FutureScot An independent publication by BrandScotland
The moral dilemma of self-driving cars
The Digital List
Why is computing so male?
How data can help you win
brandscotland.com 24 February 2016
Owning up to being hacked
50 pioneers shaping technology... including the Scot with the worldâ€™s brain in his hands
24 February 2016
FutureScot FutureScot is an independent publication by BrandScotland.
elcome to the first edition of FutureScot, a supplement covering the digital technologies industry in Scotland and the ways it is changing people’s lives, here and around the world. More than 84,000 people work in the sector across Scotland, generating more than £5bn for the economy. According to KPMG’s Tech Monitor, the number of technology companies in Scotland grew 43.4% between 2010 and 2015, second only to London (54.6%). ScotlandIS, the industry’s trade body believes that the sector has the potential to double in size over the next five years. In its manifesto published last week, ahead of the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, ScotlandIS said that there should be a focus on fostering the growth of technology clusters; new ones in Aberdeen and Inverness, and targets set for Edinburgh and Glasgow to outperform successful cities such as Stockholm and Berlin. FutureScot will report on the progress of the industry’s ambition; how schools can respond to the need for more young people to choose digital technologies as a career, the ways in which more venture capital can flow through Scotland, the potential for significant growth in the value of exports, and its expertise in data science and cybersecurity. As Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, says: “We are at the beginning of the next information revolution. Scotland has the opportunity to convert our undeniable potential into a reality.” Contents
2 Briefing. 3 Skills. 8 The cloud. 10 Transformation. 11 The Digital List. 16 Tech nation. 18 Big data. 21 Jobs. 22 Investment. EDITOR
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FutureScot is an independent publication by BrandScotland distributed in The Times Scotland. All rights reserved. Neither this publication or part of it may be stored, reproduced or transmitted, electronically, photocopied or recorded without prior permission of the Publisher. Futurescot is published and exclusively distributed in The Times Scotland. We verify information to the best of our ability but do not accept responsibility for any loss for reliance on any content published. If you wish to contact us please include your full name and address with a contact telephone number.
Deliveries by drone and cars that decide whether you live or die: the future is here, but is it really what we want? From simple web pages to the ‘splinternet’, our relationship with digital technology is changing faster than we can imagine By William Peakin In the basement of Glasgow’s new Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, all is quiet except for the whirr of electric motors and the soft sound of rubber rolling across smooth concrete floors. It comes from the ‘automated guided vehicles’ (AGVs); robot porters that are programmed to transport medical supplies, linen, food and waste. Unveiled last year, the AGVs access their own ‘smart lifts’ to reach the
different floors. They have sensors preventing them from bumping into people or objects (and announce their presence with the words: “Attention, automatic transport”) as they travel across the hospital’s 166,000sq metres and 14 levels. They ‘sleep’ when idle and move to charging stations when their battery is low. Stephen Whitelaw, Glasgow University computer science graduate, digital marketing consultant, social media evangelist and public speaker, cites the robot porters as an example of our digital future, a future that is here now. Another also involves transport: selfdriving cars, but this time the benefit comes with a conflict, a choice between life and death: “They are designed to kill you; software has been written that will terminate your life.” What is he talking about? Imagine that in the not-too-distant
future, you own a self-driving car. One day, while you are being driven with your partner and two children, the car finds itself heading unavoidably towards a group of pedestrians crossing the road. Should the car brake, but potentially still plough into them, or swerve and smash headlong into a brick wall (or worse, drive off a cliff), killing you and your family? What decision should the car be programmed to make? According to Whitelaw, major manufacturers and Google – the most highprofile proponent of self driving cars – cannot agree on the correct outcome. One favours preserving the lives of the occupants, no matter the consequences, another believes the number of lives saved should be the priority, while a third is consulting insurers on the financial implications of choosing one over the other. But, as Whitelaw points
24 February 2016
Clients bring us their challenges, we reimagine their future, says Deloitte’s Angela Mitchell
If you are a terrorist or you are having an affair, or if you are a terrorist having an affair, they’ll know. Stephen Whitelaw
We are entering an era of ‘mass customisation’, combining high volume production with customers’ individual’s needs. Picture: Creative Commons
out, self-driving cars will be infinitely safer than those driven by humans, whether you are inside or out. It is these contrasts that Whitelaw is adept at highlighting. Some are relatively well known. The quotes from Thomas Watson, IBM’s chairman, in 1943 – “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers’ – or Bill Gates, Microsoft’s cofounder - “640k of memory should be enough for anybody” – for example. Others, less so; a picture of 5MB hard drive, weighing a ton, being loaded onto a Boeing 747 and another of Honeywell’s 1969 ‘kitchen computer’, that cost nearly $11,000, but at least came with an integral chopping board. What message should we take from Whitelaw’s perspective? The potential of more unique data being created in 2016 than there has been in the past 5,000 years, or the fact that 2015 saw the highest rate of divorce (caused in no small part by the leak of confidential information from dating websites). That young people have
more information at their fingertips than ever before, or that digital detox holidays for teenagers is a growing business. One certainly is that commerce and consumption are unstoppable; from deliveries by drone, currently being tested in Scotland, to wirelessly connected buttons that can be stuck around your house so you can order goods – toilet rolls, washing powder, cosmetics – with a simple touch and, ‘even better’, domestic devices that have their own IP address – a coffee maker, for example – and can order top-ups themselves. Also, that we are entering an era of ‘mass customisation’; which combines high volume production with customers’ individual’s needs. Whitelaw said that 3D printing has the potential to disrupt many traditional industries and provide breakthroughs in health and medicine. Augmented and virtual reality will add layers of experience to our daily lives. A step yet further is the Google-backed company Magic Leap, which creates stunning holograms. Our increasing connection with technology comes at a price; you will be hacked, says Whitelaw, by criminals or by your government. Countries are attacking each other; the site digitalattackmap.com displays in real-time the source and target of such activity. Social media can reveal your location: “If you are a terrorist, or you are having an affair, or if you are a terrorist having an affair, they’ll know.” Even basic assumptions about the internet and the world wide web can be questioned, said Whitelaw. Email is dying, teenagers are deserting Facebook and the ‘splinternet’ – closed networks based on technology or geography – is growing. If you are interested in understanding what the future might hold, he recommends visiting longbets.org, a philanthropic site, and “an arena for competitive, accountable predictions”, supported by Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos.
Welcome to the ‘greenhouse’ New digital studio will have a space for planting the seeds of ideas One of the big four professional services firms is looking to hire a range of digital and creative specialists in Edinburgh over the coming months, writes William Peakin. Deloitte Digital has studios in London and Belfast, as well as several around the world, but demand for its services in Scotland has prompted it to expand north of the border. You may think of accounting and audit services when you hear the name Deloitte, but in the UK it has more than 1,700 technology specialists and a wider global team of more than 26,000 in 100 countries. The studio in Edinburgh is looking for experts in digital strategy, web design, cybersecurity, social media, mobile and digital delivery. “Scotland has a vibrant digital economy and tech scene. All of our public and private sector clients in Scotland are keen to capitalise upon the new opportunities that digital can create,” said Angela Mitchell, the
Deloitte Partner in Scotland that is leading the set-up of the studio. “In addition to new routes to markets, more connected services, and the opportunity to create improved customer experiences, there is also huge potential for our clients to use digital to transform their businesses internally and deliver on their performance improvement and efficiency targets.” As well as the studio, which is expected to employ 70 people by 2020, the company is also opening
It’s about how we use digital to inspire engagement, preference and loyalty from people.
Forward thinking for forward thinkers As Scotland’s largest accountancy & advisory firm we have significant experience in the Technology sector and act for businesses of all sizes. We help you challenge the status quo, identify opportunities for improvement and practical solutions to problems. Speak to one of our advisors on 0131 220 2203 or visit us at jcca.co.uk
a ‘greenhouse’, a space in which it can help clients develop “disruptive, innovative and transformative solutions”. Mitchell added: “Our plan is to bring together all of our creative and technology capabilities, business acumen and industry insight that is needed to help transform our clients’ businesses. “Clients bring us their challenges, we reimagine their future. To us, the question is about much more than ‘being digital’. It’s about how we use digital to inspire engagement, preference, and loyalty from people. It’s about how we transform behaviours, services and organisations. “To do that, businesses today need a different kind of partner - one that tears down the traditional model of creative, tech, and business services in-silo. “Deloitte Digital is creating a new model - we’re an agency and a consultancy. “With our combination of industry experts, technology leaders and creative specialists, clients can bring us their biggest challenges, knowing we’ve got what it takes to bring a new vision to life.” www.deloittedigital.com
24 February 2016
In Conceiving Ada, Tilda Swinton played the woman regarded as the first computer programmer
Why the IT Crowd needs more women The first computer programmer was a woman. The top ‘human computers’ in the 1940s were women. It’s been all men since then, but now a new organisation is aiming to redress the imbalance – in Scotland at least. By Morna Simpson Lord Byron’s daughter Ada Lovelace is known for her work on an early mechanical machine called the Analytics Engine invented by Charles Babbage. Its input consisted of punched cards, a method already in use in looms such as the Jacquard. Her work included what is now recognised as the first algorithm to be carried out by a machine, making her the first computer programmer. But it would not be until the 1940s that
computers, as we know them, would be built. I found this out long after I first taught myself to code. It came as no surprise. I’d studied weave at Art School, and I found a lot of comfort, and similarities in the craft of coding. Looking back at the history of
computing, women played a dominant role. In 1945, six of the best “human computers” - Kathleen McNulty, Frances Bilas, Betty Jean Jennings, Elizabeth Snyder Holberton, Ruth Lichterman and Marlyn Wescoff were hired by the leaders of the top secret ENIAC project, the first general purpose computer. Coding implied manual labor, and mechanical translation or rote transcription. Thus women dominated the role, as they carried out work considered to be low in terms of professional status. There is proof, if ever you needed it, that women can code. But, while women made up around 37% of computer science courses in the early 80s, less than 20% of computer science students are women today. How then, did we get to the point where, women make up only 27% of
those employed in Britain’s digital industries, a figure well below the UK average? Why is it that for every one woman study computing, there are just over five men? Why do even fewer women enter technology-based workforce, and why do so many drop out? This is a rich and exciting industry. It’s also an industry going through high growth and it doesn’t look like it will slow down any time soon. Not only that, but in Scotland this sector is growing 32% faster than the rest of the UK economy, and the sector’s Edinburgh workers are among the highest paid in Britain. The average salary for a tech sector worker in Edinburgh is third in the UK at £51,000 a year. What does seem to be clear is that this is a cultural issue, and specifically a Western phenomenon. In India and much of Asia, women’s participation in Computer Science has increased in the past 15 years. In India in 2011, women constituted 42% of undergraduate students in CS and computer engineering. In addition, many Asian countries including India, have introduced legislation requiring a certain level of female boardroom inclusion. Although there have been initiatives in the UK
and Europe, we lag behind and have fallen short of mandatory quotas. In Europe and the US, women are taking over many traditionally male dominated sectors. In the US women make up 62% of accountants and auditors; they are graduating in equal numbers to men in Law and Medicine, making up 56.9% of medical scientists, 61.2% of veterinarians, 68.8% of psychologists; and they comprise
54.7% of financial managers, 59.3% of budget analysts and 62.8% of insurance underwriters. The myth that programming is for men only, is perpetuated. It’s everywhere you look, from the unequivocal stereotypes in comedy (Big Bang Theory, The IT Crowd) to skirmishes on Twitter and a recent report which said that “women are considered better coders but only if they hide their gender.” In 1984, something changed. The
Scotland can learn from India where a nonwestern culture has encouraged entirely different innovations
number of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged. NPR found that around the peak in the 80’s, computers began to be marketed to boys and men while women and girls were pushed aside. This led to a situation where men entering university computer science courses already had plenty of experience with computers, while women did not. Market forces at their worst, left women feeling excluded by the culture surrounding computers. More recently, computer games consoles have done nothing to improve this situation. Scotland’s technology culture is young. Its shape and direction will be
24 February 2016 determined by decisions we make today through policy, and in the cultures we develop within our businesses, our schools and our universities. We know that our technology and enterprise culture are imbalanced. It is time to do something about it. As we face a skills deficit in technology, it is of economic importance to make technology-based, working environments as welcoming as possible to people of all gender identities, physical abilities, neurotypical or atypical people, religions and ethnicities. The US has a more mature technology ecosystem, and we can learn from their mistakes and their successes. Scotland can also learn from India, where a non-western culture has encouraged entirely different innovations in technology working practices, often driven by market forces. Girl Geek Scotland aims to draw attention to this issue as a cultural phenomenon and help to rebalance the ecosystem. We are seeking sponsorship to offer scholarships to women from India, to come to Scotland and study Data Engineering or a related subject, with the aim of encouraging a cultural exchange that will banish the myth that computing is a subject for men only. Let’s learn from their experiences why a career in computing is such an attractive proposition in India. A condition of the scholarships will be that the students will be Ambassadors for Change, and will give high profile talks on the subject of positive change for women in IT and related subjects. We will be working with e-Placement Scotland to find Scottish businesses that will offer three month paid placements for the graduate scholars to fully experience the cultural diversity. The students will be panel guests at a Girl Geek Scotland event, will speak at the host university and to an audience chosen by the Scholarship sponsors. In doing so, we hope to raise the profile of women in computing and encourage more women into Data Engineering, one of the fastest growth areas in our economy. Ada Lovelace would be proud.
