Course studied: BA (Hons) Economics & Accounting (1985) and MBA (1993)
Position at time of writing: Managing Partner, Scottish Equity Partners (SEP)
Interesting fact: SEP has been named as one of the most consistent, top-performing venture capital firms globally, in a study published by Dow Jones.
Tell us about your background
I was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Linlithgow. After graduating, I joined Ernst & Young (EY), the global professional services firm, and trained as a Chartered Accountant. I then joined the Scottish Development Agency on its management development programme and studied for an MBA at Strathclyde Business School. After working in investment for 9 years, I co-founded Scottish Equity Partners (SEP) in 2000. I have led the firm since then and work between our offices in London and Glasgow. We specialise in growth equity for innovative technology businesses across the UK and Europe, providing them with both capital and ongoing support. Currently, we have a portfolio of around 25 high growth companies, employing 6,500 people.
Why did you choose Strathclyde?
I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to study, so the breadth and flexibility of the degree that Strathclyde offered was something that appealed to me. Even back then, the University had a very good reputation for business subjects, particularly economics, so that influenced my decision too. Some of my friends from school were also going to Strathclyde and I liked the idea of being in the heart of Glasgow, which is an incredibly vibrant city. I have never regretted the decision. It has been great to see Strathclyde go from strength to strength over the years, building on its reputation for academic and educational excellence, and becoming a leading international technological university.
You recently donated to the Student Hardship Fund, can you share more about your motivation to support?
Giving back is important and is something I’ve always tried to do. With regard to the Student Hardship Fund, I’m very conscious that the financial model for students is much more onerous than it was when I went to university, when significant support was available. I’m also concerned that younger people might be impacted most by the coronavirus economic crisis.
What has been your most memorable moment from your career so far?
Setting up SEP 20 years ago felt like a big step at the time, but it was the right decision. Although the path since then hasn’t always been even, we’ve been fortunate to have invested in some great companies.
Any words of wisdom for students today – particularly those studying during the Covid-19 pandemic?
This is a difficult time, especially for those directly affected by the pandemic. I’m not sure I completely agree with the view that things won’t ever be the same again, but I do think we will see a rapid acceleration of some significant social, economic and technology trends that were already underway. It would make sense to factor these into future career planning. Beyond that, I would just say make the best of being a student at Strathclyde, which is a great place to learn. When you graduate and move on from the University, try to be good citizens, give something back and think about sustainability and the generations that will follow.