Welcome to our Q&A series, where we bring together entrepreneurs and leaders in the business community. Each interviewee brings their unique perspective and hands-on experience of the challenges faced when starting and scaling a company.
Ross McLennan, Enterprise Executive at Edinburgh Innovations, talks Business Foundations
What is the top tip you would give to founders?
Validation is key! The difference between a nice project and a strong business is customers. So engage early with potential customers, listen to the problems they have and develop a deep understanding of the issues that are important to them.
How important is it to have the right foundations in place for scaling?
The wise man built his house upon a rock. Scaling a company is difficult, but you are making things much more difficult for yourself if you don't have clear evidence that you are solving problems for your customers and a strong team in place to develop and deliver your solution.
With these strong foundations in place, I have seen many companies make much faster progress.
What more could the business community do to help our scale-ups?
This is a difficult question! They do say it takes a village to raise a child and there are many parallels when building scale-ups.
We carried out some research which showed that our most likely entrepreneurs know more than five other entrepreneurs, so I feel that the more we can see and learn from others' scale-up journeys, the better the chance of other founders understanding what is required and believing they can do it.
What support do Edinburgh Innovations offer to start-ups?
As the University's commercialisation service, we have a pipeline of support that can take people through their entrepreneurial journey from idea to impact – from basics, to builder, to support, financial and otherwise, as the company grows.
For instance, our Data Driven Entrepreneurship programme provides funding, education, incubation space, venture building and acceleration support. We run competitions such as the Summer Accelerator and Power Her Up for female founders.
The University's in-house investment team has its own venture capital fund, Old College Capital, to provide seed funding, and manages the University's portfolio as it grows, leveraging investment and sometimes reinvesting at a later stage.
Entrepreneurship can be lonely, so we have an online community students can access at all times. Now that we're back in person, we have a physical enterprise hub too, and lots of networking events.
How can advisors play their part in supporting our entrepreneurs?
The entrepreneurs we support at the University of Edinburgh are bright, enthusiastic and capable fast learners. But the majority of them have never started a company before. Advisors have a key role to play helping founders navigate as smoothly as possible through the many pitfalls they may face.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.