It is more than a decade since tech observers proclaimed the demise of Silicon Glen, Scotland’s version of California’s all-powerful Silicon Valley. But the nation has developed into a major player in the digital world. Innovation, ideas, startups and expertise emerging from Scotland means the country wields an in uence on the global technology stage that far outweighs its size.
To illustrate this, we present The Digital List: 50 people from Scotland’s technologies industry who are changing the world. And look out this weekend for the FutureScot newsletter, featuring part one of the 200-strong list, as well as original reporting on Scotland’s technologies sector and curated links.
The Digital List
Google’s new head of search is a computer science graduate of Strathclyde University, originally from Bridge of Allan, and an expert in articial intelligence.
He began his career with INMOS Corporation, which in the late eighties was the only microprocessor company in the UK and whose technology was used in the early films of animation company Pixar.
Giannandrea went on to work at a computer graphics rm that helped develop 3D visualisation and then at the fabled Apple spin-off, General Magic. He was among the first employees of Netscape, where he was chief technology of officer. Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape, has described him is a “technology visionary”.
At speech recognition start-up Tellme, Giannandrea inspired respect: “There were three types of engineers; those who wanted to work for JG, those who wanted to work with JG and those who wanted to be JG,” recalled a colleague. “He has far-reaching vision with the ability to go very deep, very quickly.” In 2005, he co-founded Metaweb Technologies and there led the Freebase project, an open database of well-know lms, books, TV shows, locations, celebrities and companies, built by a global community of volun- teers. Google bought it in 2010.
Giannandrea headed Google’s subsequent ‘knowledge graph’ initiative which powers the box that pops up next to the search bar when you type in a query, and has been a leading gure in its self-driving car project.
He was also involved in the introduction of Google’s RankBrain, which uses articial intelligence to embed huge amounts of written information into mathematical language that a computer can understand. RankBrain has become an important factor in the quality of search result that is displayed. Giannandrea will now lead Google’s embrace of machine intelligence, a means by which computers can process data on their own, without being explicitly programmed.
Last autumn, at an information session for reporters on machine learning at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, Giannandrea spoke about the use of artificial intelligence in search. “We think that something really big is happening – something new and signicant.”
Cashmore started Mashable as a WordPress blog from his bedroom at his parents’ house in Banchory, Aberdeenshire, aged 19. The name “grew out of this idea of recombination, taking things that existed and putting them together,” he recalled. Cashmore began covering how people were using the web, how it was making an impact on their lives and how social media was changing the way we connect. Today, the site has 45 million monthly unique visitors and 27 million social media followers. It was reported recently that the site was for sale for more than $300m.
Brothers Jamie and Stephen Coleman have put Edinburgh’s start-up scene on the map, literally. Together, under one roof, more than 60 companies, which have included FanDuel, Kotikan, MiiCard, Rightscale, Cloudsoft and Float, form the UK’s largest tech incubator. Jamie has a life sciences background, and is currently a director of Biospoke, an open medicine technology company, and Stephen is a computer arts graduate. As well as CodeBase, which is supported by Capita, they also run the Turing Festival, Edinburgh’s international technology festival.
Intent on starting his own business since he was 16 – when he unsuccessfully sought backing for home delivering groceries – Edinburgh-based Dorren was one of the first Britons to try his luck in Silicon Valley, persuading a pre-Google Eric Schmidt to invest in knowledge management rm Orbital Software, which oated for £80m in 2000 but fell victim to the dotcom crash.
He then launched dailydeal.co.uk but lacked the financial resources of Groupon. In 2008, he started Diet Chef, home delivering healthy meals, which has grown to annual sales of more than £15m. Last year, he resisted the temptation to sell the company and instead bought out the firm’s main investor Piper Private Equity. Dorren was also an early investor in fantasy sports firm FanDuel and has invested in Scottish start-ups Flavourly, Brewhive and TVsquared.
