Unsung Heroes 2022: Full Submissions
As founders, we're usually the ones who get the credit. We're the trail-blazers, the innovators, and the risk-takers pushing the envelope and creating new worlds. But we know that's not the whole story. No founder is an island, and we all need help along the way. Oftentimes that help, guidance, crucial connection, or nugget of advice that makes all the difference comes from someone who is energised by your success, who takes pride in helping you succeed, and who doesn't ask for recognition.
This quarter's founders survey celebrates those Unsung Heroes of the Scottish ecosystem who provide the vibrance of support, access, and expertise to founders across the country.
We received over 80 submissions as part of this survey and you can find the full list of relevant submissions and nominating texts here.
Below we'll summarise the main themes and categories of submissions in order to celebrate those who help the Scottish ecosystem thrive. Quotes have been edited for spelling and grammar.
View all submissions here
Ecosystem support organisations and advocates received the highest number of nominations. Playing an under-celebrated role in the ecosystem, they often are the first port of call for founders new to the startup journey. From providing expertise and perspectives to being super connectors, their contributions are meaningful and important to founders.
A common theme for ecosystem advocates was leading initiatives that bring others together, especially those focused on advancing targeted groups.
Bayile Adeoti, founder of Dechomai received multiple nominations highlighting her work providing advice to minority entrepreneurs throughout the UK. Bayile and her team "give the community of black women an opportunity to believe in themselves and encourage them to start meaningful businesses."
Alison Chiwara (Flosverse) is credited with "creating real opportunities and removing entry barriers for women in Tech," while Jane Morrison (SOSE, formerly ScotlandIS) "was the first one to actually 'see and listen' to our pain of being founded by "underrepresented founders"... She not only listened, but immediately rolled up her sleeves, and got some movers and shakers in the Scottish tech ecosystem together, to try and change things."
Within the university ecosystem, Poonam Malik (University of Strathclyde) is seen as a "true force of nature [...] Scotland is truly blessed having her as a leading voice in the Scottish tech/STEM ecosystem, driving diversity, inclusivity and equity as a lens through which she operates."
Veronica Ferguson (The University of Edinburgh) "works tirelessly to ensure that companies coming from The University of Edinburgh are given the support they need to succeed" while Ross McLennan (Edinburgh Innovations)'s expertise enables wide-spread impact. "A significant portion of the startups coming out of The University of Edinburgh possibly would have never been if it wasn't for his guidance and advice."
Meanwhile, Katy Guthrie (University of Edinburgh & Data Driven Entrepreneurship's AI Accelerator) "has designed and runs the accelerator in a way which makes it almost like a living breathing support system for the companies in it."
Targeted sector expertise and an understanding of how to navigate the ecosystem was also a common theme. Scottish Enterprise's Catherine Potts "has always gone above and beyond to not only help... with our IP, but also provide[s] support on critical junctions as a start-up."
Susie Mitchell (Glasgow City of Science and Innovation) received praise for her accessibility for founders by being "a regular panelist at events and always supporting and engaging with [founders] and start ups."
Alex Reid (Energy Technology Partnership) is "great at networking and making connections for people in the transport and energy space" while Lyndsey Dougan and Jess Sible from Geovation Scotland do "a huge amount of unseen work supporting early stage location data and proptech startups in Scotland... [by] providing datasets, support, office space, and a community for PropTech and geospatial-focused Startups to thrive."
An effective ecosystem relies on people who spend an inordinate amount of time and energy bringing different stakeholders together, planning initiatives, and managing teams to deliver high-quality, effective resources. Like a swan on the water, much of the behind-the-scenes work is tedious, difficult and certainly under-appreciated.
Nick Murray of Startup Grind received multiple nominations noting his energy, ability to bring stakeholders together and for his "ambitious and just vision for what can be achieved for Scotland's start ups." Zoi Kantounatou from FutureX was credited with her approach to founder education. "She brings a really warm and generous energy to everything she does and is fantastic at helping founders learn."
Brian Corcoran and Tannya Gaxiola were credited for the depth of unseen energy they bring to Turing Fest as well as a number of initiatives that are integral to helping founders, but often go under-appreciated. Tannya is not only "one of the key people who is responsible for delivering Turing Fest's main event; one of the world's best conferences for startup builders," but also oversees initiatives such as Founders Dinners, Turing Founders, Startups 101, and Level Up. Brian Corcoran, meanwhile "is a legend and needs more credit for what he does."