Morna Simpson is the founder of Girl Geek Scotland www.girlgeekscotland.com
‘I knew if we didn’t do it then, we would always regret it’: why you should shoot for the stars Lesley Eccles Don’t spend weeks working on a business plan, just get out there and find your first client By Lesley Eccles A recent RBS study revealed that women are half as likely as men to start their own business. And the vast majority of female-led businesses in Scotland are micro-businesses, employing less than ten people financed through personal savings. Our women are not shooting for the stars. Why is this a problem that we would want to tackle? Consider the recent loss of jobs from the Tata steelworks closures – 270 jobs gone. Meanwhile, the tech sector is booming with many times that number of skilled jobs created in Edinburgh in the last year alone. We cannot and should not rely on global companies locating warehouses or call centres here in order to shore up the Scottish economy - we need to be doing it for ourselves. So what’s holding budding female entrepreneurs back, why this lack of ambition?
Whilst there is no secret formula for building a business, there are a number of key qualities shared by successful entrepreneurs, male or female. First and foremost, willingness to take risks is critical and this is where women and men can differ. Women are more likely to take a more cautious approach, concerned about the prospect of failure. This isn’t always a bad thing in business, but can hinder the start-up phase. When my fellow co-founders and I first identified an opportunity in the USA for daily fantasy sports, we knew that the only way to realise our vision was to take risks; we started the business in the UK - on the other side of the Atlantic from our target market, in an industry where we had no contacts and little knowledge, with no previous experience of running a business. It was a challenging journey of ups and downs, but we persevered, made frankly pretty terrifying decisions and iterated our offering time and time again until we attained the right product market fit. From a personal point of view, there couldn’t have been a worse time to start a business - huge mortgage, newborn baby - but I knew if we didn’t do it then, we would always regret it; I chose to take the risk of a lifetime. Risk-taking should not be viewed
as a negative trait and parents and teachers should encourage girls to be more daring from a young age - to voice their opinions, take lead roles and to follow their own interests and ambitions rather than following the crowd. It all stems from self-belief; having the confidence to move into unknown territory, live outside your comfort zone and not give up when
the going gets tough. Over-thinking, and the resulting procrastination, is another dangerous trait that we need to be aware of, mainly as a result of fear of failure. I recently gave advice to a female friend who was considering starting her own consultancy – don’t spend weeks working on a business plan, just get out there and find your first client. A few months later we caught up, and it turns out the advice worked and the business is taking off. Society also has a part to play. There is still a perception that being a mother and a successful entrepreneur are mutually exclusive. As a wife, mother of three children and cofounder of one of Scotland’s leading technology businesses, I don’t believe that having a family should curb a woman’s entrepreneurial aspirations - any more than it should for a man. Running your own business brings with it a level of flexibility that it is difficult to get in any corporate job. In fact, it was this flexibility that first prompted me to move from management consultancy into the start-up world.
already some great organisations out there helping female entrepreneurs to flourish - such as Business Gateway and Women’s Enterprise Scotland but support needs to start in schools, colleges and universities, where the skill set required for entrepreneurship can be developed from an early age. More importantly, there needs to be more mentorship programmes established, giving budding entrepreneurs access to the advice and experience of those women who have already built businesses – their stories need to be heard. That’s not to say that female entrepreneurs should be encouraged solely by other women; male mentors are just as important and can offer a different perspective on growing a business. When I first started out, I really benefited from listening to the experiences of our angel investors. Support and guidance can come from anyone with an entrepreneurial background - the important thing is that it is made available and accessible. Then we can all shoot for the stars, and at the very least land on the moon.
Making this a success however,
Lesley Eccles is co-founder and EVP of Marketing at FanDuel. Founded in Scotland in 2009, FanDuel is the leader in daily fantasy sports, with millions of users in North America , offices in Edinburgh, Glasgow, New York , LA and Orlando. This summer, FanDuel launches in the UK with a daily fantasy football product designed specifically for a UK audience. Lesley will be speaking at the Investing Women ‘Ambition & Growth’ Conference in Edinburgh on 7 March www.investingwomen.co.uk/ambitiongrowth-conference16
does require effective time management, a readiness to work long and unsociable hours, and, most importantly, the right life partner. While there are sacrifices to be made - you certainly won’t have much free time - a family life is achievable without compromising on success. This is the choice you make when you chose to build a start-up. And women need to hear this loud and clear. So how do we encourage more female entrepreneurs to take the plunge or to push for growth? There are
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24 February 2016
Neil, left, and Graeme (who worked together at Tesco) with Beth; they are now among the first crop of CodeClan graduates Photograph: Ian Rutherford
From stacking shelves at their local Tesco to programming apps. In 16 weeks.
How Scotland’s new national academy is transforming lives… and the employment market By Kevin O’Sullivan A former fish delivery driver, two Tesco workers, a business consultant for an audio visual company and a digital marketing consultant are among the first 15 graduates of Scotland’s new national coding school. Following an intensive 16-week course, the first group of students have emerged from CodeClan, a Scottish Government-backed digital skills academy in Edinburgh which aims to deliver graduates to employers struggling to fill roles because of a shortage of ‘job-ready’ applicants. The crop of graduates, who are predominantly second jobbers or career changers, undertook the intensive five-day, 60-hours-a-week course with a mix of programming or web development knowledge: some had very little experience, others had more, but all had £4,500 and a hunger to invest in retraining themselves for Scotland’s fast-growing digital technology sector. Neil, 30, and Graeme, 27, embarked on the course after spending 12 and
seven years respectively as general assistants at their local Tesco store in Linlithgow. Neil, an avid PC gamer, was restless and was spurred on to make the change after his parents saw a TV advert about the course. “I was there for nearly 12 years. It was a very comfortable job to do but I stayed for too long.” He let Graeme, who did a computer science degree when he was 18, know about the opportunity and both – having come to a similar crossroads - decided to make the leap. “I just said to him [Graeme], ‘you want to get out as well, don’t you?’” The friends are now looking forward to taking their first steps in the employment market, with Neil having already secured a position with Glasgow firm Edge Testing, a UK-wide software testing provider. “It’s been a very emotional week and I’m kind of at that drained point, to be honest. But it feels great; the course was breakneck but it was good because it didn’t give you any time to slack off.” Graeme is also speaking to employers and is hopeful of landing a job, adding: “I just want a job that lets me keep pushing this on.” The course exposed the students to
Ruby on Rails, a software framework originally conceived at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US,
24 February 2016 Harvey Wheaton, centre, with CodeClan graduates
We wanted a nice, compact number and that’s really what this accelerated, immersive learning experience gives you Harvey Wheaton, CodePlan CEO and is used to build web apps. During the HND-equivalent course students completed three practical projects, learning how to create apps and deliver them to market via the cloud-based platform Heroku. Many chose to develop social utility services for the sharing economy. Iwona, a 33-year-old Polish-born web designer and SEO consultant, worked on creating Expenzeez, an app that helps groups of friends share their expenses, and also worked as part of a team to develop a buddy car sharing service. “Everything is shared now,” she says. “It’s a great way of thinking, and I think we did it really well; we created a lot of functionality. Users were able to upload messages, take and upload photos, and get notifications and feedback.” coDecLAN has also established a
very pupil-focused tutorial system with
● The academy is based on intensive coding schools such as Makers, launched in London in 2013, Stackademy in Berlin and Flatiron School in New York.
a one to five ratio between instructors and students. “We wanted a nice, compact number and that’s really what this accelerated, immersive learning experience gives you,” says CEO Harvey Wheaton. With the second ‘cohort’ of 20 students already well into the programme, and the third starting a week ago, CodeClan is ramping up its activities, and has a target of five groups to complete the course in the first year; from then on it will be 10 a year. “We want 200 students a year from Edinburgh,” adds Wheaton. “And we’ve always been looking to expand geographically, so Glasgow’s on the cards. Around October we’re looking to open a similar centre there, and the year after somewhere further north.”
● Students completing the course will obtain a Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) accreditation.
uNDerLYING The exponential growth is simple economics: Scotland creates around 11,000 digital posi-
● CodeClan has been steered by Polly Purvis, its Chair and the CEO of ScotlandIS, the tech industry trade body. ● Harvey Wheaton, a PPE graduate from Oxford University, has worked in the technology industry since the 80s, leading the Harry Potter development team at Electronic Arts.