As a co-founder, Eccles has been pivotal in FanDuel’s growth from an Edinburgh-based start-up to a transatlantic sports entertainment business with millions of users in North America. Her expertise lies in maximising the company’s multi-million dollar marketing spend to acquire and retain fantasy sports players. This year the company is driving international expansion by developing a daily fantasy football product, designed specically for the UK market and set to launch this summer. Eccles is also increasingly the public face of FanDuel, speaking at events such as the Turing Festival in Edinburgh.
Garbut has held the title since the development of Grand Theft Auto 3, the 2001 game that made the series the most famous in gaming, setting a new standard for virtual open worlds, and established the Edinburgh-based studio on the world stage. He oversaw the creation of the unique look of each sprawling GTA setting — Liberty City, based on New York City; Vice City, based on Miami; and San Andreas, based on California. As co-studio lead, Garbut shares responsibility for heading up Rockstar North with fellow Rockstar Games veteran Rob Nelson. As the driving forces behind Rockstar Games, Sam Houser, Dan Houser, Leslie Benzies and Garbut were awarded a BAFTA in 2014.
An early pioneer of digital in Scotland, he founded a globally successful video game business in Dundee in 1996. Today his expertise combines start-up, development and market- listed business in technology, media and entertainment. Most recently founder of the Tayforth Group and 4J Studios; the latter being one of the UK’s most successful videogame developers, responsible for the multi-million selling and multi-award winning Minecraft console editions. Honoured by Scottish universities, he also sits on the boards of a number of start-ups and enterprise organisations and is the founding chairman of Entrepreneurial Scotland.
Co-founder of one of the UK’s fastest growing digital marketing agencies, headquartered in Edinburgh. Menzies and her team run a number of SEO and content marketing briefs for clients including the BBC, Conde Nast, Universal Music, Aman Resorts and Standard Life. She was part of the founding team at bigmouthmedia, a successful search marketing business which merged with DigitasLBi before being acquired by French advertising giant Publicis in a £330m deal in 2012.
Co-founder of a company dedicated to developing world-leading technology that accelerates the translation of precision medicine and biomedical research into clinical practice. Prior to Aridhia, Sibbald was co-founder, chairman and CEO of Atlantech Technologies, a communications software company sold to Cisco Systems in 2000. A Fellow of the RSE, he holds honorary doctorates from three Scottish Universities. He is the founder of the Kate MacAskill Foundation, which provides education, care and micro-enterprise funding in the developing world and was awarded an OBE for charitable services in Scotland and overseas. This year Sibbald received the Outstanding Contribution Award at the Scottish Life Sciences Award, created especially for his contribution to the industry.
Aberdeen University graduate Smith leads a team of nearly 100 highly-skilled professionals at Amazon’s Development Centre in Edinburgh, which was the company’s first dedicated R&D facility outside of America. The teams invent new technologies which operate at high scale with projects such as intelligent advertising and personalised online shopping recommendations, benefitting Amazon customers worldwide. Joining Amazon in 2006, Smith held several roles before becoming MD in 2010. Prior to this, he held software engineering and leadership positions in a startup along with investment banking, retail banking and consultancy businesses. Whilst a student, he invented the world’s first commercial source code metrics tool for Java.
From leaving school at 16 to work as a tyre fitter, Welch is today heading for a £100m sale of his Peebles- based online tyre retailer. When the garage he was working for closed in 1997, Welch set up a website and sold tyres delivered direct to customers. Supported by a £500 grant from the Prince’s Trust and night shifts at Tesco, Welch soon came to the attention of Sir Tom Farmer and was hired to launch Kwik- t.com.
After leaving Kwik-Fit in 2001, he founded Blackcircles, which combined his previous business with a self-generated network of fitters at independent garages. Last year, Michelin bought Blackcircles for £50m, a gure that is expected to double based on performance targets. Welch plans to stay with the rm and take it global. He has established a children’s charity, The Welch Trust, and was this year awarded an OBE.
Fascinated with computers as a teenager, Williams studied mathematics and computing at Manchester University where he met Bonamy Grimes and Barry Smith, who went on to become Skyscanner co-founders. Frustrated at having to visit several sites to compare prices for a flights to visit his brother who was living in France, Williams came up with the idea of a single comparison site. From a simple Excel sheet, Edinburgh-based startup Skyscanner was born. Offcially launched in 2003, it has become the number one slight search engine in Europe and is expanding in the Asia-Pacific region.
