Seed Haus: Scotland’s most selective tech incubator

Kirsty Irvine

Kirsty Irvine

Maritime Street in Leith; walking down this cobbled backstreet 100 years ago you’d be likely to encounter a drunken sailor or a character of questionable virtue thanks to its close proximity to the famous, and somewhat notorious, shipping docks.

However fast-forward a century later, the street now houses hustlers of a different kind, namely the savvy entrepreneurial kind, and is home to one of the UK’s most selective pre seed tech accelerators.

In early 2017 Seed Haus burst onto the tech scene with a stellar roster of high profile investors including BrewDog founder James Watt and philanthropist Sir Tom Hunter. It aimed to address a gap in the eco system by providing some of Scotland’s most exciting start-ups with pre-seed investment, mentorship and office space within the Leith based incubator. 

Calum Forsyth, CEO and co- founder, explains more; ‘Seed Haus has two purposes; we are investors in early stage tech starts-ups but also have a tech incubator component. We therefore invest directly in opportunities and house those companies on site with us so we can roll up our sleeves, get involved and help them grow’’. 

Plugging a gap in the tech ecosystem

In recent years Edinburgh’s robust innovation infrastructure thanks to its universities, programmes such as EIE and Scottish EDGE, and incubators like Codebase have created an environment which nurtures and encourages ambitious entrepreneurs. However while there’s extensive support to help start up a business, finding the right people to help grow and scale is still a genuine challenge. And it was for this reason that Forsyth and his co-founder Robin Knox (pictured below) created Seed Haus.

Showcasing best in class

‘We felt that there was support for people to get off the ground & running, but we wanted to give companies that have the potential to really scale, the best firm footing at the outset. So that’s giving them investment at a level that reflects the level of faith we have in them, making sure the founders are in a position where they haven’t sold too much of their company at an early stage, and showing them what best in class looks like. Our investors are all fantastic entrepreneurs and professionals in their own right, so by bringing everyone together to the same table, we felt we could offer something a bit different’.

According to Forsyth the location of Leith was chosen as ‘it’s an exciting space as there’s a lot of exciting companies based here. The guys from Future X are around the corner, Geared App are along the road, so are Campfire agency, there’s a nice little ecosystem emerging in down at the Shore and I quite like being left to our own devices and not getting caught up in everything that’s happening in the city’.

In September, the doors officially opened and everyone moved in. The companies chosen were:

  • SecurityCTRL – cybersecurity for cloud infrastructure
  • Sansible Wearables – body monitoring IoT technology
  • Drinkly – on-demand drinks service
  • Kindaba – collaborative communication platform for families
  • Taka – digital therapeutics for motor-control conditions

However three ‘entrepreneurs in residence’ were also selected, namely the CEOs of Amiqus, BlackBX and Pixey. According to Forsyth ‘these folks are perhaps 18 – 24 months further along from the five start-ups so are a great way to showcase what good looks like and hear some of the problems that can suddenly arise when you get to that size’.

Photo Credit- Alexandra Mancini - Seed Haus Investor Event

Community is key at Seed Haus, from the open plan design to the Monday morning group meetings; ‘The community bit is huge for us; we need to be confident that we don’t have any bad apples spoiling the mix so I’m very protective of who we have in here and how that works going forward. What’s really interesting is how the attitudes and behaviours of the different founders have influenced each other. 3 or 4 of our founders have PhDs so it’s been great to see how those deep tech founders see the hustle and sales attitude of our B2C players and learn from that’.

The importance of aligning aspirations

If the six degrees of separation rule applies globally, then in the Scottish tech ecosystem it is surely a mere one degree, such is the cohesion. And it was whilst doing the rounds that Forsyth met the tech team at Johnston Carmichael. Building relationships with firms who truly understood what Seed Haus was doing was key; ‘we knew that we were embarking on something where we don’t know where the end lies, but want to be at it for a number of years. We felt that JC not only had the skill set to add value in the short term, but were aligned with our aspirations to really build something big out of Scotland and for that reason we decided to partner up and collaborate closely’

From providing tax advice around the Seed Haus investment portfolio, to assessing opportunities, to helping the companies build financial models as they pursue different avenues of funding, the JC team work closely with both Forsyth and those in residence. ‘We need to be confident that the cohort’s finances and the way they articulate and present their opportunities is best in class, and we feel JC can help get them to that stage’.

Applications for cohort 2 opened at the end of 2017 and successful companies will soon be invited to move into the Maritime Street premises. Forsyth’s message to those thinking of applying to Seed Haus further down the line is ‘we offer significant investment for early stage companies and you’re receiving that funding from strategic, best in class investors who really understand how to build and grow large companies. Helping companies as efficiently and intensively as possible, is what Seed Haus is really passionate about’.

Calum will be joining JC for our Talking Tech events. Click here to find out more and register