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tions each year, around half of which go unfilled, claims Wheaton, which if populated could drive a £4billion industry to even greater heights. CodeClan will come nowhere near to meeting that shortfall on its own but is part of a government and Skills Development Scotland-led £6million skills investment plan. Ministerial interest has also opened up space for a wider debate about the potential for Scotland to be a leading digital economy. Edinburgh, in particular, has become a vibrant start-up city in recent years and has an average digital salary of £51,000, third in the UK after London and then Reading and Bracknell, according to a report last week from Tech Nation. CodeClan’s neighbour, CodeBase, is putatively the largest incubator of its kind in Britain, accommodating more than 60 companies and 500 employees in a former government office block at the foot of Edinburgh Castle. More than 2,600 people regularly attend technology meetups in the city, the report says. As For coDecLAN, it is a not-
for-profit social enterprise and has secured the backing of 13 employers as partners who pay £5,000 for every graduate they hire from the programme. They also pay a membership fee, which grants them access to the students. “It’s a bit like a matchmaking service,” says Wheaton. “That way we get a feel for which employers like which students, and vice versa. It ends up being like a 16-week interview.” But the proof will be in the pudding: two of the 15 students have accepted employment offers, there are ongoing interviews, and all are expected to be offered roles in the coming weeks. “We’re really confident we’re going to get them all placed,” Wheaton adds. “But I think success will be when we see them in jobs, doing well and getting great feedback from the employers.”
New bursary for students a recruitment ﬁrm has also given its backing to CodeClan – by creating its own bursary for students from disadvantaged backgrounds. Be-iT, an edinburgh-based digital recruitment specialist, has been helping the academy with its selection process to ﬁnd the right candidates. During that process MD Gareth Biggerstaff came across a candidate who didn’t have the ﬁnancial wherewithal to fund the course, and so decided to create a scholarship scheme. “To put something like this together is of course enterprising for our business but also it’s really good to be feeding into the system and to help someone who came through the selection process with top marks, but was unsure about how they would fund it.” He adds: “The candidate is already highly educated yet couldn’t ﬁnd a route to channel their skills in the employment market. That is the case with many people who may have graduated from university but have not found jobs, or are looking to return to employment but are ﬁnding it hard to translate their skills in the workplace.” Gareth wants his company to forge a long-term commitment to ventures like CodeClan. its staff have been helping candidates with interview techniques and Cv preparation and the initial bursary, which begins in april, will be repeated in august. Gareth stresses: “We don’t want to be a ﬂash in the pan. We want to make a difference, and we really support what CodeClan is doing.”
24 February 2016
Regulations requiring companies to disclose instances of being hacked are a good thing, says Higgs
‘I don’t pay for anything by direct debit or use a bank card on the internet’. Meet the man whose job it is to keep your data safe. Born out of old media, a Scottish company is at the leading edge of a new frontier By William Peakin Richard Higgs is sounding very upbeat over the phone; it probably helps that when we speak the sun is shining in Dundee, while in Glasgow I’m looking out at rain falling, diagonally. But he has more than the weather to feel pleased about; his company has enjoyed a period of expansion, new business partnerships and recognition
in the form of industry awards. Higgs is chief executive of brightsolid, the Dundee-based company that looks after people’s ‘stuff’; in the age we are in, that means their data. ‘They’ could be a growing business, a FTSE 100 company, a multinational, the NHS or a university. If you work in the technology sector, brightsolid will be a familiar name. If you don’t then the firm’s roots, its growth and its potential might yet make it a household one. A family business, founded in
1995, it is part of the DC Thomson Group. Originally called Scotland Online, it was renamed brightsolid in
2008 and specialised in cloud hosting and online publishing, particularly the genealogy sector, which has big data sets. In 2013, due to the growth of its cloud technology and genealogy consumer base, brightsolid established itself as two separate companies: Findmypast, the genealogy business and and brightsolid, a data centre operator and cloud hosting provider, with Higgs leading the latter. Today, along with its Dundee Technology Park HQ, brightsolid has offices in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and London. I want to ask Higgs about many things, the security of people’s data being top of the list. But, also how the
cloud is changing the way we live, the impact it will have on business and public services, and, more generally, the outlook for brightsolid and Scotland’s technology sector. First though, what exactly does the company do? Expecting dry, technical detail about servers and storage, his answer is a surprise. “brightsolid is the innovation arm of DC Thomson,” says Higgs. “We have a remit to generate and drive new businesses that are going to resolve the problems of inflationary IT, and to augment and grow businesses. So brightsolid acts as a platform business on which we can grow new businesses.”
He cites the genealogy site findmypast.com as an early example of an online business sprung from brightsolid; more recent is its foray into games, specifically Family House, available on iOS and Android, in which you embark on the restoration of an old house and populate it with members of your family. Sounds slightly unnerving doesn’t it? But you can see, given brightsolid’s antecedents, where the idea has come from (plus, playing it, I found myself distracted from writing this for more time than I care to admit). So, brightsolid is a digital studio? “That’s not what the market buys from us today,”
24 February 2016
We have a remit to generate and drive new businesses, says the brightsolid’s chief executive
As a taxpayer, I am fed up with the inflationary world of IT. Every year it’s a bigger project, another nought on the end. Richard Higgs, chief executive of brightsolid said Higgs, “those are things we’re doing internally, so to speak.” They are ideas, then; if not quite on the scale of Google’s ‘moonshots’ – selfdriving cars, Google Glass (whatever happened to that?), and the like – at least a sandpit in which developers can experiment and come up with something entertaining, useful, profitable even. What the market does buy from brightsolid today is ‘the cloud’. Personally, as a consumer, I am a convert to the software as a service subscription model (witness the success of Office 365 and Adobe’s Creative Cloud). So listening to Higgs, it is easy to sense the liberation that companies and organisations must feel in not being beholden to an old-school ‘system integrator’; tied to a technology that doesn’t meet their needs and a contract whose end is not in sight. Then again, would you not sleep more soundly at night if your ‘stuff’ – your customers’ data, your company’s intellectual property – was stored on your machines, on your property, not ‘in the cloud’, in the hands of a third party? There have been enough highprofile hacks in the past year to make every chief executive wonder (albeit these attacks have mostly been on companies’ own infrastructure). New European regulations will soon require companies to disclose instances of being hacked. “That’s a good thing,” said Higgs, “because it will allow the market to make better decisions about where to store their data.” For him, security is the big issue: “It is for the whole country,” he said. He referenced a recent BBC Panorama programme featuring Edinburgh Napier University’s cyber security expert Bill Buchanan, revealing how easy is it was for companies’ websites to be hacked. Given the vulnerability, Higgs never pays for anything via a direct debit from his bank account nor does he use a bank debit card on the Internet. By using a credit card instead, it shifts the vulnerability to the credit card company, keeping his personal bank account safe. It’s a candid admission, but instructive. Higgs said brightsolid invests hugely in “tiers of fortification”; layers of protection that would have to be penetrated before anyone could get close to the data it handles. “Some are physical, some are intellectual,” said Higgs. “And they actually start far away, out in the internet.” Despite its young face, brightsolid
has been working in energy, enterprise and the public sector for nearly a quarter of a century now, delivering secure and cost-effective IT solutions
About brightsolid l brightsolid is a digital services provider that specialises in private cloud, delivered from their Tier III Uptime Institute accredited data centres in Aberdeen and Dundee. l Its mission is to deliver technical innovation with personal service. Innovation is realised through technology that enables businesses of all sizes to live and work in agile, collaborative environments, empowering internal IT to deliver greater business value to the organisation and enhanced customer experiences with more that costs less. l Crowned Scotland’s Best Employer 2015 by Business Insider, brightsolid lives and breathes its values of knowledge sharing and thinking outside the cube to surpass expectations. Over the last two years it has seen collaboration, cost saving and process efficiency emerge as key themes for improvement across all industries. l The company’s promise is to help customers improve in these areas, revisiting their strategic aims throughout the partnership to ensure the brightsolid service and team is continually surpassing expectations and working as a digital services partner in the truest sense.
that scale with changing requirements. It understands the importance of data security, with experience of hosting up to the Government security level of ‘Official Sensitive’ from its ISO 27001, Tier III data centres. As an ISO 27001 accredited organisation, its new 400 rack facility in Aberdeen (see panel) will provide the energy sector with a secure, resilient technology hub that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of high density IT and environmental sustainability.
vendor, and the rest is history. That, versus trying out the application on our cloud for three months, see how it works, and you are looking at perhaps £10,000. We let any of our customers try our clouds for 10K. “It removes the risk of a multi-million pound failure. The worst outcome is that it’s the wrong solution, but the right solution will have become clear. Hopefully it is the right solution, with the advantage of adaptability and scalability.” Higgs recalls a meeting a couple of
years ago, with Deloitte in Edinburgh: “They said that the cost of IT should be deflationary for the remainder of the decade. I firmly believe that. “I’m driving that and brightsolid is driving that – without cheating on security – and I think we are entering an era, driven by technologies behind the cloud that will take out a lot of the cost of traditional enterprise IT. “It will be secure, it will improve productivity and it will, ultimately, support better products for consumers and better services for citizens.”
Its in-house team of experts based
in the company’s Dundee headquarters and on-site in Aberdeen provide round-the-clock monitoring to ensure its customers’ IT solutions reach the highest levels of performance whilst remaining secure. Underlining the robustness of brightsolid’s technology requires Higgs to be technical in his descriptions. But, as with his views on the vulnerability of private-sector infrastructure, he is refreshingly direct on the subject of cost: “As a taxpayer first, I am fed up with the inflationary world of IT. “Every year it’s a bigger project, another nought on the end. It’s infuriating. And trust me, it’s only known in the public sector because they are public. In the private sector there are just as big ones, but they keep it private! “People want services. There are many attributes to the cloud, but one of them, for the consumer is: ‘I don’t have to buy it’. Take the example of a project to protect children at risk. Bought from a vendor, the technology alone could cost a council £250,000. “Add project costs to that and you are looking at £1.5m. Three months down the line, you realise your requirements were not clear enough for the
Case study: Aberdeen City Council The council chose brightsolid as its digital services partner because: l It wanted a local provider
that could deliver their required service from end to end without having to bring in multiple vendors l It had to ensure that every citizen, no matter how remotely located, had easy and fast access to their services online, with 100% availability l And it wanted to move towards a model that enabled them to share services and work collaboratively with Aberdeenshire Council. brightsolid provide Aberdeen City Council with colocation (data centre space, power and cooling), managed services and cloud as well as a knowledge-sharing collaboration and skills exchange.
The company moved and made live the entire Aberdeen City Council estate in just six weeks – the fastest public sector IT migration to date – and the council is now saving £350,000 a year. Aberdeen’s finance, policy and resources convenor Councillor Willie Young said: “In brightsolid, we have found a partner with whom we can work innovatively as we digitally transform our council services while also reducing our operational costs.” “We love working with Aberdeen City Council,” said Katie Dawn Armstrong, head of marketing, brightsolid. “They are definitely one of the most future-ready public sector bodies we’ve worked with and we’re really excited about the innovation events we are planning together for later this year.”
