When you think of Edinburgh, it’s unlikely that “technology” is the first thing that comes to mind. Its famous castle, striking views and the Edinburgh Festival are certainly more likely. In 2022, Time Out declared Edinburgh the most “beautiful and walkable city” in the world, and we don’t disagree. But we’re pretty sure Edinburgh’s tech scene didn’t contribute to the city winning that accolade.
There’s more to Scotland’s capital than aesthetics, however. Walk down its historic streets and you’ll start noticing references to its inventiveness.
There’s the Alexander Graham Bell pub, named after the inventor of the telephone (born and educated in the city). The National Museum of Scotland, where Dolly the sheep — as featured in our homage to the technology of Blade Runner — has been kept since 2003. There’s Sir James Young Simpson Monument, honouring the physician believed to first have used anaesthetics on his patients.
That’s quite a list. It’s no wonder then, that many years after Bell, Dolly and Sir James, the city continues to foster the kind of creative spark present in most tech scenes.
CodeBase, the UK’s biggest startup incubator, has a tech hub in Edinburgh. It has supported many tech startups that later became established businesses in fields as diverse as fintech, healthcare, cybersecurity and, more recently, artificial intelligence.
Skyscanner is perhaps one of its most famous award-winning companies (launched in 2003, the same year that Dolly was brought to the NMS — coincidence?). Yet, there are other Edinburgh-based technology companies that have thrived. We spotlight seven tech companies leaving their mark not just in Edinburgh, but across the rest of the world. In no particular order:
We mentioned Skyscanner as a standout in our intro. Now we’d like to mention another software development company that has blossomed on the world stage, this one in the accounting and fintech space.
If you’re a small business or a freelancer, there’s a good chance you’ve at least considered FreeAgent. Co-founded in 2007 by a former RAF jet pilot turned entrepreneur, the company has received multiple awards for its bookkeeping capabilities. Most recently it was awarded — for the third time — the Friendliest Software of the Year at the Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) LUCA Awards 2022.
Recognition is all the sweeter given that it’s no easy feat to stand out in the accounting software space. Competitors like Intuit QuickBooks, Xero or Sage have systematically rolled out features that made them more appealing to microbusinesses and freelancers, which tend to be FreeAgent’s primary target market.
Related reading: The 5 best accounting software options for startups
In 2018, Royal Bank of Scotland acquired FreeAgent for £53 million. At the time, the company had ten employees. Through its integration with RBS, more than 10,000 customers signed up for its solution. Since then, the company has grown to more than 350 employees (according to LinkedIn) and is reported to have more than 150,000 customers.
For those whose job is to chronicle any macro-changes affecting businesses, the flexible workspace market must be one of the most fascinating roller-coaster rides of the past ten years.
First came WeWork, dazzling Wall Street investors and promising nothing short of revolution (those investors are not so sure anymore). Then there was a once-in-a-century pandemic, catapulting video conferencing and home indoor cycling to the stratosphere, leaving in its trail hybrid work trends that have changed what businesses, offices and cities look like.
And as it sometimes happens when major events collide, some companies are just in the right place at the right time to capitalize. Desana Network, founded in 2019, certainly happens to be one of those cases.
How does it work?
The company partners with office spaces in more than 600 cities around the globe. It makes those office spaces available for booking by enterprise customers (which include tech companies like Twilio, Sonos and Splunk). Think of it as an AirBnB for office spaces (kind of).
For companies with global footprints and staff all over the world, it’s much more efficient to procure their flexible workspace arrangements through one partner, rather than negotiating several individual leases or agreements.
It doesn’t stop there, though. Customers can also leverage Desana for office analytics, meaning they can analyse how their own office spaces are being used. Desana’s solution can also be utilised to configure how, say, meeting rooms are booked in different offices — including in different countries. This takes away some of the hassle common for companies that regularly have their staff travel abroad.
We are curious to see how Desana Networks navigates the shifting sands of remote and flexible work. From what we’ve seen so far, it might come out ahead.
A few months back we wrote about how cloud computing transformed football, in a piece that many at TechFinitive geeked out on. We have our share of football fans in the office, so getting the chance to write about another software development company bringing technology to football got us all excited.
PlayerData’s offering is simple: players wear a vest with PlayerData’s proprietary tracker in it and that tracker collects data that allows their performance to be analysed (both individually or as part of a team).
You might be wondering, “You mean like an Apple Watch?” Let’s address that straight away.
While wearables offer plenty of performance-tracking capabilities, they aren’t convenient to wear if you’re practising sports like football or rugby. Hitting someone with a watch might well cause them to lose an eye. If you put physical hazards aside, their GPS capabilities don’t typically track well when all your running is done within a relatively confined area. Finally, visualising the data that gets tracked matters as much as everything else.
PlayerData addresses all that, particularly for football. Its app is every Sunday League coach’s dream. It provides positional heatmaps, form trackers and the kind of player comparisons most of us have only seen when we boot up Football Manager 2023.
PlayerData claims to have more than 23,000 athletes and 650 clubs. This leads us to question: does Scotland’s national team use it? And if so, how many kilometres is Scott McTominay logging?
