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Hunter and Watt lead search for £100m firms

Scalers: Sir Tom Hunter and Willie Watt

Investor and entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter’s philanthropic foundation has teamed up with the Scottish National Investment Bank, chaired by Willie Watt, to help build 12 companies with a combined turnover of more than £1 billion.

The hugely ambitious ScaleupScotland2.0 programme will draw on unspecified funds from the bank and others, but its key focus is on equipping a select cohort of fast-growth firms with the skills, management and sales techniques to transform their prospects.

The programme draws heavily on advice and support from a group of experienced company builders, financiers and high-achievers from a number of disciplines, including former Dragons’ Den panelist Theo Paphitis, Scottish businessman Lord Haughey and Calum Smeaton who built and exited TV Squared in a $160m deal.

The package of support put together by the Hunter Foundation and SNIB is worth an estimated £50,000 and the programme builds on the success of It addresses a perceived lack of strategic support available to high growth businesses. The plan is to scale up each participating company into a £100 million turnover business.

In addition to individually-tailored consultancy and sector specific support, CEOs will participate in quarterly retreats to focus on common challenges through a mixture of specialist and peer to peer learning experiences as well as access to entrepreneurs. 

Adviser: Theo Paphitis (pic: Terry Murden)

Wider leadership teams will benefit from retreats specific to functional heads where they can access specialist and peer to peer interactive learning.

Sir Tom said:“Through our existing ScaleUpScotland programme we recognised we needed to deliver a programme for the next level up and that’s what we are doing with the 2.0 version offering far more tailored, one to one sectoral growth support.

“Multiple studies, including our own commissioned by Oxford Economics, detail precisely why Scotland needs more scale-ups – this programme will provide precise, laser focussed support to high growth businesses with massive ambition.

“Scotland fundamentally needs far more ambitious scale-ups and to enable them we have to offer the right support – our economy depends on scale-ups, they are the engine of growth and prosperity so if we want to deliver a ten-year growth strategy this is one starting point.”

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Mr Watt, whose time heading up investment group 3i in Scotland involved a number of big ticket deals, said the ScaleUp2.0 programme aligns with the Bank’s missions and a key strategic priority for the Bank is to support businesses looking to scale.

“The Bank is committed to investing in innovation and industries of the future with the aim of supporting a more resilient and productive economy.

“We know that the success of high growth business is critical to boosting Scotland’s productivity and this programme not only looks to address the financing gap for scale-up businesses but will provide future business leaders with mentoring and expert advice to support their growth ambitions. This will enable CEOs to take a longer-term approach to value creation and help Scotland to build more home-grown businesses.”

Speaking to Daily Business he said that not having a specific fund was not a problem as capital could be raised as required from a number of sources, including the £2bn of taxpayers’ money allocated to the bank over ten years by the Scottish Government.

He admitted that it may not be possible for the bank to invest in a company in sectors such as oil and gas unless it was “pivoting” into sustainable products and processes, even if it met the other criteria for building a £100m business.

Asked about the absence of business angel groups and female business leaders on the list of advisers, he said it was an initial group of individuals and that contributions from others would be welcome.

Separately, he said the search for a new chief executive to replace Eilidh Mactaggart, who quit controversially at the beginning of the year, had produced a number of “really good candidates”.

Asked if a new CEO would be announced by the end of the year, he replied: “Probably”.

Entrepreneurs undertaking masterclasses and dinners as part of the ScaleupScotland2.0 programme will include:

Bob Keiller who sold PSN for £600M 

Calum Paterson, managing partner at Scottish Equity Partners

Calum Smeaton who recently exited TV Squared

Sir Christopher Evans, biotech entrepreneur who created and publicly listed 20 of his own companies and built 25 private businesses

Chris van der Kuyl, founder of Chroma Ventures, games guru and chair of Parsley Box

Sir Jackie Stewart, former Formula One racing driver and philanthropist

Kristian Tapaninaho and Darina Garland, founders of Ooni Pizza Ovens

Mark Beaumont, world record holding endurance athlete, author, broadcaster and partner in EOS Advisory

Mike Reid, founder and senior partner, Frog Capital 

Theo Paphitis, retail entrepreneur, philanthropist and former panellist on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den

Sir Tom Hunter, chair of West Coast Capital and The Hunter Foundation

Lord Willie Haughey, founder of City Facilities Management Holdings

Willie Watt, chair of the Scottish National Investment Bank

How to Apply

Companies should email with entries closing on Monday 19 September at midnight. All applicants whether successful or not will be offered both advice on their propositions and signposting to ongoing support. 

Should companies not be successful for ScaleUpScotland2.0 they will be considered for

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