24 February 2016
CGI is enabling Edinburgh’s introduction of integrated digital services. Picture Creative Commons
Providing the benchmark for local authorities Improved public services and boosting economic growth is the aim of Scotland’s capital. By William Peakin From April things are set to change in Edinburgh, for people, businesses and schools. The council is embarking on an ambitious programme of digital transformation. The IT and business process services firm CGI is providing technology and know-how enabling Edinburgh’s introduction of integrated digital services. As well as delivering digital services for Edinburgh’s citizens, encouraging them to carry out transactions online, the council’s schools will also benefit from the modernisation of their ICT infrastructure, with an improvement of bandwidth speeds available to primary and secondary schools, providing students with greater access to online educational tools. “Edinburgh started with the individual; the citizen, the learner, the employee, the tourist, and designed around them,” said Maggie Morrison, CGI’s public sector director in Scot-
land. “That’s the approach CGI takes as well when we work with companies; start with the customer.” CGI has partnered with telecoms provider Commsworld, working with CityFibre, to extend its Gigabit City project to an additional 294 councilowned sites. On completion later this year, more than 500 council-owned buildings will be connected to the new network and 137 primary and secondary schools will benefit from connection speeds 50-100 times faster. Edinburgh’s 17,000 businesses will also benefit from the growth in the network, which is designed to function as a backbone for any future deployment of fibre to homes. CGI’s work will also update ICT
systems across all council service areas and automate and integrate backoffice processes with a new enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. The ERP will integrate with citizen-facing digital platforms to enable cost reductions and increased capacity, while improving service quality, securing more effective and efficient citizen engagement. The digital self-service platform will be based on a specialist local government platform to enable multi-channel self-service to be integrated with back office systems.
The company says the programme will change the way citizens access and use public services and will introduce better ways of working for council employees. It anticipates that it will also serve as a benchmark for other local authorities in delivering digital public services. At the original tendering phase, around 50 other public sector organisations took the option of using CGI without having to repeat the procurement process. It is expected that the £186m contract will also save the council £45m over its initial seven-year term. It will create 200 jobs and 60 modern apprenticeships. CGI were also asked to invest in social enterprises and community groups. CGI has an established business hub in Edinburgh and it will be expanding to create more jobs to support its engagement with the council and its public sector partners. These roles will cover a wide range of areas and responsibilities from experienced ICT, networking, digital and cyber security professionals, to the creation of more than 60 modern apprenticeships to provide school leavers with the opportunity of a career in ICT with CGI. As part of CGI’s SME Accelerate programme, local small to medium
enterprises will be included in CGI’s supply chain and this will increase over the lifetime of the contract. “SMEs are essential in providing fast, agile solutions to challenges and opportunities,” said Morrison. “We want to involve them in the supply chain.” To support the council’s ambi-
tion of establishing itself as a leader in local government innovation and the adoption of digital platforms, CGI will contribute to a jointly financed in-
Edinburgh started with the individual; the citizen, the learner, the employee, the tourist, and designed around them. Maggie Morrison, CGI’s public sector director in Scotland
novation fund, which will explore new ideas, and pilot new technology for the benefit of the Council and the citizens of Edinburgh. The programme will provide opportunities for local SMEs to work with CGI to introduce digital and social media services as part of the council’s Digital by Desire strategy. The deal with Edinburgh is a significant step in CGI’s growth in Scotland. As well as public sector partnerships, it is also involved in the oil and gas and energy sectors, financial services and utilities. As part of the company’s investment in digital, it is also in the process of expanding its Open Digital Services Centre, an open source technologies hub set up in Glasgow in 2013, with the aim of creating 250 jobs. “These are exciting times for CGI,” said Morrison, “and we are really looking forward to supporting improved services and increased productivity.” www.cgi-group.co.uk www.cgi-group.co.uk/ digital-transformation Craig Wallace, VP Digital Transformation and Strategy at CGI, is speaking at the Digital Transformation Conference in Edinburgh tomorrow. www.digifutures.co.uk
24 February 2016
It is more than a decade since tech observers proclaimed the demise of Silicon Glen, Scotland’s version of California’s all-powerful Silicon Valley. But the nation has developed into a major player in the digital world. Innovation, ideas, startups and expertise emerging from Scotland means the country wields an influence on the global technology stage that far outweighs its size. To illustrate this, we present The Digital List: 50 people from various areas of Scotland’s technology industries who are changing the world.
The Digital List John Giannandrea Head of search, Google
Google’s new head of search – he takes over next week – is a computer science graduate of Strathclyde University, originally from Bridge of Allan, and an expert in artificial intelligence. He began his career with INMOS Corporation, which in the late eighties was the only microprocessor company in the UK and whose technology was used in the early films of animation company Pixar. Giannandrea went on to work at a computer graphics firm that helped develop 3D visualisation and then at the fabled Apple spin-off, General Magic. He was among the first employees of Netscape, where he was chief technology officer. Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, has described him is a “technology visionary”. At speech recognition start-up Tellme, Giannandrea inspired respect:
“There were three types of engineers; those who wanted to work for JG, those who wanted to work with JG and those who wanted to be JG,” recalled a colleague. “He has far-reaching vision with the ability to go very deep, very quickly.” In 2005, he co-founded Metaweb Technologies and there led the Freebase project, an open database of well-know films, books, TV shows, locations, celebrities and companies, built by a global community of volunteers. Google bought it in 2010. Giannandrea headed Google’s subsequent ‘knowledge graph’ initiative which powers the box that pops up next to the search bar when you type in a query, and has been a leading figure in its self-driving car project. He was also involved in the introduction of Google’s RankBrain, which
uses artificial intelligence to embed huge amounts of written information into mathematical language that a computer can understand. RankBrain has become an important factor in the quality of search result that is displayed. Giannandrea will now lead Google’s embrace of machine intelligence, a means by which computers can process data on their own, without being explicitly programmed. Last autumn, at an information session for reporters on machine learning at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, Giannandrea spoke about the use of artificial intelligence in search. “We think that something really big is happening - something new and significant.”
On page 14, there are details on how you can browse the full list - 200 tech pioneers - online at futurescot.com. FutureScot is a new site covering the digital technology sector in Scotland and the ways it is changing lives, here and around the world.
the digital list
24 February 2016
Pete Cashmore Chief executive, Mashable
Stephen Coleman, creative director of the Turing Festival, Gareth Williams, Lesley Eccles and Jamie Coleman, chief executive of CodeBase. Picture: Jane Barlow
Cashmore started Mashable as a WordPress blog from his bedroom at his parents’ house in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, aged 19. The name “grew out of this idea of recombination, taking things that existed and putting them together,” he recalled. Cashmore began covering how people were using the web, how it was making an impact on their lives and how social media was changing the way we connect. Today, the site has 45 million monthly unique visitors and 27 million social media followers. It was reported recently that the site was for sale for more than $300m.
Kevin Dorren Chief executive, Diet Chef
Intent on starting his own business since he was 16 – when he unsuccessfully sought backing for home delivering groceries - Edinburgh-based Dorren was one of the first Britons to try his luck in Silicon Valley, persuading a pre-Google Eric Schmidt to invest in knowledge management firm Orbital Software, which floated for £80m in 2000 but fell victim to the dotcom crash. He then launched dailydeal. co.uk but lacked the financial resources of Groupon. In 2008, he started Diet Chef, home delivering healthy meals, which has grown to annual sales of more than £15m. Last year, he resisted the temptation to sell the company and instead bought out the firm’s main investor Piper Private Equity. Dorren was also an early investor in fantasy sports firm FanDuel and has invested in Scottish start-ups Flavourly, Brewhive and TVsquared.
Aaron Garbut Art director, Rockstar North
Garbut has held the title since the development of Grand Theft Auto 3, the 2001 game that made the series the most famous in gaming, setting a new standard for virtual open worlds, and established the Edinburgh-based studio on the world stage. He oversaw the creation of the unique look of each sprawling GTA setting — Liberty City, based on New York City; Vice City, based on Miami; and San Andreas, based on California. As co-studio lead, Garbut shares responsibility for heading up Rockstar North with fellow Rockstar Games veteran Rob Nelson. As the driving forces behind Rockstar Games, Sam Houser, Dan Houser, Leslie Benzies and Garbut were awarded a BAFTA in 2014.
Executive chairman, Aridhia Co-founder of a company dedicated to developing world-leading technology that accelerates the translation of precision medicine and biomedical research into clinical practice. Prior to Aridhia, Sibbald was co-founder, chairman and CEO of Atlantech Technologies, a communications software company sold to Cisco Systems in 2000. A Fellow of the RSE, he holds honorary doctorates from three Scottish Universities. He is the founder of the Kate MacAskill Foundation, which provides education, care and micro-enterprise funding in the developing world and was awarded an OBE for charitable services in Scotland overseas. This year Sibbald received the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Scottish Life Sciences Award, created especially for his contribution to the industry.
Managing director, Amazon Development Centre Scotland Aberdeen University graduate Smith leads a team of nearly 100 highly-skilled professionals at Amazon’s Development Centre in Edinburgh, which was the company’s first dedicated R&D facility outside of America. The teams invent new technologies which operate at high scale with projects such as intelligent advertising and personalised online shopping recommendations, benefiting Amazon customers worldwide. Joining Amazon in 2006, Smith held several roles before becoming MD in 2010. Prior to this, he held software engineering and leadership positions in a startup along with investment banking, retail banking and consultancy businesses. Whilst a student, he invented the world’s first commercial source code metrics tool for Java.
Chris van der Kuyl
Chairman, 4J Studios An early pioneer of digital in Scotland, he founded a globally successful video game business in Dundee in 1996. Today is expertise combines start-up, development and marketlisted business in technology, media and entertainment. Most recently founder of the Tayforth Group and 4J Studios; the latter being one of the UK’s most successful videogame developers, responsible for the multi-million selling and multi-award winning Minecraft console editions. Honoured by Scottish universities, he also sits on the boards of a number of start-ups and enterprise organisations and is the founding chairman of Entrepreneurial Scotland.
Chief Executive, Blackcircles.com From leaving school at 16 to work as a tyre fitter, Welch is today heading for a £100m sale of his Peeblesbased online tyre retailer. When the garage he was working for closed in 1997, Welch set up a website and sold tyres delivered direct to customers. Supported by a £500 grant from the Prince’s Trust and night shifts at Tesco, Welch soon came to the attention of Sir Tom Farmer and was hired to launch Kwik-fit.com. After leaving Kwik-Fit in 2001, he founded Blackcircles, which combined his previous business with a self-generated network of fitters at independent garages. Last year, Michelin bought Blackcircles for £50m, a figure that is expected to double based on performance targets. Welch plans to stay with the firm and take it global. He has established a children’s charity, The Welch Trust, and was this year awarded an OBE.
Chief executive, Skyscanner Fascinated with computers as a teenager, Williams studied mathematics and computing at Manchester University where he met Bonamy Grimes and Barry Smith, who went on to become Skyscanner co-founders. Frustrated at having to visit several sites to compare prices for a flights to visit his brother who was living in France, Williams came up with the idea of a single comparison site. From a simple Excel sheet, Edinburgh-based startup Skyscanner was born. Officially launched in 2003, it has become the number one slight search engine in Europe and is expanding in the Asia-Pacific region.
the digital list
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Continuing with the tech pioneers and, over the page, details of how to access the full list. Eddie Anderson
Partner, Pentech Ventures Anderson has more than 20 years’ experience in building software companies. Pentech is an investor in fantasy sports’ site FanDuel and investment site Nutmeg.
Managing partner, Par Equity With Atkinson’s background in the semiconductor and IT industries, Par Equity is an investor in identityas-a-service miiCard and visible light communication technology PureLiFi.
Former president, Rockstar North Benzies was lead developer in the iconic Grand Theft Auto series, taking responsibility for GTA 3 in 2001 through nine successor titles including its current incarnation GTA 5.
