What an inspiring story we carry today on FanDuel, one of Edinburgh’s brightest tech start-up success stories. But what a challenge it sets.
The business began with a leap of faith, undertaken by two brave young entrepreneurs. It was launched just as the global financial storm was about to break.
The prospects were daunting.
Today, thanks to the guts and dedication of husband and wife team Lesley and Nigel Eccles, the kitchen table venture into fantasy sports games is now a billion dollar business, leading the market in its field.
Half of its 150-strong workforce is based at the firm’s Quartermile HQ, most of the staff in high-skilled digital engineering posts. These are exactly the skills Scotland needs to develop to build its presence in the fast-growing digital and technology sectors.
But it’s a sharp reminder, too, that while university education can provide a background of knowledge to succeed in many professions, it is enterprise and risk-taking that drives the economy forward.
That, and in today’s world, a plentiful supply of youngsters well versed in digital technology and programming.
The ability to adapt and innovate in a fast-changing world is more imperative than ever. Parents, schools, colleges and universities all have to be alive to the changing nature of work and careers.
Schools and universities like nothing more than churning out more academics. But for the economy to grow and flourish we must also foster creativity, risk-taking and a passion for business.
That is the secret behind the success of fellow Edinburgh entrepreneurial companies such as Skyscanner and Rockstar North. But today, despite all manner of schemes to boost apprenticeships, our hopes of building a high-tech business hub in the Capital, we risk being held back by a shortage of young people in Scotland with the necessary skills. We need more coders, programmers and developers.
Should we make coding mandatory in our schools? Joanna Shields, the UK’s ambassador for digital industries and chairman of TechCity UK certainly thinks so as these skills will only increase in demand.
Edinburgh very nearly lost FanDuel to the temptations of Silicon Valley. The challenge for the city is to make Scotland’s capital the home of choice for our risk-takers and entrepreneurs – and to ensure we have a skills base to make that possible.