Archives for category: business growth

With the summer finally upon us, these few months off from study can be a great time to get started on a business idea. Today, we’re focusing on starting a business from your bedroom! Inspired by summer holidays and booking flights, we are looking back a talk Skyscanner CEO and co-founder, Gareth Williams gave at our 2014 Student Enterprise Summit.

Skyscanner is a global travel search site, a place where people are inspired to plan and book direct from millions of travel options.  Skyscanner initially grew by word of mouth, and when thousands of people were using the prototype site every day, the three founders quit their day jobs. They opened an office in Edinburgh, and officially launched the Skyscanner site in 2003.


In his talk, Gareth discusses the origins of the business, the importance of thinking from a user’s perspective, and how their prototype spreadsheet has grown to become a multi-million pound company employing over 250 people, with offices in Scotland, Singapore, Beijing and Miami.

Extra enterprise skills can help no matter which path you want to take. Our workshops and masterclasses are the perfect places to start gathering those extra skills but we also regularly share advice on our website and right here on our blog (subscribe below to catch all SIE posts).

Inspiration has struck you for a brilliant business idea. You do some market research and discover that no one else is offering anything similar right now. There is a market! Now you start to worry, what if someone else …? Our Business and Innovation Advisor Tom is on the case with advice and five top tips!

Protecting Your Idea graphic

Thankfully, those who come up with new ideas, such as inventors, artists and business founders are granted certain exclusive rights to commercialise their creations for a specified duration. These creations are known as intellectual property or IP. Crucially, an idea alone is not intellectual property. IP is something unique that you physically create. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do.

So, business ideas as such cannot be protected but you can use a combination of copyright, design registration, trademarks and patents to protect the important details:


Copyright: Original artistic works, including: software, pictures and drawings.

Registered Designs: How things look: their appearance; physical shape and configuration.

Trade Marks: Product names and brands, including: words; logos; colours and sounds.

Patents: Something new and inventive that can be made or used


Protection is granted automatically for some types of IP, such as copyright. Other types of IP, such as trademarks and patents, need to be formally registered. In the UK, the Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) is the official government body responsible for IP rights. It is also a great source of guidance on all aspects of IP.

My Top 5 Tips for IP Creators:

  1. Do your research – you have already been smart and verified that people want your product. Now you need to research the IP. Even if you can’t find any evidence that a product exists in the market someone may have filed a patent. If you have come up with a great name for your business and you can’t find anyone using it on Google, does someone already own the Trade Mark? Use the UK IPO database search facilities and find out what is already out there. This could save you a lot of time and money!
  2. Keep it to yourself – not because others will steal your idea, you actually need to be good at selling your idea to others and enlisting their help to make it happen. However, if you invent something new and share it publicly it can no longer be patented. So, learn to talk about the benefits of your invention and keep exactly how it works, a secret.
  3. IP is valuable – Ideas alone are worthless. When you turn them into IP you create valuable assets. These will not only help you build a business but can also be sold or licensed to others.
  4. Make sure it works – James Dyson spent 15 years and reputedly made 5,127 prototypes to perfect his cleaner. Prototype and test till you know you have something that works before investing in IP Protection. If you come up with a great name for a product or business, test it out with potential customers first. Build a landing page, a social media site or create some business cards and go networking. Watch for peoples’ reactions.
  5. Get advice – protecting IP can be expensive. Seek help and guidance to navigate your way through what can be a commercial minefield. Remember also that SIE can help fund your IP Protection.


If you’d like to talk to a Business and Innovation advisor, you can contact them directly via the SIE website.


This article originally appeared in Ignite Magazine, Issue 14.

Thinkfresh_100213_2 Founded by a team of four students at Edinburgh University, thinkfresh is revolutionizing the way office workers do lunch by making eating healthy more convenient foods than ever before. Thinkfresh are a lunch delivery service that brings the best of local Scottish foods right to your desk. As the winners of SIE’s recent new venture competition, thinkfresh will be launching a beta period to an exclusive set of customers this month. Sign up to join our community and like us on Facebook to stay in the loop about our upcoming launch!