Professor of computing, Edinburgh Napier University An expert in online security, a prolific academic author, he is recognised for his excellence in knowledge transfer.
Professor Alan Bundy
Porofessor, School of Informatics, Edinburgh University A leader in the development of artificial intelligence, he has made worldleading contributions to automated reasoning and representations of knowledge.
Managing director, Blonde Digital Has worked with a range of highprofile clients such as Marks & Spencer, Glasgow 2014, Sony and New Balance, and added more with the acquisition of Line Digital.
Co-founder, Prewired Frustrated at the lack of coding lessons in primary school, O’Byrne co-founded prewired.org, an Edinburgh-based programming club for anyone aged 19 and under.
EVP, marketing and acquisitions, FanDuel As a co-founder, Eccles has been pivotal in FanDuel’s growth from an Edinburgh-based start-up to a transatlantic sports entertainment business with millions of users in North America. Her expertise lies in maximising the company’s multi-million dollar marketing spend to acquire and retain fantasy sports players. This year the company is driving international expansion by developing a daily fantasy football product, designed specifically for the UK market and set to launch this summer. Eccles is also increasingly the public face of FanDuel, speaking at events such as the Turing Festival in Edinburgh.
Jamie Coleman & Stephen Coleman, Co-founders, CodeBase
Brothers Jamie and Stephen Coleman have put Edinburgh’s start-up scene on the map, literally. Together, under one roof, more than 60 companies, which have included FanDuel, Kotikan, MiiCard, Rightscale, Cloudsoft and Float, form the UK’s largest tech incubator. Jamie has a life sciences background, and is currently a director of Biospoke, an open medicine technology company, and Stephen is a computer arts graduate. As well as CodeBase, which is supported by Capita, they also run the Turing Festival, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.
Head of digital public services, Scottish Government Responsible for enabling transformation across the public sector, promoting digital participation and delivering mygov.scot. Previously with the Army where he pioneered online recruiting.
Director, BT Scotland Early career spent in information technology, designing, developing and deploying large systems across the UK. BT has committed £125m to the rollout of superfast broadband in Scotland.
the digital list
24 February 2016
Chief executive, Smarter Grid Solutions A member of the Par Equity syndicate, investing in sustainable technology start-ups Docherty is also an entrepreneur in residence Edinburgh University’s Informatics Forum.
Chief executive, 8 Million Stories Co-founder of one of the UK’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies, headquartered in Edinburgh. Menzies and her team run a number of SEO and content marketing briefs for clients including the BBC, Conde Nast, Universal Music, Aman Resorts and Standard Life. She was part of the founding team at bigmouthmedia, a successful search marketing business which merged with DigitasLBi before being acquired by French advertising giant Publicis in a £330m deal in 2012.
Chief executive officer, The Data Lab Docherty is responsible for delivering the strategic vision set out by The Data Lab Board, the aim of which is to to generate more than £100m for Scotland’s economy.
Chief technology officer, ThinkAnalytics A Strathclyde University computer science graduate, Docherty was previously a technical manager for HewlettPackard. Think’s technology services more than 130 million viewers, across 16 countries worldwide.
Nigel Eccles CEO, FanDuel
Maths graduate Eccles worked for McKinsey and Johnston Press before launching news prediction game HubDub then daily fantasy sports business FanDuel with his fellow co-founders, transforming the way that millions of Americans experience sports.
Chief executive, Big Data for Humans The founder of Fopp, he sold the music store to HMV in 2007.BDH is described as “the world’s first automated customer insights engine”.
Chief executive, Nucleus Financial Creator of the UK’s first crowd-funded and “genuinely collaborative platform” that combines a client’s investments into a single account, he aims to grow its value to £20bn.
Graeme Gordon Chief executive, IFB
Has developed the Aberdeen-based independent ISP to deliver city-wide wi-fi, distance learning software for further education and the design and commercialisation of IFB’s own UK network infrastructure.
Country manager, Microsoft Responsible for helping Scotland gain business advantage from use of the Microsoft Cloud, creating jobs with its IT apprenticeship and skills programme, and delivering education assets.
Judith Halkerston Chairman, Symphonic
An IT and business change veteran, Halkerston chairs this Napier University spin-out which provides authentication of requests for data access between trusted partners.
Founder, One Thumb Mobile
Visa, Honda and Liverpool FC, One Thumb is also known for Celtic Heroes, its highly-successful multiplayer game based around the Celtic mythology of Iron Age Scotland and Ireland.
Founder, RookieOven Co-founder of Add Jam, creating active travel apps for Glasgow’s £24m Future City Project, he has established an incubator based in a former Govan shipyard office.
Chief Executive, Brightsolid Online Technology Dundee-based DC Thomson split Brightsolid Group in 2014, appointing Higgs as chief executive of its data centre business.
Head of Product, Digital Public Services, Scottish Government An Edinburgh University informatics graduate, Ho formerly led app builder Interface3 and Tigerface Games before joining the Government to work on health and wider citizen service platforms.
Technology investor One time New Romantic band guitar player, he led the management buyout of Amor, subsequently bought by Lockheed Martin creating around 20 millionaires within its ranks.
Jones founded DMA Designs, now Rockstar North, which released the genre-defining Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, and Realtime Worlds. Today, he is involved in companies in Scotland and San Francisco.
Established iomart as one of the major providers of cloud and managed hosting services to UK business, with a market cap of £250m and a place on the UK Government’s G Cloud procurement register.
Along with co-founder Gordon Craig, Neilson has built Craneware into a major player in the US healthcare billing and audit market, its Edinburgh-based team helping hospitals direct more revenue into patient care.
Having turned an insolvent Glasgow business into a mobile phone repair firm worth £14m and launched phone/ tablet recycling firm before selling for £20m, Johnston is now investing in technology businesses.
With more than 25 years’ experience in technology-based businesses, he was involved in the founding of Esat Telecom, later sold to BT for more than €1bn, and of Versatel Telecom, sold for more than €2bn to Tele2.
Formerly with RBS and Scottish Enterprise, Purvis leads the trade body for Scotland’s digital technologies industry. She also chairs the board of CodeClan and is executive director of the Dot Scot Registry.
From St Andrews, at 24 Logan started his first company, building it to $8m in revenue before selling. He helped build MessageLabs until its $700m sale to Symantec. Moving to San Francisco in 2008, he started a property-finding service before launching Rocket Space in 2011, a tech incubator that counts Spotify and Uber among its alumni.
Former RAF pilot Molyneux moved into IT consultancy but, after exasperation at the lack of hassle-free accounting systems for freelancers, co-founded FreeAgent. Last summer, it raised £1.2m on equity crowdfunding site Seedrs.
A sound design graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, Nair co-founded Two Big Ears with fellow student Abesh Thakur to create a novel audio technology. It has been used by New York’s Museum of Modern Art for a Björk restrospective.
A software engineering graduate of Glasgow University, she uses analytics to help companies organisations better understand their customers. Moore is also on the board of Scotland Women in Technology. ‘In January this year, she was appointed IBM’s industry architect for travel and transportation.’
Mallzee searches more than 150 retailers, helping users save time and money based on learning their preferences. It has secured £2.5m from Royal Mail Group, the Scottish Investment Bank and ParEquity as well as individual investors.
Creative director, Reagent Games
Managing director, Tomo Technology
Chief executive, Rocket Space
Head, All 4 Games
A DMA Designs and Realtime Worlds alumnus, Macdonald leads Channel 4’s Glasgow-based games publishing arm. He is also Chairman of Ednburgh-based Speech Graphics and a member of Digital Media Industry Advisory Group.
Chief executive, iomart Group
Chief executive, CityFibre
Chief executive, FreeAgent
CTO, digital engagement IBM
Chief Executive, Craneware
Chief executive, ScotlandIS
Vice-president, Two Big Ears
Founder and CEO, Mallzee
Calum Smeaton Founder, TVsquared
Launching FutureScot Scotland is developing a vibrant start-up ecosystem. It is home to tech firms that have achieved $1bn valuations in just a few years. And, on the basis of its talent, it is attracting global players. The industry employs more than 70,000 people, offering
a wide range of skills and professional services from niche specialised companies to global players. It underpins modern business and is critical the country’s economic success. FutureScot is a new site reporting on the sector in Scotland and the ways it is
A Glasgow-based app developer for
For the full Digital List visit http://futurescot.com/the-digital-list/
changing people’s lives, here and around the world. It will cover digital technology in health, education, government and business transformation, as well as infrastructure, security and the cloud, investment, finance and the law. Visit www.futurescot.com
Formerly, chief executive of of Sumerian, a provider of big data analytics for retail and investment banks, Smeaton founded TVsquared in 2012 to offer near real-time analytics for TV advertisers.
Director of operations, Informatics Ventures With experience in a fast-growth company, Stuart has mentored and invested in more than 20 companies. Informatics Ventures hosts the annual ‘Engage, Invest, Exploit’ showcase at which Scotland’s start-ups pitch to top investors.
24 February 2016
Nicola Sturgeon now has the choice of several addresses Picture Scottish Government
You know it as Bute House, No.6 Charlotte Square. Here’s why it may soon be ‘spend. regime.began’ A new app has the potential to revolutionise the world’s traditional system of addresses using an ingenious three-word system By William Peakin When Nicola Sturgeon poses for photographs on the steps of her official residence, she stands before a building steeped in history. It is one of Scotland’s better-known addresses. Designed by Robert Adam, Bute House at 6 Charlotte Square in Edinburgh was bequeathed to the National Trust by the Marquess of Bute in 1966. But, if the First Minister wants to move with the times she can now choose a different address - without moving house. A new app – What3Words - has allocated unique identifiers to the 57 trillion 3m-by-3m squares
that make up the earth’s surface. Those steps Sturgeon stands on? The location can be pinpointed precisely on a map using three words: ‘spend.regime.began’. If she feels a little uncomfortable about that, the FM could shuffle about a bit. How about ‘jokes.rang.these’? Perhaps not. Retreating inside, she can opt for ‘sheep. paid.shrimp’, ‘canny.dared.chins’ or even ‘regard.dates.union’. The app is the brainchild of Chris Sheldrick, who spent 10 years in the music business managing events around the world. He was constantly faced with suppliers not finding site entrances and bands losing their way between hotel and venue. Sheldrick tried using precise GPS co-ordinates instead of addresses, but their complexity proved too much for people. Determined to find a solution, he worked with a mathematician friend on an algorithm that replaces GPS coordinates with three word combinations that people can easily understand and memorise. It uses 40,000 words to generate
the 57 trillion three-word variations required. Offensive and similar sounding words (such as to, too and two) have been eliminated. The free app can be used at events to accurately locate people and facilities. The organisers of Glastonbury deployed it last year to distribute equipment around the site and for first aid response. Festivalgoers also gave their tents addresses so that friends could find them. What3Words is being adopted commercially; integrated into navigation and car share apps, logistics systems, travel guides, property search sites and more. The British Museum is using it to record the position of archaeological finds. In Scotland, there are obvious applications in the tourism industry, to pinpoint places of interest and plot walking trails. Charles Selwyn DixonSpain, owner of Dunans Castle, has embraced it as part of the restoration effort of the ancient ruin at Glendaruel in the Cowal Peninsula. It is has also been adopted by think-
Where, a geographic information systems (GIS), company in Stirling. It has more than 25 years experience working with traditional addressing and gazetteer products and understands the strengths and weaknesses of the existing datasets. thinkWhere intends to incorporate What3Words as an integral component of their technical architecture, as part of its new cloud GIS platform. “What3Words presents a completely new approach to addressing, one that many of our customers will find simple and intuitive on the one hand and, on the other, a powerful means of directly locating and referencing the millions of buildings, objects and assets that don’t have addresses,” said chief executive, Alan Moore. “Even though Scotland and the rest of Britain are among the best mapped and addressed countries in the world, what3words will deliver direct benefits to rural estate management, asset and facilities management as well as fleet logistics and emergency planning, to name but a few.” But What3Words is also revolutionising the delivery of aid and empowering disenfranchised people around the world. It won the 2015 Grand Prix for Innovation at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Ben Jones, a member of the jury,
The organisers of Glastonbury deployed it last year to distribute equipment around the site and for first aid response.
