Starting a business in Aberdeen: Scottish Business News Network

SBNN's founder talks business in Aberdeen; the city's vibrant B2B community, new energy and tech companies, and the need for more angel investors

Company name: Scottish Business News Network (SBNN)
Founders: Mike Watson
Founded: 2012
Description: We publish Scottish related business news in five geographical regions – Aberdeen, Highland, Tayside, Lothian and Strathclyde

What’s great about starting a business in Aberdeen?

Aberdeen is a very vibrant and international city. We were fortunate in that we did not suffer from the financial collapse at the end of the last decade so the business landscape has been very stable.

B2B businesses flourish as the energy companies and the support companies spend a lot on their interiors, training and infrastructure to keep the workforce happy, thus giving many opportunities for new start-ups; and there is a new vitality in the technology sector as more and more of these companies want to look to technology and software to help reduce their costs, again opening up opportunity to the tech sector.

What business support in the city have you used? How was it?

We personally have not taken advantage of business support in the city as I already had start-up experience.

Having said that, the start-up community is very well supported by Enterprise North East Trust who deliver Business Gateway in this area.

Name the top three reasons to set up a business in Aberdeen:

  1. High average disposable income.
  2. Centre of energy exploration for the North Sea means energy related companies are based here, giving lots of spin off opportunities.
  3. The city is small enough that you can develop your company and a network quickly and easily.

Where could Aberdeen be better / what does it need?

We have very poor road infrastructure. There are many new business parks being developed on the outskirts of the city, but very little consideration has been given to the rush hour demands that these developments can bring.

The city has little start-up spaces such as incubators and co-working spaces; plus office space is the most expensive in the UK outside London, so there is not a supply of suitably low priced space that can be used by start-ups.

I think there is also a space for an organisation that connects start-ups with the energy companies. There are many bright people in Aberdeen and two world class universities, but the energy sector is sometimes seen as quite old fashioned. This needs to be addressed.

How easy has it been to access finance to grow?

This is something we have not had to do, but I believe that bank borrowing is still as difficult here as it is anywhere. There are a few business angels and business angel organisations in the city, but no where near as much as there should be. There needs to be better access to VC finance; there are a lot of rich people in Aberdeen and they should be encouraged to invest in start-ups, but the angel investor community is quite poor.

Where do you go to network in Aberdeen?

We attend the majority of Aberdeen Business network events – which is the largest and most vibrant organisation of its kind in Aberdeen. It is also very easy – because of the size of the city – to meet direct connections in your network on a regular basis. Aberdeen has a strong “social networking” philosophy where networking in the pub is positively encouraged.

Where do you take a client for a business lunch?

There is a variety of places depending on location. Malmaison is a great place to take a client for lunch and we often meet people in the serviced offices we are based in, The Soap Factory, as it has really good bean-to-cup coffee and a great atmosphere.

Where’s great for a company night out?

Aberdeen has a strong pub culture and, as the city is quite small, all the good pubs are close together. We prefer the West End area for a company night as it is very popular.


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