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Young Innovators Challenge

The Scottish Government wants to support new business development and innovative ideas from Scotland’s final year students and have launched The Young Innovators Challenge managed by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise. There are 6 prizes of up to £50,000 to be won and competition winners will also be guaranteed a years’ worth of business support to help develop their idea into a viable business after graduation.

Five key industry sectors have been selected by the government for this initiative: oil & gas; renewables; textiles; food & drink, and built environment. Students are invited to submit an idea for a new business in one of the sectors for a chance to win funding and support to take their idea forward. Ideas out with those sectors can be entered into a General category.

The ideas will be judged by industry experts and, on graduating, the winner from each category could receive up to £50,000 funding and a year’s business support to develop their idea for a new business or social enterprise. Shortlisted entrants (3 per category) will be invited to attend a 4 day residential bootcamp (an intensive experience to develop business skills.)

Five Challenge Videos have been produced to help inspire new ideas. Each video provides an overview of the sector, opportunities and the challenges faced. These videos were debuted at Challenge Lab events in February and are now viewable online (at and on youtube: YIC2013challenges).

The competition web pages also include useful tips and guidance from the events and additional information to help you with your entry. If you complete the first stage of the application by April 8th you’ll be guaranteed a 1-to-1 meeting with a business advisor from SIE who’ll help you work on your idea! Entry is online from There are two parts to your entry and both parts must be complete by May 31st. If you complete the first part by April 8th, however, you’ll be guaranteed a one-to one meeting with an advisor from the Scottish Institute for Enterprise who will help you with your idea.

Scotland has produced some of the world’s greatest innovators and most enduring ideas. Are you up to the Challenge?

• See the YIC newsletter, for up-to-date information, tips and advice. Sign up at: –
• Follow the challenge on twitter: – twitter @YIC2013 (#inspirationalideas)
• Watch the Challenge videos on Youtube: -YIC2013challenges
• Like the challenge on Facebook : –

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Winner of App Jam 2013: Adrian Guzinski

With the help of Informatics Ventures, and Edinburgh Napier University,  Darren Whigham the Informatics Intern for Edinburgh and the East organised a fantastic event called App Jam 2013 that took place on the 27th February 2013. It was held at Edinburgh Napier’s Merchiston Campus and brought 25 students together for 9 hours. The overall objective for the day was to make an application or game within that time frame.

While the students worked away on their apps a variety of industry experts came to speak to students. Companies such as Skyscanner, Codeplay, Mydex were in attendance.

The variety of different apps and games that were developed on the day was truly amazing and is testament to what students can achieve with focus and a little motivation. And what’s better motivation for students than free food? SIE organised some tasty nibbles for attendees to snack on throughout the day and in the evening and Edinburgh Napier placed a massive order with Domino’s pizza. Yum!

There was even a prize giving at the end of the evening for the top 5 applications/games made at the event.  All prizes were donated by Informatics Ventures, Microsoft and Edinburgh Napier University. Congratulations to Adrian Guzinski who was the overall winner on the day, well done!

“I set up my company, (Shirtbyhand) myself in may 2011 and have run the business single handed since. As we do a lot of personal appointment at people offices and customers the area we work in is limited, due to this I have mainly focused on Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and travel down to London a few times a year.

A few months ago I came to the point where I needed to get new people on board to keep the company growing as there is only that much you can do by yourself. In October I started conversation with a sport player who now has joined the company (press releases will be out soon so watch this space…).

He is based in Edinburgh and has a huge network out there. Due to this sport commitments he cannot do the personal appointments himself and that is when we started the recruitment process. We found the right candidate for our style advisor position in Edinburgh in the first week of 2013. Our new employee will start her training this weekend during the Your Wedding Exhibition in Aberdeen where ShirtbyHand has stand.”

Exciting to see Roberts business growing. SIE look forward to reading the press releases to be released soon and wish him well.


“I am a 4th year Student at RGU Grays School of Art studying Textiles and Surface Design. Last January Cari & Co was set up selling Fashion Accessories made predominantly from Scottish tweeds and tartans.