praised What3Words’ ability to “solve a massive problem for humanity with a beautiful touch of simplicity.” He added: “What3Words is substantial in the impact it has had and is already out there working and saving lives.” Sheldrick, co-founder and chief
executive, points out that around 75% of the world’s population have inadequate or non-existent addresses. They are unable to get deliveries or receive aid, and cannot exercise their rights as citizens. The problem hampers the growth and development of entire nations, he said. “Economists estimate that three billion people could join the middle class during the next 15 years. It would be the biggest and most dramatic decline in global poverty yet. However, three hurdles stand in their way: they are unconnected, unbanked and unaddressed. “Connectivity is obviously the easiest problem to solve. Providing access to financial services is a much bigger challenge, but we know it can be done. Which leaves us with arguably the biggest but also least-understood problem: the unaddressed. Four billion people around the world don’t have an address.” Sheldrick visited Rocinha, a favela in Rio de Janeiro. A Google map of the shantytown shows a dozen or so roads; in fact there are more than 3,000. Carteiro Amigo, a local co-operative, is using What3Words for its postal service; a basic facility but one that is a prerequisite for economic growth. “The applications are endless,” said Sheldrick, “securing property rights, optimising e-commerce logistics, arranging aid deliveries, tracking epidemics like Ebola, tackling natural disasters, and economic empowerment. They all need the boost of a global address system.” http://what3words.com
24 February 2016
Glasgow’s Rookie Oven is one of several locations in the city providing a new home to digital start-ups
Polly Purvis, CEO of ScotlandIS, believes certain areas can create specialisms like Dundee has with gaming
‘Motherships’, ‘unicorns’ and ‘disruption’. We’ve got the lingo, but now a leading survey confirms the growth potential of Scotland’s tech scene In the latest Tech Nation survey both Edinburgh and Glasgow feature in the Top 10 for tech salaries in the UK By Kevin O’Sullivan If you rub shoulders with the tech crowd for long enough you start picking up the lingo. The word ‘disruptive’ is one that cannot fail to attach itself to a conversation these days, as everyone searches for the next big idea that will dismantle the old way of doing business. Scotland is no stranger to invention: throughout the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, its thinkers and doers had a transformative effect on everything from economic theory
to the invention of the steam engine. Fast forward a hundred plus years, and it palpably feels as if we may now be standing on the cusp of the next big thing: digital technology. Already the dotcom crash of the early noughties feels like a distant, dim memory, and that nothing can stop Scotland’s tech scene from becoming an economic juggernaut. You can see it. It’s coming. Just over the hill. So it’s unsurprising that last week there was a real buzz about an industry survey published by Tech Nation, which showed that Edinburgh is third highest for advertised tech salaries in the UK, with an average pay packet of £51,000, representing growth of 26% in the three years between 2012 and 2015. Only London, with its Silicon Roundabout and the Thames silicon Valley towns of Reading and Bracknell outstrip Edinburgh for earning potential.
CodeBase, the UK’s largest tech incubator
Referred to as the mothership, the capital is an undeniable success story.
Referred to as the ‘mothership’ by those in the know, the capital is an undeniable success story; it’s a lovely place to live, has a wonderful university and truly groundbreaking data science coming out of Edinburgh University’s School of Informatics. Some have even put it on a par with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US. Praise indeed, and perhaps no coincidence that Skyscanner and Fanduel, the ‘unicorn’ billion-dollar valued companies have come from such a wellspring of creativity. CodeBase, the UK’s largest tech incubator, is also based there, spurred on by some highly creative and already global young companies from whose ranks have come two others on a watchlist, TVSquared and Administrate. Glasgow, which features at
number eight on the Tech Nation list, has a different economic makeup. It
is growing its large corporate tech base with the likes of JP Morgan – who are starting to sell their own software development expertise – basing themselves in the city. Nevertheless it is still a hotbed of
activity for start-ups: Govan has seen the emergence of the RookieOven, run by Michael Hayes, who with no financial backing has grown the business with grassroots community support to house 11 digital companies. They include Rawtech, which has developed an ‘Uber for island communities’ and Insurance By Jack, which is innovating how freelancers and SMEs buy insurance. “RookieOven started in 2011 after I was involved with a failed startup,” says Hayes. “I felt a lack of community was hurting Glasgow’s ability to produce tech startups so RookieOven was born, initially as a blog and a meetup. “In February last year we opened the co-working Space in the Fairfield Shipyard Offices. It’s a site known through its lifetime as a place of engineering excellence. Before planes and cars, ships powered the world and Fairfield was producing the most advanced and fastest ships in the world. This engineering talent and innovation made the River Clyde the Silicon Valley of its day.” ScotlandIS, the tech trade body, naturally has welcomed the success of both cities, but has emphasised that tech can take root across the rest of the country, with certain zones creating specialisms for themselves, a bit like Dundee has with the games industry. “The report is very much flagging up that whilst London has been the real gathering point for the tech community, particularly in England, actually now there are new tech cities entities flourishing in a whole range of cities and towns across the whole of the UK, notably Edinburgh and Glasgow,” says Polly Purvis, its CEO. “What we can do is take some lessons that the success of Edinburgh has provided, and use those to inform how we handle creating similar communities in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Perth Kirkaldy, wherever you want,” she adds.
24 February 2016
Start-ups at the Rookie Oven include Add Jam, Rawtech, FarmGeek, Insurance By Jack, ActiveRefer, LearnPro and Sunstone Communication
“I don’t think everywhere has got the capability to be a flourishing technology centre so I think by giving Edinburgh that PR around how well it’s succeeded actually will help to encourage other people in other parts of the country to do their own thing. I think there are also opportunities for different centres to concentrate on particular areas of expertise that may be relevant to that locale.” ScotlandIS itself is looking to nurture a putative ‘tech week’ which unites the industry in an event, or series of
next lot. And, of course, access to seed capital. “We’re beginning to see a great community spirit within the technology sector now where people have come through all the tough times of setting up a start-up and growing that business and are now mentoring and providing advice and guidance to the new ones coming through,” she says. “I think access to that network of people who can support you is hugely important. But all you need now is a laptop, a good idea, somewhere to perch and you can create a business.”
What we can do is take some lessons that the success of Edinburgh has provided, and use those to inform how we handle creating similar communities in Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Perth, Kirkaldy, wherever you want” Polly Purvis, Chief Executive, ScotlandIS
The Data Lab - Data Science Summer School
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24 February 2016 Gillian Docherty, pictured centre, at the Scot-Tech Engagement Big Data conference at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh
Big plans, big money ... and even bigger potential How a small innovation centre in Edinburgh is aiming to generate £124m for the Scottish economy… by crunching numbers. Lots of numbers. By Kevin O’Sullivan As one of Scotland’s eight innovation centres – convened by government to push forward cutting-edge, scientific research and development – the Data Lab has been tasked with unlocking the potential of big data to generate £104million in economic value to the economy and 248 new jobs. To outsiders the term big data itself is somewhat cloaked in mystery, the preserve of men and women with a head for numbers, and lots of them. In essence it is exactly that, but in reality the crunching of lots of data, in real time, can automate and even predict many business processes. You only have to look at the likes of online retailers like Amazon and and eBay, who have managed to look at patterns in their consumers’ online purchasing behaviour to suggest what they might like to buy, with an arguably unnerving degree of accuracy. As we meet at the Data Lab’s Edinburgh base, I ask its CEO, Gillian
Docherty, for some practical examples of just how it is supporting the development of Scottish industry in that regard. Immediately, she hits me with three. She cites Aggreko, the world’s largest temporary power generator, based in Glasgow, who are working with Strathclyde University’s ‘machine learning’ department to come up with an algorithm to predict the maintenance needs of its global assets of 10,000 generators, potentially driving its efficiency to dizzying new heights. She mentions a firm called Global Surface Intelligence who are working in conjunction with the geosciences team at Edinburgh University to analyse satellite images of farms to predict crop yields, which could have a transformative effect on agricultural methods. The third is a public sector health project: NHS National Services Scotland (NHS NSS) are working with
We’re finding our way and every month there’s different challenges and changes. Gillian Docherty, CEO, Data Lab
researchers at Edinburgh’s BioQuarter to build algorithms to produce completely imagined patient data for research purposes, based on real-life anonymised information. “It can help an SME who is attempting to build a health app, but who cannot access real-life patient data; this allows them to research and test their application,” Docherty explains. “We’ve probably got a pipeline of 60 or so of these projects that are currently working through our approval process, from a variety of industries, working with the very smallest start-ups to large corporates.”
In terms of its remit, the Data Lab has three obecjtives: the first being to identify and support bona fide big data projects through collaboration with academia and industry, all of which go through rigorous due diligence by an independent advisory panel. The Data Lab has a £12m budget, and expenditure is carefully monitored. The second area is a skills and talent programme, which includes sponsored MSCs in data science, co-sponsored PhDs or EngDs where it pays 50 per cent of costs, with industry chipping in the remainder; executive education programmes, online learning and a summer school launching in June make up the remainder. The summer school is a particular focus, and the aim is to attract 25-50 people in datarelated employment, to upskill them with three weeks’ of training in the Py-
l The Data Lab is funded through the government’s Scottish Funding Council and was formally opened by Finance Secretary John Swinney in November 2014.
l The eight innovation centres were set up after research showed Scotland underinvested in research and development by 0.34% compared to its European counterparts. l Neil Logan, Chief Technology Officer of Amor Group, later Lockheed Martin, led the pitch to government to establish the Data Lab for the data science industry. He is now its Chairman.
l CEO Gillian Docherty joined in June 2015 after a 22-year career with IBM, which included roles in technical sales, financial services, hardware and software.
thon programming language, machine learning and data visualisations. The third objective is a communitybuilding exercise which will see the Data Lab run a series of events to bring together the disparate strands of academia and industry, and also support companies on trips to international gatherings like the Strata+Hadoop data science conferences. The big focus for Docherty right
now, though, is launching next month’s Data Talent Collider event at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on March 16. “It’ll be the first data talent event ever in Scotland; we’re looking to bring in 250 grads, 200 data enthusiasts and 50 organisations. It’ll be the largest collection of data specialists we have had. It’s really exciting.” But the excitement also rests on Docherty’s ability to translate government targets into an economic reality. With her experience of working at IBM, I ask her what cultural qualities she has sought to bring to the Data Lab, which is still barely a year old as an organisation. “I’ve tried to bring some of the best parts of the IBM culture to the team; in a small and new organisation we’re finding our way and every month there’s different challenges and changes, and we’re navigating that as best we can. The pace of change is extremely quick but we’re able to be nimble and agile. But, for me, it’s about taking personal responsibility and having trust in your colleagues.”