Eddie Anderson, partner, Pentech Ventures
Anderson has more than 20 years’ experience in building software companies. Pentech is an investor in fantasy sports’ site FanDuel and investment site Nutmeg.
Paul Atkinson, managing partner, Par Equity
With Atkinson’s background in the semiconductor and IT industries, Par Equity is an investor in identity- as-a-service miiCard and visible light communication technology PureLiFi.
Leslie Benzies, former president, Rockstar North
Benzies was lead developer in the iconic Grand Theft Auto series, taking responsibility for GTA 3 in 2001 through nine successor titles including its current incarnation GTA 5.
Bill Buchanan, professor of computing, Edinburgh Napier University
An expert in online security, a prolific academic author, he is recognised for his excellence in knowledge transfer.
Professor Alan Bundy, professor, School of Informatics, Edinburgh University
A leader in the development of artificial intelligence, he has made world-leading contributions to automated reasoning and representations of knowledge.
Pete Burns, managing director, Blonde Digital
Has worked with a range of high- pro le clients such as Marks & Spencer, Glasgow 2014, Sony and New Balance, and added more with the acquisition of Line Digital.
Freda O’Byrne, co-founder, Prewired
Frustrated at the lack of coding lessons in primary school, O’Byrne co-founded prewired.org, an Edin- burgh-based programming club for anyone aged 19 and under.
Colin Cook, head of digital public services, Scottish Government
Responsible for enabling transformation across the public sector, promoting digital participation and delivering mygov.scot. Previously with the Army where he pioneered online recruiting.
Brendan Dick, director, BT Scotland
Early career spent in information technology, designing, developing and deploying large systems across the UK. BT has committed £125m to the rollout of superfast broadband in Scotland.
Gerry Docherty, chief executive, Smarter Grid Solutions
A member of the Par Equity syndicate, investing in sustainable technology start-ups Docherty is also an entrepreneur in residence Edinburgh University’s Informatics Forum.
Gillian Docherty, chief executive, The Data Lab
Docherty is responsible for delivering the strategic vision set out by The Data Lab Board, the aim of which is to to generate more than £100m for Scotland’s economy.
Peter Docherty, chief technology officer, ThinkAnalytics
A Strathclyde University computer science graduate, Docherty was previously a technical manager for Hewlett-Packard. Think’s technology services more than 130 million viewers, across 16 countries worldwide.
Nigel Eccles, CEO, FanDuel
Maths graduate Eccles worked for McKinsey and Johnston Press before launching news prediction game Hub-Dub, then daily fantasy sports business FanDuel with his fellow co-founders, transforming the way that millions of Americans experience sports.
Peter Ellen, chief executive, Big Data for Humans
The founder of Fopp, he sold the music store to HMV in 2007. BDH is described as “the world’s first automated customer insights engine”.
David Ferguon, chief executive, Nucleus Financial
Creator of the UK’s first crowd-funded and “genuinely collaborative platform” that combines a client’s investments into a single account, he aims to grow its value to £20bn.
Graeme Gordon, Chief executive, IFB
Has developed the Aberdeen-based independent ISP to deliver city-wide wi-fi, distance learning software for further education and the design and commercialisation of IFB’s own UK network infrastructure.
Steven Grier, country manager, Microsoft
Responsible for helping Scotland gain business advantage from use of the Microsoft Cloud, creating jobs with its IT apprenticeship and skills programme, and delivering education assets.
Judith Halkerston, chairman, Symphonic
An IT and business change veteran, Halkerston chairs this Napier University spin-out which provides authentication of requests for data access between trusted partners.
Richard Hasinski, Founder, One Thumb Mobile
A Glasgow-based app developer for Visa, Honda and Liverpool FC, One Thumb is also known for Celtic Heroes, its highly-successful multiplayer game based around the Celtic mythology of Iron Age Scotland and Ireland.
Michael Hayes, founder, RookieOven
Co-founder of Add Jam, creating active travel apps for Glasgow’s £24m Future City Project, he has established an incubator based in a former Govan shipyard office.
