Purpose and values-led business could prove to be a major differentiator for Scotland’s technology sector, according to Bruce Walker, co-founder & CEO of FutureX.
The continued rise and success of Scotland’s tech startup scene has, by and large, coincided with huge changes to consumer culture and awareness. Increasingly, consumers around the world are growing more appreciative and supportive of businesses with which they share common values.
This encompasses a raft of current issues affecting society such as equality, diversity and poverty. Similarly, issues such as sustainability have surged to the forefront of consumer culture, and permeate societal discussions over the state of our planet.
These areas were a focal point for attendees at Startup Summit yesterday, hosted at Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh. From the get-go, Walker explains, FutureX sought to embed these issues deep into the narrative of the day.
“We want these discussions to be part of the norm for people building and growing businesses, and want them to be considerate of these factors,” he says. “These changes are primarily driven by the fact that we are seeing a more conscious consumer, as well.”
“They are demanding products and businesses that are able to demonstrate how they are being sustainable,” Walker adds.
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Although consumer awareness is forcing companies to consider how they are sustainable, how their values reflect on society and what type of impact they are having, the authenticity and transparency of organisations and brands also represents a key talking point.
“I think beyond this it’s about authenticity because people like a brand they can relate to,” Walker asserts. “They want one with a bit of personality to it. If you can show that you’re doing good through your company, then the evidence shows that you build tremendous brand loyalty and customer loyalty.”
A study conducted by Harvard Business School suggests that one of the key drivers of high-growth companies today is purpose. While companies have repeatedly been encouraged to embed purpose into their operations and direction, traditionally this has been viewed as a peripheral focus.
More and more, however, this aspect of business strategy has merged into the very core of firms’ directional aspirations. It’s no longer an afterthought; consumers care, they demand action. Purpose-led values do offer tangible benefits as well, the report suggests.
Moving forward, Walker believes Scottish companies can make a name for themselves by tapping into this budding culture of awareness and activism. Values-led companies from Scotland can separate the country and its tech ecosystem from the pack.
“I think if we embed good values and purpose into the DNA of every new company then we have institutions here who are already receptive,” he says. “If you look at the United States, in comparison, the US administration is not overtly focused on purpose-led companies, whereas the Scottish administration is.
“They are able to champion that and pull levers in certain places in ways that other countries perhaps don’t.”
Crucially, Walker notes, it is important to ensure that companies balance purpose and values with appropriate growth mechanisms and look to build, scale and prosper.
“We aren’t just talking about how to get your first round of funding, we’re talking about your Series A – what metrics do you need to show? We’re talking about having a solid sales strategy, we’re talking about culture, HR, everything here,” Walker says.
“There is so much to building a business and, while purpose should be a driving force, if you don’t have the other fundamentals in place, you can’t really get to scale. In Scotland, we have a great opportunity with this and we can use our robust ecosystem to support companies to be purposeful, sustainable and scalable.”