24 February 2016
Two billion words, 200 years worth of data: how a Glasgow-based firm unlocked Hansard A big data analytics company has developed a powerful tool that aims to help researchers sift huge volumes of text-based material and quickly find the information they need. Software engineers at Nalanda Technology worked on a platform that would allow people to perform much easier search functions and get to the precise information they were looking for without having to search through endless documents. The Nalytics tool offers up a ‘results tree’ of information which can give an instant glimpse of all the available text based on the search terms. Its engineers pointed the tool to the UK Parliament Official Report, the Hansard, which is available online. A quick glance of the search screen reveals the 200-year-old tomes contain more than two billion words; many of those would no doubt be attributable to the filibustering of Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP. “In normal searches, if it’s a public record like Hansard, or the British Newspaper Archives, you often have to find that document, find that ar-
ticle and find the information within the page of that article and decide whether that’s relevant or not,” explains David Rivett, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. “But if you had that text available as part of the search experience, then it’ll make it more efficient. So I think we could add some value to those services.” The company incubated the concept within its parent OLM Group, which specialises in healthcare data. It is working on a project to mine that data to find predictive patterns that might flag up advanced warnings to healthcare professionals. But could that logic be applied to geopolitical events? Could free text technology be developed to predict where global conflicts might break out? “Learned people make predictions around a build-up of certain types of behaviour,” says Rivett. “I can see how the technology can certainly help do that. Whether it’s machine learning or artificial intelligence, it’s certainly the start of something within that space.”
Dr Malcolm Fairweather used a big data approach to successfully demonstrate that golfers can be trained in ‘quiet eye’ techniques to improve putting performance
The game’s not a bogey Amateur golfers, take heart: you might not have to buy the drinks in the clubhouse after all. By Kevin O’Sullivan
Sarah Lee has developed the PingGo platform to give business start-ups better access to PR
Welcome to the news, as presented by your new host: a robot A public relations firm which boasts a number of high-profile technology clients has taken steps of its own into the digital world – by developing a software tool that can automatically generate the news. Edinburgh-based Hot Tin Roof, run by Sarah Lee, has won £80,000 in funding from Innovate UK and reinvested £40,000 of its own profits to develop PingGo – an automated platform designed to help small businesses without the budget to spend on PR. “There are loads of companies out there doing really amazing things and we just want to be able to give them the ability to access the
media. It’s only fair,” explains Lee. She is working with digital innovation studio Neu to hone the platform, which is currently in a beta development phase. Lee argues that much newswriting is formulaic, and already weather and financial reports have been automated. PingGo works by asking a series of questions a journalist might ask and turns the input into a press release. But she adds: “PingGo won’t replace journalists, it will free them up to do the more creative work.” She hopes to work with Edinburgh University’s artifical intelligence department to further develop the concept.
The insights gained from processing huge volumes of realtime performance data obtained from athletes during training can push competitiveness in sport to the next level, according to Dr Malcolm Fairweather, Head of Science and Innovation at sportscotland. A proponent of big data, Dr Fairweather believes the move towards continuous monitoring of sportsmen and women – largely through technological advancements in wearable devices – can offer up new insights into the way the human body responds when it is pushed to the limits. It is those discoveries which can help coaches develop new training methods: whether that’s the ability to understand how to mitigate lactic acid build-up in runners, which causes muscle fatigue, or to help footballers score more penalties, the applications to high performance sport are potentially transformative. “I think what this allows us to consider is how to improve upon current understanding of performance and enable new training and competitive behaviour that allows us to be even more competitive in the future,” says Dr Fairweather, a man with four degrees, including a PhD in Motor Behaviour and Skill Acquisition. “I think that’s where we’re heading – to build upon a strong basis
and make it even more informed and astute going forward.” Dr Fairweather demonstrated the effect of so-called ‘quiet eye time’ – where the eye is concentrating on one point on putting performance in golf. He ran experiments at the Scottish Open and at the Ryder Cup, asking volunteers to step forward and try to putt a golf ball into a hole from a distance. They wore goggles fitted with tiny infra-red microcameras calibrated to the participant’s pupil; the cameras then continuously tracked the pupil as it moved across the ball and the target area. “What we know in target sports is that in order to get good comprehension of the environment we need these quiet periods to exist – we need them to take place,” says Dr Fairweather. “And what we find with less expert individuals is that they have less quiet
I think what this allows us to consider is how to improve upon current understanding of performance and enable new training and competitive behaviour. Dr Malcolm Fairweather, Head of Science and Innovation at sportscotland
eye periods and less extended quiet eye periods. In other words they don’t search the environment in any way at all similar to how an expert would search the environment.” The experiment showed that in ordinary circumstances volunteers holed zero or one putts out of four, where the probability of success was 25 per cent. By simply training them for a few minutes in the quiet eye technique, all volunteers were then able to improve their ratio to two out of four putts, with 50 per cent scoring three out of four putts. “It was quite incredible, these were scores that we wouldn’t have predicted, adds Fairweather. “What we demonstrated was that this was a very powerful effect and once the body and mind had understood what was going on and the feedback had its opportunity to take hold a simple concentration template then allowed vision and movement response to couple very well to golf putting.” Other areas in which Dr Fairweather is involved include looking into how realtime monitoring of lactic acid buildup can inform new interventions to help stave off the decremental effects of muscle fatigue in runners. Work at Strathclyde University, in which athletes are fitted with microelectronic devices, hopes to shed light on how training regimes can be improved. He is also looking forward to the new Oriam National Performance Centre at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, a £33million state-of-the-art sporting facility due to open this summer. “All these things are brand new opportunities in Scotland and allows Scotland to look in a different way to what I would call an emerging opportunity in big data process.”
24 February 2016
TV advertising has been bought in the same way for decades. Edinburgh-based start-up TVSquared – touted as one of the next potential ‘unicorns’ – is breaking the mould. Photograph: Mary Turner
When Mad Men gave up being mad: how big data is shaking up the old order of TV ad media buying By Kevin O’Sullivan In the fast-moving world of digital, ideas cannot be allowed to stand still otherwise they quickly fade and die. Contrast that with the old world, particularly in legacy businesses, where ways of doing things have remained the same, unchanged for years, decades even. Since the advent of the concept advertisers have bought their ‘spots’ on TV in largely the same way: according to the makeup and size of the audience watching. No longer. That model has been – pardon the expression – ‘disrupted’. TVSquared, an Edinburgh-based
startup, has in just three-and-a-half short years developed and honed a new way of buying television advertising, which looks in realtime across large swaths of response data and using lots of very clever algorithms to instantly analyse what is working and what’s not. That ‘optimisation’ process then feeds back into the media schedule, giving the advertiser all sorts of very useful information, usually within hours. If they have two adverts, it can tell them which is the most successful, it can tell them when is the best time to advertise in terms of the biggest response uplift and whether that’s by people flooding onto the advertiser’s
website, downloading an app or phoning a call centre. It can also work out which area of the country and which networks are the most effective, which is a huge advantage in its biggest market, the US, where there are 210 different marketing areas. But most importantly it tells advertisers whether they are spending their money in the most efficient way, and allows them to ‘reweight’ the media they buy to reduce how much it costs to generate each response, lead or sale, the all important ‘cost per acquisition’. That is the ultimate metric which has seen TVSquared start off from humble beginnings at Edinburgh
tech incubator CodeBase to become a company of 35 people, with offices in London, New York and LA, and is likely to double its head count this year. When I talk to Blair Robertson, the company’s Chief Analytics Officer, a job title which will surely become more popular, he explains that the company is now on its 75th iteration of its Advantage platform. The constant re-invention, adding yet more dimensions to what the statistical modellingbased calculations can analyse, is breathtaking. “We really can use it to address almost any question we have from TV advertising,” says Robertson.
“The platform is extremely scalable and the technology works regardless of whether you’re airing one TV spot a week or 100,000 TV spots a week; it’s really been built to deal with all the complexities. And that’s what happens when we move from version one to where we are now.” Robertson insists that the platform is not a ‘regressive model’, it doesn’t look back. It is looking at the pattern of response data as it emerges, looking for the characteristics that drive people to go online, especially as so many are now ‘dual-screening’: watching TV and fiddling with their smartphones at the same time. And it seems to be
24 February 2016
More children should be thinking about digital as a career. Picture Creative Commons
We really can use it to address almost any question we have from TV advertising. Blair Robertson, Chief Analytics Officer, TVSquared working: TVSquared has managed to save its clients typically between 25 and 45% on its cost per acquisition, with some up to 80 or 90%. These are staggering sums. “If you’re spending $10million on TV that represents an extra value of $4 to $5million, so it’s very, very valuable and it’s becoming more so,” adds Robertson. The success of TVSquared - whose
clients include the likes of travel website Expedia and furniture retailer Made.com - is built on the growth of e-commerce, which has allowed much greater insight into consumer behaviour. Its platform can track people’s responses: they may come to a website after seeing an advert, but not make the purchasing decision until much later, during which time they can be re-targeted through the use of anonymised cookie data, with additional Facebook adverts or an email campaign. “Because we’ve cookied that user we can essentially say, ‘well they came back two weeks later and they made a purchase’. But we can credit TV for driving them to the site for the first time and then we can credit the other digital advertising for bringing them back later on,” says Robertson. Not bad for a technology that was conceived in one of the founders’ living rooms. The group – including CEO Calum Smeaton, a 20-year veteran of founding innovative tech start-ups – got together to help friend Kevin Dorren of Diet Chef, the Edinburgh-based online diet food delivery service. His advertising was working but he wasn’t able to determine whether it was a particular kind of advertising or creative that worked. “He didn’t know and he was being told by his media agencies that he should use his phone responses to try and work it out,” Robertson explains. “He said ‘well, hang on a minute, I’m an e-commerce company. I’ve got 35 times more sales coming through the website than I do from my call centre so why on earth would I use phone data?’ He kind of challenged Calum, to say ‘surely there was some way you could use data science to address this?’”
The rest, as they say, is history and
now TVSquared is operating in 45 countries with around 330 different brands tracking about 200million visits to various websites. The decision to stick to TV advertising seems deliberate: it is a global market worth $200billion annually. Whether that means TVSquared can propel itself to that next level, and gain ‘unicorn’ status, is another matter. I put this to Blair after reading, post interview, that his company has been hotly tipped to become a billion-dollar company by CodeBase founder Jamie Coleman, who described it as a “rocket ship”. I haven’t heard back yet, but watch this space.