Richard Higgs, chief executive, brightsolid
Dundee-based DC Thomson split Brightsolid Group in 2014, appointing Higgs as chief executive of its data centre business.
Kate Ho, head of product, digital public services, Scottish Government
An Edinburgh University informatics graduate, Ho formerly led app builder Interface3 and Tigerface Games before joining the Government to work on health and wider citizen service platforms.
John Innes, technology investor
One time New Romantic band guitar player, he led the management buyout of Amor, subsequently bought by Lockheed Martin creating around 20 millionaires within its ranks.
David Jones, creative director, Reagent Games
Jones founded DMA Designs, now Rockstar North, which released the genre defining Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, and founded Realtime Worlds. Today, he is involved in companies in Scotland and San Francisco.
Phil Johnston, managing director, Tomo Technology
Having turned an insolvent Glasgow business into a mobile phone repair firm worth £14m and launched a phone/tablet recycling company before selling for £20m, Johnston is now investing in technology businesses.
Duncan Logan, chief executive, Rocket Space
From St Andrews, at 24 Logan started his rst company, building it to $8m in revenue before selling. He helped build MessageLabs until its $700m sale to Symantec. Moving to San Francisco in 2008, he started a property finding service before launching Rocket Space in 2011, a tech incubator that counts Spotify and Uber among its alumni.
Colin Macdonald, head, All 4 Games
A DMA Designs and Realtime Worlds alumnus, Macdonald leads Channel 4’s Glasgow-based games publishing arm. He is also chairman of Ednburgh-based Speech Graphics and a member of the Digital Media Industry Advisory Group.
Angus MacSween, chief executive, iomart Group
Established iomart as one of the major providers of cloud and managed hosting services to UK business, with a market cap of £250m and a place on the UK Government’s G Cloud procurement register.
Greg Mesch, chief executive, CityFibre
With more than 25 years’ experience in technology-based businesses, he was involved in the founding of Esat Tele-com, later sold to BT for more than €1bn, and of Versatel Telecom, sold for more than €2bn to Tele2.
Ed Molyneux, chief executive, FreeAgent
Former RAF pilot Molyneux moved into IT consultancy but, after exasperation at the lack of hassle-free accounting systems for freelancers, co-founded FreeAgent. Last summer, it raised £1.2m on equity crowdfunding site Seedrs.
Sharon Moore, CTO, digital engagement, IBM
A software engineering graduate of Glasgow University, she uses analytics to help companies organisations better understand their customers. Moore is also on the board of Scotland Women in Technology. In January this year, she was appointed IBM’s industry architect for travel and transportation.
Keith Neilson, chief executive, Craneware
Along with co-founder Gordon Craig, Neilson has built Craneware into a major player in the US healthcare billing and audit market, its Edinburgh-based team helping hospitals direct more revenue into patient care.
Polly Purvis, chief executive, ScotlandIS
Formerly with RBS and Scottish Enterprise, Purvis leads the trade body for Scotland’s digital technologies industry. She also chairs the board of CodeClan and is executive director of the Dot Scot Registry.
Varun Nair, vice-president, Two Big Ears
A sound design graduate of Edinburgh College of Art, Nair co-founded Two Big Ears with fellow student Abesh Thakur to create a novel audio technology. It has been used by New York’s Museum of Modern Art for a Björk restrospective.
Cally Russell, founder and CEO, Mallzee
Mallzee searches more than 150 retailers, helping users save time and money based on learning their preferences. It has secured £2.5m from Royal Mail Group, the Scottish Investment Bank and ParEquity as well as individual investors.
Calum Smeaton, founder, TVsquared
Formerly, chief executive of of Sumerian, a provider of big data analytics for retail and investment banks, Smeaton founded TVsquared in 2012 to offer near real-time analytics for TV advertisers.
Gordon Stuart, director of operations, Informatics Ventures
With experience in a fast-growth company, Stuart has mentored and invested in more than 20 companies. Informatics Ventures hosts the annual ‘Engage, Invest, Exploit’ showcase at which Scotland’s start-ups pitch to top investors.