Notes from an Entrepreneurial Scotland

DISRUPTION. Change. Upheaval. Uncertainty. Words that conjure images of chaos, stress, a lack of control.

For most of us, we seek to avoid and manage these situations, moaning at those in charge, wishing it would all slow down and return to normal. Yet there is a small minority who see things differently.

They see challenges to be solved.They see opportunities to create something new. They are the entrepreneurs, the innovators, the change-makers. The people who embrace and thrive in the uncertainty; Steve Job’s “crazy ones, misfits, rebels”.

These people and their teams are vital to Scotland’s future.

By definition, entrepreneurs look at the world differently. It is that difference of perspective, experience that enables them to see the solutions that nobody else sees. Being entrepreneurial is a mindset, not a job title.

They include amongst their ranks people you may have heard of like Gareth Williams (Skyscanner), Dame Ann Gloag and Sir Brian Souter (Stagecoach), the Afzal and Akmal Khushi (Trespass) and Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne (Genius Gluten Free) but many you haven’t.

Take the recently crowned, GB entrepreneur of the year, Celia Hodson who is taking on the huge multinationals like Procter & Gamble with a new ethical, environmentally sound sanitary product. All profits are being recycled to support the campaign against period poverty. That is bold.

Take David Duke, himself previously homeless, who created the social enterprise, Street Soccer, as a bridge for people affected by social exclusion to find a path back to security and happiness. That takes resilience.

Take the pupils and teachers at Dunoon Grammar, recently crowned UK’s European Entrepreneurial School of the Year, who have embedded the entrepreneurial mindset in all that they do. That takes dedication to go above and beyond.

Take the unsung heroes, like Ailsa Campbell in Crieff, Annette Tonner in Falkirk and Susan Maxwell in Alexandria, who are building entrepreneurial communities from the grassroots up with the support of CAN DO Places. That takes passion.

Research has shown over decades that it is the entrepreneurially minded who make the greatest impact on the economy; creating new jobs, generating wealth and taxes to reinvest in our communities. The firms and organisations they create play important part in social cohesion and the regeneration of our places.

It is not all about the private sector and social enterprise, government and the public sector has an active role to play too. Government not only can create the conditions for the entrepreneurially minded to flourish, they too must be entrepreneurial and a driver of innovation. As Mariana Mazzucato points out, in her book The Entrepreneurial State, it was the US National Science Foundation who funded the algorithm that powered Google’s first search engine.

For Scotland to achieve its entrepreneurial potential it will take deep collaboration across all parts of Scotland and from top to bottom.

This column will explore many aspects of Scotland’s entrepreneurial scene – the value to the economy and society, the characters, the challenges, the supporters, the culture, the role of public policy – what is great, what is not. It will cover core issues like availability of capital, the talent pipeline, lifelong learning for entrepreneurs.

It will go to unusual places and discuss challenging issues like the mental health of entrepreneurs, the critical importance of diversity and immigration, Scotland’s untapped potential.

Disruption, change, upheaval, uncertainty is here for good. Indeed, it is only going to get faster – as Chris van der Kuyl of Minecraft fame said, “We are moving faster than ever before, yet the slowest we ever will.”

Those nations who create a nimble, curious, courageous entrepreneurial society will prosper.

I am looking forward to sharing with you notes from the frontline of an entrepreneurial Scotland.

(Article originally published on The Herald: