My local Startup ecosystem — Why do I bother?

Yesterday you may have heard I was nominated for the inaugural Scottish Tech Startup Awards in the “Ecosystem Award”. 🎉

It’s great to have some appreciation and validation from my peers that the work that I, and many others, have been doing under the RookieOven banner has had a positive impact on the ecosystem.

I’m massively greatful for the nomination. It’s actually only the second time in 7 years that RookieOven has been nominated for any kind of award so I can confidently say a pat on the back isn’t what makes me tick – so why do I bother with RookieOven?

Doing the right thing

As I’ve been doing RookieOven ‘stuff’ in one form or another for over 7 years (across meet-ups, blog, events, mentoring, education) my guiding light has been whatever, as a founder in Glasgow, I feel is would make my home city a better place to operate a succesful tech company.

That’s either a gap I see (as with the Academy where we’re aiming to help fill our talent pipeline) or by listening to my peers (as with the job board which is an easy way for founders to promote their job openings).

By doing the ‘right’ I’ve done it free of metrics or measure. I’m not driven by a 5 year strategy, a rigid plan or a set of ill fitting KPIs. So how do I know if I’m actually having a positive impact?


As I’ve ploughed along doing what I feel is ‘right’ it can be disheartening. The lows are low. You pour so much in and it you can feel you’re barely making a dent. A lot of effort and little tangible change.. That’s until I get a signal that we’re actually doing some good for ecosystem. Here’s an example.

I was working on a travel tech product, Pocket Leap, and noticed locally in my home city of Glasgow we had an amazing tourism industry that was hamstrung by poor use of technology. That’s across marketing, sales, customer experience, operationally and so much more. But yet I know first hand just how good our city is at tech. We are producing world class talent in that field but it just isn’t colliding with the world class toursim industry.

So we set out to do something about it. We started with the Digital Tourism Glasgow Meetup which has grown into the Glasgow Chapter of Travel Massive.

The Meetup was a typical Meetup — beer, pizza, live steam, two talks, Q&A and time for networking. Our thinking was we could smoosh up the tech and tourism talent in Glasgow.

Head down, we ploughed on with the Meetup for 12 months. We brought in speakers from a diverse range of companies and worked hard to connect people across tourism and tech. But was it working?

Well last week I met Camilo Gomez, founder of Once Upon a Whisky, a Colombia based in Glasgow doing whisky tours. Through the Meetup he met Sara Robertson, founder of Scottish Beer Tours, who has a background working in tech startups.

Two great companies. They’re now working together to offer beer and whisky tours across Glasgow and Edinburgh. The founders have shared note and passed on knowledge on ticketing, booking, marketing, use of the web and digital to each other. Both companies are collaborating to expand their businesses to serve more markets and promote each other globally. It was staggering. We had positively impacted businesses.

That’s my motiviation. What we’re doing is actually having a positive impact.

Don’t seek praise, knuckle down and keep it up

As individuals we need to remember our small actions, like connecting two talented founders, can have massive consequences. Small interactions and interventions have profound affects on a small business.

That’s what motivates me. That’s what drives me to keep doing RookieOven. It hasn’t been easy, our contributions are often belittled and overlooked but I truly believe we’re doing good and that keeps me going.

Remember 2 awards nominations in 7+ years. It’s been a long slog of largely thankless hard work. If you believe you’re doing the ‘right’ thing, knuckle down, get the work done and don’t seek PR, praise and validation. That’s not why you’re doing it.

Hopefully see you at the Scottish Startup Awards at the end of November. Get your ticket —