Initially I began selling to UK customers such as the National Trust and the Highland Store in London; however while taking part in the Scottish Trade Fair in Glasgow, a Japanese buyer placed a large order and has ordered regularly ever since.  Consequently, I was invited to take part in the British Fair held in Japan promoting and my selling Scottish products: this is an experience I will never forget. Unbelievably I heard just two weeks ago that I had been shortlisted with my children’s fashion accessory for the Gift of the Year 2013 competition and now this week I’m a Finalist. ”

SIE wish Carolyn luck for the upcoming competition and hope to hear much more about Cari & Co in the not so distant future.

Helen Fisher with Brian Baillie and Tom McGuire

Helen Fisher talks to SIE about her business and what it means for her to win the Santander Pitching Competition.

“I have recently graduated with a degree in Product Design from the Edinburgh College of Art. Upon leaving University, I have joined a design consultancy and set up my own business – Helen Fisher Design Limited.

My business aims at creating innovative design solutions to current problems, with the focus to improve quality of life. I am currently developing the product range that I invented in my final year at ECA, with the aim of bringing to market in early 2013.

The Santander Pitching Competition, arranged by the Entrepreneurship Club, has allowed me to continue to make this happen. The competition had a diverse range of participants and attendees, making for an interesting evening and successful networking. I would like to thank the Entrepreneurship Club and Santander for this opportunity, and also SIE and Launch.ed for their continued support over the past year.”

This is the final follow up to our earlier post:  “Student Start-Up Advice (via Twitter!)”
Question 4: Can you grow your new business without sacrificing control?

The consensus here was that, unless you plan to stay very small, eventually you will have to pass some of the responsibility for the business to others – and that is a good thing. 

  • Depends how big your want to grow your biz.
  • Depends what your ambitions are
  • some businesses get too big for one person to handle/control. Do you need a team or an exit strategy to start something new?
  • I think you cannot. Letting go and trusting a careful chosen talented team is ESSENTIAL.
  • I think that sometimes you have to ‘let go’ a bit, if you want to grow really big. New people will add new vigour.
  • Interesting fact from #ycfconference – 80% of founders who achieve investment don’t remain CEO of their company (note from editor: that doesn’t mean they are not still involved)
  • Worth thinking about which parts you want to control yourself, and which bits others are better placed to look after.

Have you already got a great business idea or do you just have an idea that you would like to start a business?
Well, that’s the bit you have to do for yourself*. After that there is no shortage of support and advice out there, you only need to ask. If you are a student, then you are already in the right place, as you are reading the Scottish Institute for Enterprise blog and SIE is here to help you.

If you are planning on starting your own business, then there is a long road ahead of you and you need to prepare. Fortunately for you, Scotland doesn’t have a one-stop shop for business start-up advice, it has a whole High Street! For students, SIE will be your guide and tell you the best places to go. For everyone else, just go into the first shop that appeals to you and ask. It may not be quite the right place to go, but if its not, they will gently point you in the right direction. After all, you are a stranger in this world of business, and you may not understand the language.  You may find that you have to visit a few shops until you find what you are looking for, but the shopkeepers are friendly, they want you to find what you are looking for.  If you want to succeed in business, you need to persevere; you’ll get there in the end.

So what is out there in Scotland’s Start-up high street?

  • Not sure what you want? Maybe you need to do a bit of research first. We’ll send you to Business Gateway to access information.
  • You are not doing it all on your own, you want to share with a team. Maybe you should try the Co-Op? We will introduce you.
  • Actually, you are an artist. You need to visit the Cultural Enterprise Office! SIE will draw you a map to make sure you find it.
  • What’s that, you want to help others, not yourself, and start a charity or social enterprise? SIE will steer you to Firstport .
  • and don’t forget the lawyers, accountants, patent agents and others who can offer advice too. SIE will sit beside you and interpret for you, until you learn the language.

You’ve been down the street, and you’ve reached the green light.
Luckily there’s a friendly business community out there willing to provide advice, mentoring and sometimes even a bit of money to get you started. That’s a topic for our next post.

You’ve made it, now where do you buy a Ferrari?
Scotland has plenty of successful entrepreneurs who would know where to go. But beware, if you talk to them they may just persuade you to invest some of your hard earned cash into the next generation of start-ups instead!

So don’t ever let us hear you saying that that you don’t know where to go for advice. Just open a door and walk straight in.

*By the way, the first sentence of this post is not true. SIE will even teach you how to think creatively, so we can help you to come up with your own business idea.

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