Ahead of an appearance at this year’s Startup Summit, Sir Tom Hunter reveals to Kim McAllister his foundation’s plans to support the tech revolution

The Hunter Foundation plans to help finance the Scottish technology ecosystem as it moves into the next stage of growth.

Speaking exclusively to the Herald, Sir Tom Hunter said he was a strong supporter of the recommendations made by former Skyscanner COO Mark Logan in his recent review for the government.

“We will support the recommendations both with advocacy and with money because we really believe in what Mark’s doing,” Sir Tom said.

“I was absolutely delighted with Mark Logan’s review. I knew this pandemic was going to be a jobs pandemic. When I first heard Kate Forbes announced Mark Logan to write the review I was over the moon and when I read his report I was even more over the moon, if that’s possible.”

When asked to clarify what that support might look like he would only say, “Watch this space.”

Sir Tom will be interviewing BrewDog founder James Watt at this year’s StartUp Startup Summit on the 28th and 29th of October

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“James is one of my heroes,” Sir Tom said.“He doesn’t accept the world the way it is, he wants to bend it to the way it should be and that, in my book, is brilliant. James comes along to events, he listens, he learns and he comes up with a plan – he’s action-oriented.”

Sir Tom and James Watt are just two of the business leaders who will appear at the two day event, which is streaming live online this year. Other speakers include Amali de Alwis from Microsoft for Startups, David Wilding from Twitter and Irana Wasti from GoDaddy among others.

Over 1000 attendees are expected.

“There has never been a better time to be an entrepreneur,” Sir Tom said. “People think ‘oh my goodness, we’re in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s time to hide away’ but it’s not, it’s time to be bold. 

“The opportunity is here. Five years of change happened in the first five weeks of lockdown. Entrepreneurs will get us through this. None of us has all the answers – some people in some governments don’t even know the questions - but collaboration will be key. 

“Entrepreneurial companies are the ones which will think ‘this where we are, how are we going to deal with it?’ Government needs to listen to entrepreneurs and businesses so that we can be agile.”

The Hunter Foundation supports entrepreneurship in many ways including providing prize money for Scottish Edge and running an accelerator in Ayrshire. It was established by Sir Tom Hunter after he sold his business Sports Division for £290m. To date, the foundation has invested over £55m.

He believes Scotland is uniquely placed to be agile and find the opportunity in the ‘new normal’.

“How do we encourage more startups and scale ups to provide the jobs of the future? It’s through peer to peer support and learning,” Sir Tom said. “People think all they need is money – they’re wrong. We’re quite unique in Scotland in terms of the level of support.”

“I’m delighted with people like Bruce doing something like Startup Summit – Bruce can only be about ten years old. He’s maybe 11 now. This Startup Summit is about the peer-to-peer learning and support. You’ve got to have the right temperament and take the ups and downs. This journey is not left to right and always up, it’s up, down, backwards and somersaults. Entrepreneurs will try things and find a way – it ebbs and flows. 

“I’m an optimist and I fully understand I’m in a very privileged position and I’m not complacent about it – but the best social policy ever written is a decent job. Who’s going to create the jobs? Entrepreneurs. How do we support them? Events like the Startup Summit.”

Bruce Walker, the co-founder of FutureX which is organising the Summit, said new business needs the support now more than ever.

“Startup Summit 2020 is bringing together the most successful business leaders and entrepreneurs to inspire, educate and support the next generation of startups. The online event enables startups, SMEs and high growth founders to get access to the tools, resources and a community of support that they need.”

BrewDog founder James Watt added that he’s looking forward to discussing the company’s story at the event. “I have long admired Sir Tom as a businessman and philanthropist, we share the same view that business should be a force for good so am looking forward to discussing what startups can do to make a positive impact on our planet together,” he said.