Scottish startup founders reveal their top-rated investors in the first annual Founders Survey

2022 Investment Landscape Survey

The mission of the Scottish Founders Survey is to highlight the views, experiences, and perceptions of early-stage founders based in Scotland. The first of these surveys is focused on the investment landscape in Scotland. Through the survey, we hoped to showcase what’s working, identify what needs improvement, and give founders a voice when it comes to the funding journey.

As this is a survey based on questions about opinions and perceptions, we have attempted to add context where possible. The summaries here should be seen as highlighting the opinions held by individual members in our ecosystem, making them important to engage with, whether they are subjective or objective.

Below you will find a table of contents & executive summary of the findings and links to sections that dive into deeper detail.


📜 Summary

Top-level highlights of the report.

Founder experiences and perceptions of Scottish investors, and comparisons to other landscapes.

Specific reflections on the investors who were the most highly regarded by repondents to the survey.

Summaries and examples of the advice that founders were asked to provide to one another.


The founder ecosystem in Scotland is as diverse as the types of businesses we collectively produce, fund, and grow. While there are outliers, there is common feedback regarding specific investors and the general landscape.

Quantitative Highlights

⭐️⭐️⭐️ Average score for Founder Sentiment

👍 76.43% of respondents would recommend their investor to other founders

🌍 61.2% of respondents have investors from outside of Scotland

👯 90.34% of respondents do not regret taking money from the evaluated investor

The Scottish Landscape

Attributes of good investors

Investors in Scotland are, generally open to speak about new opportunities, as they scored an average of 4.1/5 on approachability. Reflections on what makes an investor excellent in the eyes of founders include being light touch but very supportive when needed, providing sensible terms that encourage scalability, willing to take risks on a novel idea, and speed of a deal. In a pitching situation, even if the outcome isn’t successful, a ‘quick no’ is the second best answer a founder can hear. The average investor received an average 3.8/5 when the founder was asked if they were happy with the speed of the deal.

Respondents of our survey were not asked to rank investors. They were however asked to review those whom they felt are working particularly well or who need improvement. Early-stage angel syndicates and funds including Par Equity, Techstart Ventures, Equity Gap, Apollo, Marchmont Ventures all received submissions featuring founder perceptions, opportunities for improvement, feedback, and praise, however Techstart Ventures came away as the highest-rated fund as chosen by founders surveyed with positive feedback especially related to their willingness to support higher-risk endeavours, a wish to position businesses for scale, and their post-investment support team.

Four Angels received the highest amount of positive feedback: Gareth Williams, Robin Knox, Rob Dobson, and Ross Tuffee, with portfolio companies citing their availability, expertise, and network to help when needed while being ‘hands-off’ when not.

Investor and Ecosystem Criticisms & Areas for Improvement

On the other side, there were several common themes that founders highlighted as resulting in less positive view of certain investors and the ecosystem as a whole.

General investor criticisms:

  • Lack of ambition and appetite for risk, especially from self-styled ‘Regional’ syndicates and funds
  • Pressure on lower valuations for early stage businesses compared with other geographies
  • Outdated conditions, terms, and board requirements
  • Founder-unfriendly approaches to cap tables

Ecosystem challenges

  • Strong sense of ‘smart money deficit’, where not enough successful founders or those with practical experience are willing or able to invest
  • The ‘cliquey’ nature of the Scottish ecosystem can be difficult to navigate
  • A view from some that the personal feelings of some investors about others within the ecosystem make raising from other investors difficult or impossible
  • Government-backed initiatives received mixed-feedback, with Scottish Enterprise’s grant offering and the Scottish Growth Scheme receiving praise and the Scottish Enterprise Growth Investment Team (formerly known as SIB) having the most opportunity for improvement. Common perceptions and challenges from surveyed founders included unreasonable deal timeframes, over-active involvement in setting deal terms, a lack of operational experience in technology companies leading to mismatched expectations.

Compared with other Landscapes

Founders were asked to compare the Scottish investment landscape with that of other ecosystems, and 61.2% of respondents have investors outside of Scotland. Many highlighted common areas such as valuation differences, a lack of risk-welcoming capital, and a comparative absence of networks of large follow-on investment in Scotland. On the positive side, the Scottish startup community is seen as more welcoming than other ecosystems.

In terms of founder sentiment about the ecosystem, founders averaged a 3.05/5, with no founder answering ‘5’ and 17.32% answering ‘2’ or below.

Founder to Founder Advice

Founders are nothing if not opinionated, and the ranges of opinions certainly varied when it came to advising fellow founders. Aside from specific resource recommendations, there was common practical advice about speaking with lots of investors both inside and outside of Scotland, talking with fellow founders about deals, reminders to focus on the business while fundraising, and to ‘trust yourself’.

You can find more information and anonymised quotes from founders in the following sections of the report:

Final Thoughts

In the inaugural Scottish Founders Survey, we didn’t know quite what to expect. There are many critiques of the ecosystem in Scotland, but also acknowledgements of aspects that are working, and recognition of people who are making it better each day.

We started the Founders Survey to present the perceptions and viewpoints of very early stage founders, to give voice to their experience. We as founders want the ecosystem to succeed, however as supportive critics, it’s important to showcase the realities on the ground, warts and all. We hope to run this same survey next year, and examine if and how the ecosystem has changed and responded to the views presented here. Interestingly there is reasonably strong consensus about the challenges that face the ecosystem by founders, which provides a wealth of opportunity to target and improve.

Getting into the world of startups, whether it be as a founder, investor or other member of the ecosystem, requires a strong foundation of optimism and excitement. Hopefully that energy can be channelled to continue to celebrate what’s working, and encourage improvement in all areas. A good founder never rests on their laurels, and neither should a strong ecosystem. We all have that optimism and energy to make the ecosystem world-class.

The next survey focusing on unsung heroes of the Scottish startup ecosystem is open to founders to submit nominations by December 10, 2022. For more information about the Scottish Founders Survey, please visit








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