While Scotland may not be immediately synonymous as a popular breeding ground for tech startups, there have been several high profile tech startups that originated in the country.


Specifically, there are two Scottish tech startup companies that have achieved unicorn status, which in the venture capital industry means that their market valuation is over $1 billion each! The venture capital industry term unicorn was coined in 2013 by venture capitalist Aileen Lee to showcase the statistically significant achievement and the rarity of such ventures.


The two unicorn status tech startups reside in the Scottish city of Edinburgh. One of the companies is Skyscanner and since its inception in 2003, the company has had its headquarters in Edinburgh. The other Scottish tech startup with the unique unicorn status is FanDuel and was initially called HubDub when it launched in 2009 in Edinburgh. Moreover, both companies not only operate in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, but also operate in the same glass facade building in the center of the city. It should be noted that while FanDuel’s official headquarters are now are in New York in the US, a large portion of its operations and engineering still takes place in Edinburgh.

Growth of Tech Startups

As FanDuel’s co-founder and CEO, Nigel Eccles, stated in an interview with VentureBeat in May of this year “When we went to the States pitching, we always seemed to end up on the West Coast. But we found that by the time we started to raise significant amounts of money, we had already built a very good engineering base in Edinburgh. So once we got to scale, we said Edinburgh should really be our engineering base, rather than trying to move everything to the U.S.”


Having two Scottish tech startup companies achieve unicorn status creates benefits and an overall positive ripple effect for other tech startups in Scotland. As a recent Tech Nation on tour panel pointed out, the presence and success of Skyscanner and FanDuel in Edinburgh has helped with attracting talent, investment, positive press and has fuelled the formation for new tech startup companies in Scotland.


The tech startup growth in Scotland is further highlighted in a new report from Tech Nation, which found that the number of digital tech jobs in Scotland hit 48,448 in 2017, up 8% on 2016’s total. Moreover, the same report highlighted that the cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Dundee combined contribute £2.4bn or three-fifths of Scotland’s total tech turnover. The tech sector in Scotland is worth £3.9bn with digital tech turnover per employee hitting £80,000.


Scotland’s positive news and figures for its digital technology firms and startups doesn’t stop there!  For instance, the Scottish Technology Industry Survey highlighted that eight out of ten firms surveyed are expected to hire more staff in the next twelve months. Moreover, researchers said 80% of respondents expected a “positive” 2018, with nearly a third forecasting sales to increase by more than 50%.

As ScotlandIS chief executive Polly Purvis said: “This year’s survey shows that Scotland’s digital technology industry is thriving, with many of our businesses enjoying success at home as well as experiencing increasing overseas demand.”

“The overwhelming majority of respondents are optimistic about the year ahead and are forecasting business growth.”

“This is good news not just for our industry but the country as a whole as more jobs are created and investment increases across the sector.”



Guest Blogger, Lina Poka:  “Lina built a very successful marketing career in Toronto, Canada before moving to Edinburgh and holds a BBA & an MBA from the prestigious Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto, Canada; and for the past six years Lina has run her own marketing consulting company.  Lina’s career has enabled her to manage teams of up to 50 people, build numerous websites and apps with millions of visitors & downloads, work on a project for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, broker deals with huge American & Canadian retailers and receive numerous international marketing awards.”

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