Chairman Chris van der Kuyl’s opening speech at the 2013 Annual Awards Dinner at The Hilton, Glasgow
Entrepreneurs, fellow members and special guests it is my great pleasure as Chairman to extend the warmest of welcomes to you all as we gather here tonight at Scotland’s premier business awards dinner which truly is “for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs”.
Our annual awards dinner is always the highlight of the programme of events – as members this is YOUR dinner, a night to celebrate YOUR success and it is the time of year when we look back and celebrate your achievements.
Tonight is a night like no other! Being in a room with almost 500 of Scotland’s wealth creators is an exhilarating feeling, like no other. We’re all in it together – sitting next to you is likely to be someone who is where you’re at, opposite might be someone who is where you want to be!
We have a few special guests with us this evening and I’d like to extend a welcome to John Swinney, MSP for North Tayside and Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth. John it’s great to have you here this evening.
We’re also joined by some of Scotland’s most iconic entrepreneurs, many of whom are inductees of our distinguished Hall of Fame – Lord Willie Haughey, John Boyle, Charan Gill and, representing her late father Gordon, Audrey Baxter.
Although I hold the position of Chairman, I too am a member and it is my job and that of the board to work on your behalf to ensure the Entrepreneurial Exchange is an organisation that stays true to its founding principles yet remains relevant during times of change and significant – we are the voice of the entrepreneur in Scotland.
All of you here this evening are running real growth companies which are the life blood of our economy – over the past year I’ve met many of you at various events up and down the country and the ambition, drive and appetite for success is staggering! It seems that when times were tough, you all took stock of the situation, refocused your energies and have emerged not battle worn but battle hardened and ready for any challenge that can be thrown at us. I believe that we are all now operating in a world and a business environment that has fundamentally changed forever. Those of us who are on the entrepreneurial journey know that changes like those we have just witnessed are not just laced with hard times but also with significant opportunities.
We deliver a consistent message as the voice of the entrepreneur – entrepreneurship is about creating businesses of substance and scale, whether started from scratch, bought or inherited. We need the population of Scotland to understand the importance of ambition in business, not necessarily so that they will start and grow a business but so that they will be supportive of those that do.
As we know the next ten months are going to be a full on assault on the senses as the two sides in the Scottish Independence debate build up to a climax around the time of the Ryder Cup. Sometimes I wonder if it might be even more constructive to settle the debate over 18 holes …. of Crazy Golf!! Alex Salmond vs Alistair Darling, John Swinney vs Gordon Brown the mind boggles.
With the publishing of the YES campaign’s White Paper last week the competition exits the phoney war and the real debate now begins.
Whatever ever your views as an Entrepreneur we are living through a time of massive change and massive opportunity and it is incumbent on everyone one of us and on the Exchange itself to ask the tough questions, demand the right answers and ensure that a full picture emerges to allow us all to make the right decision.
In this time of change there is nothing more certain than the Country Needs Entrepreneurs. The Exchange needs to make sure that it is more relevant than ever, that is is best positioned for maximum impact and growth and we operate as the true Voice of all Entrepreneurs whatever their age and stage.
At a policy level the Exchange has had a busy year as the go-to organisation for growth companies, contributing to the recently published entrepreneurship and innovation framework “Scotland Can Do” and to the skills for growth and role model work-streams of the MIT REAPprogramme. We presented evidence at the Scottish Parliament and also at a UK level with the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship and the Enterprise Research Centre at a House of Lords roundtable discussion on growth companies.
We continue to play an active leadership role in Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and I am very confident that collectively we can make a real difference in Scotland – each focusing on our own areas of expertise but continuing to work together.
Many members actively support our key partners in the ecosystem –from enterprise education to business creation – getting involved in Microtyco; the Social Enterprise Academy, Young Enterprise Scotland in schools and now in colleges with its new Bridge 2 Business programme, SIE in universities, The Prince’s Trust, Power of Youth, the Espark Acceler8 programme, Women’s Enterprise Scotland and the Saltire Foundation.
As an example…. the Exchange was heavily involved in the launch of Global Entrepreneurship Week in Scotland last week at Shawlands Academy.[ At the event the current crop of Young Enterprise Scotland entrepreneurs were inspired by former YES alumni Steven Reynolds and his business Microfitness after the official launch by Minister for Youth Employment Angela Constance.]
The high impact start-up scene is in full flow with the IDEA Scotland accelerator in Dundee and TechCube in Edinburgh hosting technology companies with real global ambition. Informatics Ventures is now Scotland wide and has gone on tour to London where tonight some of Scotland’s most exciting tech companies are pitching for investment – including Exchange members Mark Simmers of Celtic Renewables and Pete Higgins of UWI. Fingers crossed guys.
Staying with high impact entrepreneurship, The Converge Challenge has established itself at the heart of the university spin-out and start up process in Scotland with Exchange members again prominently supporting the selection process, in particular those involved in early stage funding through Par Equity, Gabriel Investments and Kelvin Capital.
We also continue to work closely with Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise – not just to influence policy but to provide practical signposting to the fantastic support that is out there for the ambitious wealth creator.
At the early stage growth phase the Exchange provides judges for the Scottish EDGE judging process and also support to successful recipients of EDGE funding and we are delighted to have Gerry Abrahams, Brian Woods and Graeme Harvey with us here this evening and hope to see them back as part of our own awards in years to come.
The Enterprise Research Centre I mentioned a moment ago has highlighted the effectiveness of the Scottish Enterprise Companies of Scale Programme and we continue to work closely with the SE team to help develop the mid-sized businesses that Scotland needs – the MacMittlestand as it is being dubbed.
And we must not forget the role that our specially selected Corporate Members play in supporting the ecosystem and our thanks must go to all of them for continuing to partner with the Exchange and allowing us to deliver for our members and for the wider community in Scotland.
We are delighted that so many of our ecosystem partners are here tonight and for those of you that are already involved we thank you and for those that are not yet involved there are great opportunities for you to give something back. Whether acting as role models, hosting student placements or actively engaging as mentors – you can all make a difference.
Turning to our core business, it’s no easy task to pull together an annual programme of events that caters for entrepreneurs no matter their stage on the journey – yet year after year Jacqueline Walker pulls it off! If you’re growing a business, selling a businesse or needing a wee shot of inspiration you’ll find something to suit.
Members will know that the day to day operations are effortlessly dealt with by Kirsty, Catherine and Karen – thank you guys. We also have two special guests tonight Stephen Knox and Nicole Perry who have provided great support to the Exchange as interns working on membership development projects and Exchange team is here on table 16 so make sure you pop over and say hi!
All of the speakers and chairs at all of our events give their time freely – sharing experiences with fellow members and our heartfelt thanks go to all of them – they are our secret sauce.
Tonight rewards success and later this evening we will find out who will be named Emerging and Entrepreneur of the Year and induct two distinguished entrepreneurs into our Hall of Fame.
But tonight really is about you, our members. We asked you what kind of year you’d had and the shy and retiring bunch that you are couldn’t wait to tell us – well if you don’t blow your own trumpet.
Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 – Nigel Chadwick, Stream Communications
Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 – Hamid Guedroudj, Petroleum Experts
Hall of Fame Inductees 2013 – Roy McGregor and Ann Budge