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Entrepreneurs intent on technological “disruption” gathered this week for Seedcamp Edinburgh, the first outing north of the border for a London-based programme for tech ventures.
However, when it comes to the most disruptive potential plan for the UK – Scottish independence – there is a notable reluctance in Edinburgh’s tech start-up community to speak out.
Many are fearful of upsetting potential business partners in this tight-knit community of entrepreneurs and investors, according to Jude Cook, founder of a tech and health focused equity crowdfunding platform called ShareIn.
“You’re likely to turn off half your Scottish stakeholders, whatever your opinion,” she says, declining to reveal which way she will be voting in the September 18 poll.
Ian Ritchie, who started his first technology company in Edinburgh in 1984 and was a founding director of the Scottish Software Federation, notes that many people’s opinions have privately hardened, creating division between founders, several of whom have moved to the Scottish capital from southeast England.
“It is getting a wee bit unpleasant,” he notes. “I know entrepreneurs who are absolutely adamant for a Yes vote. I know of other people who will move to London if that happens. One guy I know has already been looking at houses in Kingston-upon-Thames.”
At Codebase, a concrete office block in the heart of Edinburgh that provides cheap office space for early stage ventures, the majority opinion seems to be for a No vote, but many are unwilling to express their views on the record.
“Scotland could be a strong, vibrant economy but it will probably crater in five to 10 years,” says one founder, whose company has prospered during the past five years at Codebase and now has offices overseas.
“The SNP are selling a land of milk and honey picture of the future because Scotland has oil,” he adds. “But so does Nigeria.”
Duncan Johnston-Watt, an Edinburgh-based entrepreneur with 20 years’ experience of starting companies in the city, will be voting No, but adds that even if that view prevails there will need to be a period of healing of relationships between the two sides.
“I am genuinely concerned about speaking out,” he says. “There is a tension here.”
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