The half-naked skateboarders flipped dangerously close by as I quizzed Doug Roth on American investment and scribbled shorthand notes I prayed I’d later decipher.
We were sitting in the sunshine in Bristo Square – “it’s always like this when I visit Edinburgh” he proclaimed – outside the stunning McEwan Hall where EiE 2018 was taking place.
The ubiquitous Russell Dalgleish had introduced us and I was keen to understand the connection between his investment group – Connecticut Innovations – and Scotland.
“I see a lot of similarities between Connecticut and this country,” he told me.
“We’re not like London, New York or San Francisco where talent can jump ship the second there’s the slightest leak because there are ten other companies they could work for. With our environments there is more loyalty – people have chosen to prioritise their work-life balance a bit more by living there.”
While the majority of companies CI supports are Connecticut natives, they have identified an opportunity to become the gateway for global companies looking to break America. Specifically the UK, Ireland, Belgium, France and Canada are on their radar and so they launched Venture Clash – a venture challenge with a $5m prize fund. (You have until the 8th of June to enter at ventureclash.com.)
Doug is keen to promote the competition and build relationships with Scottish companies in the longer term. The four areas of investment CI has identified seem well represented judging by the nearly 60 spotlight pitches we witnessed at today’s event – they are fintech, insuretech, the Internet of Things and digital health. In case you’re wondering, insurance is of specific interest as Hartford, the state’s capital, is where the headquarters of many of the biggest players are situated. Certainly the network around Connecticut Innovations – the lawyers, accountants, experts and advisors – would represent an extremely attractive opportunity for growing companies looking to trade across the pond.
“We would love to see a Scottish company win Venture Clash,” he said. “The support here in Scotland is fantastic and that set up is so important.”
Our chat was cut short when we realised the time and the fact he was due on stage. He dodged the skateboarders and made it to the auditorium. I hope some Scottish companies can do the same at Venture Clash.
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