New survey reveals how Scottish startups have fared throughout the pandemic

The Scottish Startup Survey 2021, run by the Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) team at the University of Edinburgh’s Bayes Centre, has revealed how Scottish startups have been faring throughout the pandemic.

New survey reveals how Scottish startups have fared throughout the pandemic

Sir Sandy Crombie and Callum Murray of Amiqus (Photo: Stewart Attwood)

A total of 75 startups drawn from EIE alumnus companies - EIE has supported over 500 tech startups since 2008 who have collectively raised over $1 billion from seed through to Series A and later stage funding - and other startups from across Scotland were interviewed on topics ranging from growth prospects, the investment backdrop, government support, hiring, plans to return to the office, and wellbeing and mental health.

The survey revealed that 68% of startups grew during the pandemic, with only 11%  saying they contracted. A total of 72% of respondents said they expect their company to come out of the pandemic in a stronger position, with only 7% answering in the negative, and 21% saying they were unsure. At the same time, 59% of startup founders said their company had to pivot in the wake of the pandemic.

The survey also highlighted that only just over 1 in 3 startups completed an investment round during the pandemic, with 33% securing an investment round against 67% who did not. At the same time, 26% said they were targeting angel investors, 31% said they were targeting venture capital firms, and 43% said they were targeting both.

Simultaneously, 92% of respondents said they were targeting investors outside Scotland. Zoom meeting culture has made investor contact easier according to 57% of startups, with 14% saying Zoom calls have made contact with investors more difficult, with 29% noting no change.

In relation to government support, 60% of startups said they had received government support over the last fifteen months, with 40% saying they had not accessed government support.

When asked, “Is the government doing enough to support startups?”, only 35% said yes, with 65% saying no.

When asked how the pandemic has impacted hiring plans, 65% of startups surveyed said they had continued to hire during the pandemic, with 35% saying they had stopped hiring. A total of 38% said the biggest impact Brexit is having on their business is around hiring and retaining people.

On returning to the office and remote working, 63% of startups are planning to return to the office this year, with 37% not planning to return to the office in 2021. A total of 93% of startups polled said they would continue to operate a remote working model.

In terms of wellbeing and mental health, 75% of respondents said the wellbeing and mental health of their team has been one of the biggest challenges thrown up by the pandemic. At the same time, 63% of startups have put measures in place to deal with the wellbeing, physical and mental health of their teams in the face of the pandemic.

An EIE21 spokesperson said: “While only a third of startups polled secured investment rounds during 2020, government support was crucial for many, and overall it’s pleasing to see the overall confidence from founders around coming out of the pandemic in a stronger position. What also came through in the survey, was how the vast majority of startups are targeting investors outside Scotland - an area that remains crucial to the success of Scotland’s technology ecosystem.”

Callum Murray, CEO and founder of Amiqus, an EIE alumnus company that participated in the survey, said: “After taking the decision early on not to furlough any of our team, we were one of the companies in the survey that showed significant growth in the last year, but it’s our people first and the digitisation and behavioural changes brought about by the pandemic second that have led to that success. The last year has taken a toll on every person and every family. We’ll be looking to build on our growth not just in terms of revenue, but in how we can continue to look after our people and contribute to making flexibility and wellbeing at work the norm.”

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