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New conference encourages high net worth Scots to get behind start-ups


A new annual conference, which aims to reinvent the way the SME sector in Scotland is financed, has been launched by five of the country’s leading organisations.

Opportunity Knocks – co-hosted by RBS, Entrepreneurial Spark, Harper Macleod, Angels Den and Johnston Carmichael – is aimed at people involved in or interested in supporting a resurgence in Scotland’s start-up, early stage and SME business sector.

The event, being held in Edinburgh on 29th May, will bring together individuals interested in finding out more about their options – which include efficient ways to make the most of tax breaks – alongside start-ups, early stage businesses and individuals searching for funding.

Gordon Merrylees, Regional Managing Director, Business Banking, RBS, says: "RBS is delighted to be supporting Opportunity Knocks to showcase Scotland's entrepreneurial talent. It's exciting to see pioneering events like this emerge when Scotland's entrepreneurial ecosystem partners come together. This conference is particularly unique as it gives entrepreneurs the opportunity to showcase their businesses to potential investors as well as providing them with knowledge on the alternative methods of finance available to them. We are committed to encouraging entrepreneurs in Scotland through innovative ways and RBS is thrilled to be at the heart of this event."

Attending the event presents a unique opportunity to meet key stakeholders in the Scottish SME ecosystem and will help people gain a better understanding of the support and resources available.

Speakers including Dragon on BBC Online Dragon’s Den Shaf Rasul and Ian Cowie, Chairman of RBS SME Bank will be there to share his lessons alongside other speakers.

Opportunity Knocks will also highlight key success stories from companies that have grown their business and know the challenges SMEs face; providing insights into how to succeed.

Attendees will be able to learn from others who have supported Scotland’s entrepreneurial talent, followed by a live pitching demonstration and panel assessment. Speed mentoring and educational seminars will also take place to deliver true value to all stakeholders attending. 

Throughout the day there will be the ongoing opportunity to discuss and be challenged by joint organisers Entrepreneurial Spark, Angels Den, Johnston Carmichael and Harper Macleod.

According to figures from The Crowdfunding Centre, between January and March 2014, more than 2,600 equity and reward crowdfunding projects were launched and attracted pledges of more than GBP5.7m, equating to more than 45 projects per day. This number of businesses seeking support is growing and there are advantages for the people supporting them.

Schemes such as the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) and the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) are designed to help small, early-stage companies to raise finance by offering a range of tax reliefs to individuals who purchase new shares in companies.

Jim Duffy, Chief Executive Optimist at Entrepreneurial Spark SAYS: “The Scottish start-up scene is booming and it’s exciting to see all the businesses growing in Entrepreneurial Spark. But they always need funding. Opportunity Knocks will let businesses and the individuals interested in supporting them connect and learn how to work together.”

Paula Skinner, partner, Harper Macleod SAYS: “In the start-up arena, support for businesses has never been better than it is at present and it’s no coincidence that there has been a continued upturn in early-stage investment and public sector co-investment. I believe the main challenge now is to raise awareness among everyone in the business community and beyond of the opportunities out there, and that's where a showcase such as Opportunity Knocks is priceless. Organisations such as Entrepreneurial Spark are fuelling some incredible success stories and the fabric of Scotland’s start-up ecosystem is much more connected than it was in the past – but by bringing the right people together we can achieve even more. With schemes such as SEIS offering extremely attractive tax breaks to this type of investment, there is scope for tap into a whole range of people who aren’t aware of the opportunities.”

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