Tech City Spotlight: Edinburgh
Despite London being the main focal point of the UK tech scene, Scotland has been quietly evolving and growing into a prosperous tech hub of its own. Scotland’s tech scene has maintained a strong growth rate of 43.4% over the last 5 years; well ahead of the UK average of 31.1%. Already Edinburgh has produced two out of the 152 unicorn companies in the world, a tech company valued at over $1 billion.
However, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. As a country Scotland has always been punching above it’s weight in terms of innovation. There’s a long history of famous inventors; John Logie Baird invented the television, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin and Kirkpatrick MacMillan invented the bicycle, to name just a few.
Edinburgh in particular is becoming Scotland’s tech hotspot and a point of interest for entrepreneurs and investors. Big hitters Amazon, Skyscanner and Rockstar North have all chosen to base themselves in the city and for good reason. Edinburgh Napier, Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities all have strong computer science departments which produce a constant flow of talent. On top of this they all also run their own incubation centers to support digital startups. Over the last five years Edinburgh’s School of Informatics has produced more than 60 startups and houses 550 researchers which makes it the largest in the UK.
It is these increasing numbers of incubation centers, collaborative spaces and support networks that play a significant role in supporting the Edinburgh’s crop of fast-growing startups, many of which could could quite easily become the next big thing in the tech world. Techcube, Codebase and Quartermile offer office space, networking opportunities and mentoring support for startups. The smallness of the city is also beneficial for startups; there is a definite community spirit where entrepreneurs are supportive of each other.
In terms of success stories Skyscanner (flight comparison site) and FanDuel (fantasy sport betting) are the obvious ones (and the unicorns). The Skyscanner office opened in Edinburgh in 2004 and since then has grown to employ over 600 people in 9 global offices. Fanduel have 170 staff in Edinburgh, 330 in the US and literally have investors knocking on their door. So far the company has had a total of £234 million in investment, from the likes of Google Capital and Turner Sports. Mallzee, ZoneFox and Flavourly are all worth keeping an eye on too.
Where to live:
It has been voted the best city in the UK for three years running. Residents of Edinburgh’s Old Town & New Town are lucky enough to live in a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so much of the City is steeped in history and a special place to live. Bruntsfield and Marchmont makeup part of the Old Town and have lots of open space thanks to the Links and the Meadows. Both are situated close to Edinburgh University, and you’ll find mainly beautiful Victorian tenement flats. New Town is a cosmopolitan area close to the city centre with picturesque streets and many grand Georgian townhouses. With its winding cobbled streets, bohemian vibe and weekly farmers market Stockbridge is one of the most beautiful areas of the city. An ideal place to spend an evening eating and drinking. Leith has come leaps and bounds since it’s Trainspotting days and is one of Edinburgh’s up and coming areas. Independent cafes, shops, galleries and studios are popping up on Leith Walk every day and the shore area has been completely gentrified. You can find a number of Michelin star restaurants around here now.
Where to eat:
The Outsider is the perfect spot to admire the castle while you dine. Consistently good food, vibrant atmosphere and not too pricey, but always busy so be sure to book in advance. For traditional Scottish food you won’t get any better than Angels with Bagpipes. It’s got a laidback vibe with impeccable service. Chez Jules is a quaint candlelit cellar serving up authentic French dishes. You’ll get generous portions of salad, charcuterie and baskets of bread for free when you sit down, so you really do get value for money (especially on the lunch menu where you can get 2 courses for £7.90). If you want something quick head to Elephants and Bagels; the lesser known sister of The Elephant House where Harry Potter was written. There are 12 different flavours of bagel to choose from and countless toppings. If you’re looking to celebrate a special occasion Michelin starred Martin Wishart in Leith is some of the best food you’ll get in Edinburgh, or The Witchery is worth it for the atmosphere alone.
Where to drink:
Well-hidden in a basement on Queen Street is an outstanding cocktail bar called Bramble. Low-key, intimate and voted in the top 50 bars in the world. Panda & Sons is located on the same street and is also easy to pass right by as it’s disguised as a barbershop in keeping with a New York prohibition-era speakeasy. 99 Hanover Street has a fun, party vibe – cheap drinks and DJs most nights. For a good selection of wine and delicious food check out The Bon Vivant on Thistle Street or in Stockbridge.
Where to party:
Cowgate is always guaranteed to be a good night. You’ll find many pubs and clubs here ranging from rowdy Irish bars to some of Edinburgh’s best underground clubs including Cabaret Voltaire, Sneaky Pete’s and Bongo Club. For something more glamorous try Lulu or Opal Lounge on George Street. Check out events happening at The Caves – Edinburgh’s coolest venue which forms part of the underground 18th century substructure.
What to do:
The many closes and wynds leading to different levels of the city make Edinburgh the ideal city to wander round and explore on foot. Climb Calton Hill situated at the end of Princes Street for a panoramic view of the city as well as a beautiful collection of historical monuments. Perfect spot to watch Hogmanay or Guy Fawkes firework displays from. For a more strenuous walk climb Arthur’s Seat or walk along the Crags. A trip to the National Museum of Scotland should not be missed. You’ll discover the history of Scotland, the wonders of nature and world cultures all in the most beautiful building. A visit isn’t complete without a ghost tour into Edinburgh’s underground city, a series of vaults described as one of the most haunted places in the UK. Prepare yourself for unexplained activity! And of course there’s the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – the largest arts festival in the world – which takes place across three weeks every August.