The Scottish EDGE Awards Round 4 Final
One of the stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, the great Bette Davis, once said "to be given a chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy.” The finals of round 4 of the Scottish Edge Awards which took place on Monday 16 June at RBS HQ in Gogarburn were a full day of excellent meat and potatoes followed by some well deserved gravy in the evening.
Scottish EDGE (Encouraging Dynamic Growth Entrepreneurs) is a competition to win up to £50,000 of funding to help businesses grow, create employment and export their products outside of Scotland. By finals day, over 200 entries have been whittled down to thirty through an exhaustive process of desktop review and panel interviews. The selected 30 pitch on the day and face challenging questions from a heavyweight panel of five business leaders. This is where the basic fare comes in. It is a pretty tiring day to be in the audience and must be exhausting for the judges.
This is the first time I have attended. The money and recognition are obviously important to all the businesses so they are well prepared and the quality of pitches was very high. Being the final group, the underlying businesses are also strong. To make it more difficult, the variety was quite extraordinary covering services, agriculture, manufacturing, food & drink, software, fashion to name but a few. Everyone who came on stage seemed to have a genuinely stand out and innovative idea. Comparing these different propositions must have been extremely tough. Keeping up a constant level of interest and energy for the whole process is even more important. I know from similar experiences that it is essential to give the same attention to the last pitch as to the first. The schedulers did their best by putting an especially high energy pitch last so maybe that helped!
This is the mince and tatties of the event. The ideas are inspiring and the people were brilliant. Thirty pitches in succession with forensic challenge on growth and investment plans still feels like a working day though. EDGE is not razzmatazz. It is a tribute to graft, focus and determination.
In the evening though 15 companies were awarded funding. The whole atmosphere was different. Blood and sweat was replaced with excitement and gratitude. Chris Van Der Kuyl, chairman of the judges, handed out the trophies and Gordon Merrylees of RBS reminded the audience why they were so deserving. It would be easy to get picky and mention other companies who deserved the money instead. A strong case could easily have been made for any of the companies that pitched and I’m sure the judges felt the same. Tough choices.
The gravy was also accompanied the next best thing to a glass of fizz. For the first time, there were also Young EDGE awards for businesses run by under 25s. This was part of a separate process but the winners were at the same ceremony and another great bundle of ideas and passion.
Scottish EDGE is a day for the entrepreneurs and their businesses. Being in the audience was very different from an event like Opportunity Knocks where entertaining the attendees is part of the script. In the end it repayed the time and attention. I learned about some great business and met some fantastic people. I also know it works. One of my investments Mallzee won an award in round 2 about a year ago and it was instrumental in helping them get into the market and move the business from startup to first round of Angel funding. The CEO Cally Russell gave a great talk about the benefits as part of the awards ceremony. EDGE does not just provide money. Recognition, advice from the panels at various stages and networks of willing helpers all contribute to the future success of those who enter. I am sure the £660,000 awarded this time round will make a huge difference too.
You can find out about all the Scottish EDGE finalists and award winners on the Scottish Enterprise website and if you have a growing business look out for round 5 which will open to entries in September.
Kenny Fraser is the Director of Sunstone Communication and a personal investor in startups.