After you’re done training — perhaps while checking your stats on PlayerData’s app — you might feel a bit peckish. Maybe you’ll stop by your local supermarket and grab a quick bite (here at TechFinitive, we’re more likely to grab some chips with salt ‘n’ sauce).
Supermarkets these days show obvious signs of technology in use. Self-service checkouts have been a thing for years and, more recently, some stores don’t have checkouts at all.
Other uses of technology are more discreet and, yet, incredibly potent. Take Neurolabs for example.
The company uses image recognition technology to determine stock levels on store shelves. That information can then be used by retailers in the form of alerts and all sorts of analytics that help them identify when to re-stock products running low, or when to slash the price of excess inventory.
The secret sauce to Neurolabs’ success is its ZIA (Zero Image Annotations) feature, which does the heavy lifting typically done by humans. Traditional image recognition software in retail often requires a human to validate the imagery being collected. That human then annotates what the actual products depicted were (a time-consuming and expensive process). ZIA not only identifies thousands of products — and matches them to their respective SKUs — but it does so without a human having to do any annotation.
No tech scene worth its salt can do without a company leveraging artificial intelligence in some form or another. Neurolabs also ticks that box and it does so by leveraging ChatGPT.
ChatCPG is currently in beta, but it promises to offer retailers a simple way to conduct their shelf auditing. You can ask ChatCPG about inventory, stock or even competitors and it will provide an answer. Have a look at it in action in the video below.
With our trip to the supermarket done, it’s back to sports.
Fanbase is the kind of software development company that makes “digital transformation” tangible. What do we mean by that?
Sporting organisations have been selling tickets since pig bladders were used as footballs. They’ve also communicated with their fans for years — historically through matchday programs, more recently, overwhelmingly, through social media. Yet, they’ve had few ways of connecting the dots between it all, particularly at the non-professional club level.
A platform that enables clubs to do so off-the-shelf is, pardon the pun, a game-changer. Ask any Operations Manager in charge of selling season tickets whether they’d like to send a promotion message to fans right after their team beats a rival 5-0 and see their eyes lit up.
It’s not just about selling tickets though. Fanbase operates as an end-to-end CRM, giving clubs a platform to store customers’ data and, critically, communicate and manage memberships. For small and medium-sized clubs operating on tight budgets with few staff, this holistic and digitalised approach could be the difference between being able to sell corporate hospitality or not
And it’s not just football and not just in the United Kingdom. Fanbase partners with rugby, netball, ice hockey and handball teams, with at least five out of 75 clubs based in the USA. How long until they launch in Australia?
Companies selling financial services directly to consumers fall under FCA Consumer Duty regulations. This means there are several processes they must adhere to to protect themselves and their customers. Often, those processes relate to how outbound telemarketing calls are conducted and audited by the firm itself.
But here’s the thing: financial companies are often putting through thousands of calls a day. Those calls need to be audited, particularly when they are either successful or lead to complaints. Due to the sheer volume of calls, some companies might only be able to audit 1% of all calls.
That’s not just a compliance problem; it’s also a missed opportunity. By not being able to monitor the quality of calls, companies miss out on valuable opportunities to train and upskill their staff. And this is where Aveni comes in.
Its flagship product, Aveni Detect, uses natural language processing to analyse calls in real-time and help customers gain the kind of insight that not only helps them remain compliant but, critically, shines a light on where there might be opportunities for improvement.
Like many others in the SaaS space, Aveni has wasted no time exploring how tools like ChatGPT can enhance its existing offering. It currently has a waitlist for Aveni Assist, a product that promises to “cut financial advice admin from hours to minutes”.
Over the years, the company has won several awards in the United Kingdom. Recently, it announced integrations with Contact Centre Software Provider, Genesys, as well as Microsoft Teams. It now employs 34 staff.
Biscuit Tin Planning
Last but not least in this list is a company that truly puts technology in service of doing some good.
Like so many great tech companies out there, this one was born out of a very personal experience. It took Founder Sheila Hogan two years to settle her Dad’s affairs after he passed away. All the paperwork was kept in a biscuit tin and sorting through it all was the insight that led her to realise that there had to be a better way to go about it.
Biscuit Tin was born from that insight. It’s a digital vault that helps customers manage their end-of-life affairs. It does so by serving as a central repository for important documents — such as a will or a property deed — memories, in the form of photos and videos, and also wishes, such as organ donation preferences or where you wish to be buried.
Perhaps most important of all, customers can designate “Nominees” to be contacted when the time comes. This is a critical feature that offers peace of mind. After all, for many, the thought of no one knowing that there’s a biscuit tin in the first place is just as unsettling as not leaving any instructions at all.
Sheila started the company with money she had kept aside as her retirement plan. She has since pitched on BBC Dragon’s Den and, more importantly, raised £300,000 in private investment. The company has since grown to nine employees. Given how increasingly complex our affairs are compared to those of Sheila’s Dad’s generation, there’s a pretty decent chance this sort of service will only grow in demand.
Explore other cities
We hope you enjoyed learning about the top tech companies in Edinburgh. We love learning about a city’s tech scene and cast a spotlight on some of its businesses. Here are other cities we’ve covered:
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