team transforming the Scottish Government’s CivTech programme from a hair-brained idea into one of the most ground- breaking tech accelerators in Europe. Meanwhile—and with my

four points above very firmly in mind—I’ve been quietly beaver- ing away on the Next Big Ting, which should start to see the light of day later this year. In the startup world we’re told failure is more of an elixir than a poison, I guess I’ll find out soon enough if that’s true. l


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