THE prospect of starting a business would probably scare most people but the experience of a first time app developer highlights how much support is available to hopefuls in Scotland.


Barry Leaper.



What is your business called?

LiberEat – we had the idea for the business in the summer of 2016 and formed the business that October after joining the Elevator UK accelerator programme.

Where is it based?


What does it produce, what services does it offer?

LiberEat is a new app that will make it easier for people with food restrictions to eat out at restaurants, cook at home and shop at the supermarket. Reasons for people avoiding certain ingredients include allergies, food intolerances and lifestyle or ethical concerns.

We’re busy getting restaurants chains to sign up to the app. Our market research has shown us that people with allergies are creatures of habit, who often visit the same restaurants again and again – this allows them to avoid the hassle and worry of finding somewhere new that can accommodate their dietary requirement. Conversely, this kind of customer also has a massive appetite for more choice when eating out – people with food restrictions would love to be able to try new places with confidence.

To whom does it sell?

We’re asking restaurants and supermarkets to get behind the app, which will be available for download by anyone on Apple or Android phones who will find it useful.

What is its turnover?

We are launching the app over the summer and will begin generating revenues soon after. We don’t charge users to download the app and generate revenues instead from our partner businesses.

How many employees?

There are five of us working on LiberEat. I am currently full time, and others work on a part-time or ad hoc basis.

Why did you take the plunge?

Our co-founder Louise had been told to avoid certain ingredients and was finding it really tough when she was shopping, eating out and looking for recipes. When she was searching for an app to help out, she realised there was nothing suitable out there.

Initially, we had no idea how to go about it! At the time, Louise and I were based in London but me and my fiancée (now wife) Jennifer were looking at moving back to Aberdeen. We decided to apply for an accelerator programme in the city, went to an interview and bootcamp and got selected.

What were you doing before you took the plunge?

I was born in Aberdeen, grew up mostly in Inverurie, and then lived in London for six years before starting the business.

As I child, I wanted to be a palaeontologist (Jurassic Park probably gets the credit for that) then I became more interested in archaeology and history. I ended up studying finance at university. I’m not quite sure how that happened. From there, I worked mainly in Corporate Finance and equity research.

I built up a lot of experience in advising and covering entities across the oil and gas industry as an equity research analyst with FirstEnergy Capital, and later as a Partner in Equity Research for Oriel Securities, where I led coverage of a number of UK-listed oil companies.

LiberEat is a complete change of tack for me. Importantly, I’m now back doing something I really enjoy, which makes a huge difference.

What was your biggest break?

|It was Elevator UK, based in Aberdeen, that really got myself and co-founder Louise started. We have also been through the Opportunity NorthEast/Biocity Life Sciences accelerator more recently. The accelerator programme really helped to bring the idea to life as we looked at a business strategy and validating the idea through market research. We set out to make something that would be simple to use – having understood the problem, we were very encouraged by the market research.

Winning Orega’s #StartMeUp Pitch competition in Aberdeen meant we had six months of free office space to help us get going, too. We’re based in the Silver Fin Building, which is a really nice place. It gives us added professionalism when we’re out winning business from large organisations.

What do you most enjoy about running the business?

I really enjoy it – a lot more than investment banking! Creating an app is something I’ve no previous experience in, and the business development side is very different. I like the freedom that working for yourself gives, and it’s a lot easier to get motivated when it’s your own business.

I’ve recently been awarded a Royal Society of Edinburgh Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship, which means I’ll get mentorship from established and successful entrepreneurs and business advisors.

What do you least enjoy?

The downsides are long hours, stress, and, of course, it’s expensive as there’s no salary to start off with.

What could the Westminster and/or Scottish governments do that would help?

We based LiberEat in Aberdeen following support we received from Elevator/Business Gateway and Scottish Enterprise, which really helped us progress from the idea stage. However, I think access to funding for early-stage businesses with growth potential is something that can still be improved on across the UK.

What was the most valuable lesson that you learned?

You need perseverance. When you’re a start-up, there are always going to be gloomy points.

I’d advise anyone in a similar position to validate an idea before launching headlong into it and to speak to as many people as possible, even after the business is off the ground. There is a lot of goodwill towards start-ups, and many people are willing to give you some great advice and feedback.