Jane Kennedy

Jane Kennedy

Business Development Manager

Business Start-Ups Still Strong in Scotland

With a role that is focused on supporting the talent acquisition of early stage businesses, the Herald’s article on the fall of start-ups across the UK didn’t make for happy reading on the bus to work on Wednesday morning. However on further reading, the study (conducted by the Bank of Scotland) concludes that Scotland has fared better than other parts of the country but suggests that a drop in business births (3% down) in Scotland is certainly cause for concern.

Before the panic set in though let’s just draw breath and remind ourselves that the entrepreneurial spirit is definitely still alive and well in Scotland.

We closed last year with the news that Edinburgh’s two tech Unicorns –Skyscanner and FanDuel had both completed successful exits. Our entrepreneurial ecosystem is thriving with organisations who can support, nurture and grow young innovative businesses and we have a buoyant and active group of angel syndicates to fund exciting high growth companies. In addition the Scottish Investment Bank continues to stimulate the SME funding market in Scotland through the supply of growth capital.

In my role with Talent Spark I meet with many dynamic young businesses every day and would argue that the high growth companies in Scotland are more robust and ambitious than they have ever been. Let’s take a look at some of the ‘ones to watch’:


Founded by Daniel Rodgers and Ronnie Forbes Edinburgh-based QikServe, offers a unique opportunity for hospitality clients to harness the potential of consumer ‘self-service’, increasing order value and reducing costs.

Qikserve is a cloud-based mobile ordering and payments firm enabling customers to order and pay for items through their smartphone, tablet or self-service terminal. The platform also allows consumers to discover restaurants, check-in to tables, browse menus whilst making savings and redeeming loyalty points or vouchers.

The company recently announced a funding deal of £2.7m led by Maven Capital Partner to fuel global expansion into key markets such as the US.


Synpromics is developing a strategic portfolio of valuable synthetic promoters for a range of markets including cell & gene therapy, bio-manufacturing and industrial & agricultural bio-technologies. Synthetic promoters are DNA sequences (that do not exist in nature) which are designed to regulate the activity of genes and the company’s disruptive technology greatly improves upon natural promoters.

Having recently announced research collaboration with GE Healthcare to jointly develop customised synthetic promoters , Edinburgh based Synpromics is already making significant strides to boost efficiency in the bio-pharma sector.


Livingston based, Optoscribe has become a recognised supplier of trusted, high performance 3D, glass-based integrated photonic components to minimise network costs whilst maximising cable performance.

Following a recent £1.2 million investment, Optoscribe is extending its reach with the appointment of distributors in USA, Germany and Japan.

Snap 40

The brainchild of computer science graduate turned medical student Chris McCann, Snap40 is an automated risk analysis platform using continuously wearable, vital signs monitoring equipment to allow health services to easily and quickly identify patients at high risk of becoming sick in hospital.

Having recently closed what is thought to be the largest ever round of seed funding by a Scotland-based start-up, Snap 40 has ambitious plans to utilise the £2 million to capitalise on the European and US markets.


From its base in Edinburgh, UniKLasers produces lasers with the purest emitted light, with true single frequency operation, covering the spectral range from Near Infra-Red to Ultra-Violet.

UniKLasers Single Frequency DPSS lasers are compact, reliable systems, in demand for many cutting edge research and industrial applications; including life sciences instrumentation, semiconductor wafer metrology, holographic imaging, particle trapping, wind turbine power generation and avionic technologies.

The company was a recent winner and recipient of the UK Quantum Technologies Innovation Fund.

Pick Protection

Having identified a definite gap in the market for an affordable alarm backed up by police response, Rebecca Pick launched Pick Protection whilst still in her final year at University. Glasgow based Pick Protection has already secured significant Investment through Angel Syndicates, Scottish Investment Bank and the Unipart group.

The Personal Guardian is a wearable monitored alarm which uses smartphone technology to provide the police with information on a user’s exact location. With increasingly stringent Health and Safety legislation this is a major growth market for both personal use and for companies with a duty of care to their lone working employees. The Personal Guardian is expected to be launched in the UK in early 2017 and will be manufactured in Scotland


Utilising patented technology, BioGelX designs and supplies tuneable peptide hydrogels that mimic the behaviour of the body’s tissues and organs. The gels of varying stiffness and chemical composition can be tuned to replicate the exact environment to grow and develop cells in a realistic animal free in vivo manner.

The technology which is already finding applications in cell based assays/toxicity screening, cancer cell research, microfluidics and regenerative medicine could eventually be used to advance bespoke drugs tuned to individual patients.

Based at BioCity Scotland in Lanarkshire, the company has recently established a New York office, to make inroads in the US market and accelerate its international business reach.


A market leader in User Behaviour Analytics, Zonefox provides 360 visibility around data to protect sensitive information against the insider threat from a single dashboard.

With a global client list including high-tech manufacturers, banks and games developers among its customers, Zonefox provides immediate alerts to breaches of policy, allowing organisations to respond quickly and effectively.

Zonefox recently triumphed at the Scottish Cyber Awards, winning International Contribution to Cyber Security, with the company’s CEO and co-founder Jamie Fox being awarded PWC’s Champion of Champions accolade.

Pufferfish Ltd

Pufferfish develops dynamic digital display systems. Their unique specialist spherical display systems ‘PufferSpheres’ offer a different way of thinking about the use of video and the easy-to-deploy full 360-degree viewing windows are suitable for use across a wide range of industries and applications.

The company is working with leading companies and institutions from around the world. Their displays have featured on the BBC’s Stargazing Live programmes, were commissioned by US space agency NASA and have been used by the rock band Coldplay.

After further investment and under the guidance of the new CEO, Angus MacFadyen the company is targeting new markets in North America and the Far East.


The strength of the start-up scene in Scotland and its potential to drive our economy was the rational for Eden Scott creating TalentSpark. We firmly believe there is still plenty of scope for the sector to prosper despite this recent blip and we know just how important talent is in securing the vital investment needed for growth.

If you’re an early stage business interested in securing the top talent to build your business or are interested in working in an exciting innovative business, let’s talk.

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