Hitting the road: a chance for young people to work in digital Parents are the key to creating a technology talent pipeline By Claire Gillespie Scotland in 2016 is a hotbed of digital sector success stories. Global firms such as Skyscanner and Fanduel were launched in Edinburgh and are still based in the capital. An array of tech startups, and many established companies such as Microsoft and Capgemini are also an important part of Scotland’s rapidly expanding tech sector. As the industry continues to grow, this offers significant career opportunities as forecasts suggest that there could be as many as 11,000 job vacancies each year in Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) and digital technology, and currently employer demand is outstripping supply. The growth in the sector means that employers require increasing numbers of skilled, employmentready people to take these jobs. Even non-technology businesses require employees with digital skills as we increasingly rely on technology in everything we do. Scotland must move quickly, and take advantage of the incredible opportunity which is right on its doorstep. Despite this many of our young people may not immediately consider a career in the digital technology sector. Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects, which provide a strong background for digital technology jobs, can be perceived as daunting subject choices to make. Students may fear the negative stereo-
types associated with STEM subjects, or be concerned about the perceived difficulty of these subjects. Crucially, there are often misconceptions about the career opportunities available to students who have completed these subjects. It is of vital importance that we help young people understand the quantity and quality of career options that are now open to them. One of the challenges we face is demonstrating the range of opportunities a career in digital technology can offer, as well as the different routes a young person can take to enter this exciting new world of work. To raise the attractiveness of this sector to young people, it is important we also help parents understand the opportunities in the industry Parents are, naturally, key influencers in helping young people decide on their future career. Children begin to make choices that can affect their career path in early secondary school, when they choose their subjects of study. Parents often provide guid-
It is not always clear to parents why they should help their children consider software development, data analytics or digital forensics.
ance, so they must themselves also be informed of the many and varied options now open to young people. Clearly, most parents and guardians have the greatest intentions for their children. However, recent studies show that nearly half are unaware of the full range of career options now available, and don’t always understand the long-term opportunities in careers and sectors they are not familiar with. This is why Skills Development Scotland in partnership with Young Scot is taking to the road with Discovering Digital World, a series of careers events for parents as well as young people.
This is why Discovering Digital World has been developed by Skills Development Scotland and Young Scot to make the sector more accessible. A series of interactive roadshows will be happening around Scotland, showcasing the exciting possibilities on offer to young people if they decide to pursue a career in tech. In particular, there will be dedicated evening sessions for parents and guardians. These events will aim to answer questions about the digital technology industry, the job opportunities available and routes in, from university courses, from college, and from modern apprenticeships.
Traditional career paths, such as law or financial services, may be the obvious choice for parents to encourage their children towards. We understand what these jobs are, and how we can pursue them. Jobs like software development, data analytics or digital forensics seem more abstract. It is not always clear to parents how or why they should help their children consider these as careers. When it comes to possible career choices, many parents, through no fault of their own, can struggle to help make these difficult decisions. This is not surprising. The sheer range of options now available must feel incomprehensible. Technology has advanced at an exponential rate, even within the last five years. Consider how recently no one had heard of a smartphone, now we rely upon them. Self-driven cars are no longer amusing science fiction; they will be available within our lifetime. It is challenging enough to keep up with the latest tech trends, let alone new employment opportunities in the sector.
The roadshows will visit areas from the Highlands to the Scottish Borders with a focus on locations where it may be more difficult to access national ICT and digital technologies careers events. This initiative is a brilliant opportunity for young people, and their parents, to engage with a whole range of employers to find out about routes into the industry, and discover just how rewarding a career in technology can be, with job earnings regularly above the national average. Young people in Scotland are bright, talented and, more than capable of stepping up to fill the skills gap we are currently facing. We must encourage them to realise their full potential, and explore the possibilities an exciting career in our booming tech sector can offer.
Visit https://www.digitalworld.net/discover/events to sign up for a free place at Discovering Digital World. Claire Gillespie is Key Sector Manager for ICT and Digital Technologies at Skills Development Scotland
investment & Legal
24 February 2016
Access to capital is key to building a knowledge economy
The General Data Protection Regulation will force companies to be ever more mindful of how they protect their customers’ personal information. ©Mary Turner
To keep up with the rest of the UK we must invest much more in tech By Sandy Finlayson
Countdown to 2018: companies are advised to keep a keen eye on the new EU data protection laws
O Grant Campbell The clock is ticking on a new EU-wide data protection law that – among a series of reforms - will see firms potentially have to report when they have been hacked.
ver the last few years, the public has become increasingly concerned about individual privacy on the back of a series of information security scandals and concerns (raised by the former CIA contractor Edward Snowden) that intelligence services at home and abroad may engage in intelligence gathering that is not subject to proper control. Current data protection laws notably, the Data Protection Act 1998 in the UK - were conceived before the internet as we know it now existed and are simply no longer fit for purpose. So, in December, there was an important announcement that Europe had finally agreed the text of a new piece of data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which will usher in a new regime. Although it will be a further two years before GDPR takes effect, it will introduce much tougher rules for organisations that handle personal data. Changes introduced by the GDPR include: l Consent - the requirements for ‘consent’ are tightened so that ‘clear affirmative action’ will be required for consent to be established. The days of pre-ticked boxes will finally come to an end. l Transparency - organisations must provide more information to us
when they obtain our personal data to explain in more detail how that data will be used, how long it will be retained and, if it to be stored outside the EEA, where it is to be held and how it is to be safeguarded. l Access - the rules allowing us to access our personal data and to obtain information about how that data is being used are being strengthened and the timescale for responding is being shortened. l Privacy by design and default - organisations will be obliged to ‘hardwire’ privacy considerations into their day-to-day operations and projects through measures such as minimising the amount of data held and activating privacy-friendly settings in technology.
Current data protection laws were conceived before the internet as we know it now existed and are simply no longer fit for purpose
l Breach notifications - there are express statutory obligations to notify privacy regulators and affected individuals in the event of a data privacy breach where there is risk of harm to individuals. l Accountability - organisations will have to be able to demonstrate to privacy regulators that they are complying with the GDPR on an ongoing basis. l Sanctions - the maximum fines that can be imposed for serious contraventions are €20m (or 4% of total worldwide turnover for businesses) but lesser contraventions also carry hefty fines. As a Regulation, the GDPR will have direct effect in EU member states without the need for any national implementing legislation. The intention is to ensure that there is no scope for member states to water down the GDPR and regulators in each state will be expected to toe the line through ‘consistency’ mechanisms, which may curtail the UK regulator’s current light touch regime. Between now and the GDPR’s introduction in 2018 many organisations will need to invest heavily in systems and resource to ensure that they will be compliant. There is much to do. Grant Campbell is Head of IP, Technology & Outsourcing at Brodies LLP
Scotland enjoys a well developed tech eco-system supported by a number of high-profile Business Angel Syndicates with professional management and active websites. However, it is heavily skewed towards the east coast, and in particular Edinburgh, which now receives about 60% of all investment. The creation of two unicorn companies in SkyScanner and FanDuel, the continuing highprofile success of www.eie16.com and incubators or accelerators such as CodeBase, E-spark and Up Accelerator have all done a great deal to create a supportive tech eco-system. According to recent statistics (source: ONS) about £2 billion is now being invested in Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes/ Enterprise Investment Schemes (SEIS/EIS) every year. About 75% of this investment activity happens in London and the south east and Scotland is now only involved in about 3% by value and 6% by volume of the transactions. The Enterprise Capital Fund programme is very successful but most of the ECFs are in London and the South East. To keep up with the rest of the UK, we must stimulate much more EIS and Angel investment and establish a substantial early stage tech fund. Recent research by www. cbinsights.com suggests that approximately 38% of tech investment goes into America, 30% into Asia (principally China and India) and only 17% into Europe. If there is any correlation between capital and innovation and wealth creation, this is a problem which must now be urgently addressed at a European level. Europe is drowning in bank debt and the great companies of tomorrow will be created with capital and innovation not with bank debt. If we seriously wish to play a part in the knowledge economy, we must ensure that our entrepreneurs have access to the capital they need to build their businesses if we wish them to stay here. Sandy Finlayson is Senior Partner at MBM Commercial LLP, an Edinburgh-based specialist legal advisor to entrepreneurs, investors and high-growth companies
investment & Legal
24 February 2016
Scotland has a remarkably varied entrepreneurial ecosystem. Picture Creative Commons
How an angel can magically turn you into a unicorn It’s no fairytale: Scotland has investors, it has entrepreneurs and it has tech ventures. By Jonathan Harris With FanDuel and Skyscanner both in the ranks of ‘unicorns’ (early stage companies valued at over $1bn), it is impossible to say that the unicorn phenomenon has passed Scotland by. Unicorns have achieved such high valuations in part due to the flow of new institutional money looking for a different asset class in which to invest, itself a result of low interest rates affecting other forms of investment. However, although in Scotland very large deals are still few and far between, they have increased to the point where one can say that they are no longer simply exceptions. In particular, the number of investments in the £1m-£2m range has grown substantially. Scotland has a remarkably varied entrepreneurial ecosystem, covering a wide range of different technology sectors, and a wide range of companies in each sector. In the ICT sector alone, we see games creators and apps developers, e-commerce ventures and data analytics businesses, as well as many companies in the fields of micro and opto-electronics. The funding available to these companies also covers a wide range. Scotland has built a strong business
angel community, and its model of encouraging business angel syndicates has been copied around the world. There are more than 20 such syndicates, able to provide funding for companies at a much earlier stage than institutional investors. They co-invest with each other, and with the Scottish Investment Bank (SIB), and are starting to co-invest with some VCs and corporate venture firms. This means that they are able to make substantial investments where appropriate. It is often said that there are too few venture capital firms in Scotland, and while this is true, nonetheless the YCF Guide to Finance for Young Companies (www.ycfguide.com) lists some 50 VC and corporate firms which have invested in Scottish companies, with examples of their portfolio companies. However, all investors see many more business plans than they can invest in, and companies in Scotland wanting to secure the larger sums that such firms can provide should spend some time meeting them and building networks, usually starting in London. Equity crowdfunding has not yet made a significant difference in Scotland, but some larger deals are starting to appear. For more established companies, debt finance becomes a possibility, from providers such as the Scottish Loan Fund and Business Growth Fund. Examples of recent investments (see panel) illustrate the range of deals covered. Jonathan Harris is editor of Young Company Finance www.ycfscotland.co.uk
Business angels are backing the Dundee-based developer of a multiplayer football management game. Picture Creative Commons
recent deals l PowerPhotonic, Dalgety Bay, designs and manufactures high value laser optics for customers in a range of sectors from defence to the medical sector. £2m from business angels (Archangel Investors and SIB) l Digital Sports Arena, Dundee, games studio developing a massively multiplayer football management simulation Gameday Live. £250k from business angels (EOS, Equity Gap)
l FreeAgent, Edinburgh, online bookkeeping and accounting. £1.1m equity crowdfunding (Seedrs) l Dukosi, Edinburgh, battery management technology for electric cars. £1.2m from institutional investors (Par Equity, IP Group) l Holoxica, Edinburgh, 3D holographic displays for medical imaging. €1.28m EU grant (Horizon 2020) l Objective Associates, Stirling, developer of Seller Dynamics,
a marketplace management system. Over £1m raised to date from business angel group (ESM Investment and SIB) l Administrate, Edinburgh, developer of online training management software. £1.7m from business angels (Archangel Investors, SIB) l Smarter Grid Solutions, Glasgow, developer of Active Network Management solutions for electricity utilities. £2m from Scottish Loan Fund
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