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Turing Fest 2018: Showcasing Scotland’s Tech Talent

Ross Kelly


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Turing Fest 2018 was a roaring success; three days of exceptional, captivating content showcasing some of the finest minds in the global tech scene.

Turing Fest 2018 was a roaring success – showcasing some of the finest companies from Scotland’s digital technology sector and a global ecosystem in which the country commands a glowing reputation.

Now in its seventh year, the event brought together over 50 speakers from 20 countries, including Japan, Canada, the United States and South Africa. From humble beginnings, the event has grown consistently and this year attracted over 2,000 attendees; highlighting the global appeal of Scotland’s tech scene and its role in an ever-changing world.

More than 60 sessions took place over the course of the event – covering themes such as engineering, growth, marketing, culture and strategy –  a myriad of engaging and captivating content.

Killer Keynotes

During Wednesday’s keynote, Des Traynor, Co-Founder and CTO at Intercom, shared his fascinating journey from humble Dublin startup to a billion dollar valuation in San Francisco.

Product advice was a key feature during Wednesday’s keynote, offering valuable advice for any aspiring startup; Build things that are desirable and viable to consumers and create products that are more than just features. This process can be a tightrope, however – balancing a delicate mixture practicality while avoiding overburdening can be a difficult task. Traynor took to the stage once more on Thursday, discussing a variety of issues and further detailing Intercom’s journey. Productivity, culture and the fickle nature of startup life were key themes throughout this second discussion.

Startups, he said, tend to avoid their date with destiny (and reality) by increasing their scope and building beyond what is fundamentally required. Achieving recognition and, crucially, investment, was a perilous affair during the early days of Intercom. Having been turned down by venture capitalists on a number of occasions, Traynor hilariously claimed: “I like emailing them now”.

Rand Fishkin, former CEO and founder of Moz, delivered a passionate final keynote detailing the emotional journey of product launches. Products, Fishkin suggested, are not cold, lifeless and purely practical in nature; they should also have a deep-rooted inspiration that is eye-catching and prompts an emotional response – “Great stories make great launches”.

Talent on Display

Weaving in and amongst the crowd and viewing the exhibitor stalls, one could see the vibrant, innovative nature of Scotland’s tech scene. From Skyscanner – the event’s platinum sponsor – to the BBC’s fascinating virtual reality stall, you could have easily spent all day browsing and become totally immersed in it all.

MedTech, FinTech, and EdTech were all showcased in the hall, with AdministrateNucleus Financial, Float, CodeClan, Care Sourcer and Snap40 all present. The latter two, of course, were of particular interest to attendees after both companies were recently granted funding to continue their pioneering work.

Turing Fest Chief Executive, Brian Corcoran, suggested that the variety of talent on display at last week’s event highlights Edinburgh’s growing reputation. The capital city is home to a myriad of innovative, pioneering companies that are helping to develop the city’s reputation as a tech hub.

“The reputation of the city is building, definitely”, he said. “I think it is the reputation that Scotland and Edinburgh have in general as a place to visit, to work and to live in. If you’re a founder, an investor or an entrepreneur, Edinburgh is a great place to come to.”

Compared to other cities in Europe and further afield, Corcoran added, Edinburgh is an attractive prospect both in terms of its bustling tech scene and in costs. He said: “When you look at Edinburgh, in regards to the standard of living, cost of living and all the various factors, Edinburgh is definitely an attractive city. If you’re looking to attract investors, there are companies already here doing great things, if you’re looking for work then there are opportunities available.”

Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, is cultivating a fine reputation on the global stage. However, can it aspire to reach the same dizzying heights as the US industry or others? Corcoran believes that there is a lot of inspiration Scotland can draw upon, and it may not be in specifically in California.

“I think there are examples that we can take heart from and a lot of inspiration”, he said. Adding: “Silicon Valley is probably always going to be the number one. However, in Texas or in Colorado we see great examples that Scotland’s digital technology sector can look to replicate or even exceed.”

He added: “I think we should rest on our laurels and acknowledge what we have. We’re doing well, but there’s a lot more work to do.”

Standouts? Look no Further…

Two standout speakers of the event have to be Meri Williams, CTO of Monzo, and James Mayes, Co-Founder and CEO of Mind The Product.

Both speakers were exceptional, articulate and left their respective audiences informed and longing for more thanks to an intricate mixture of engaging content and humour. Williams delivered an excellent presentation on culture, inclusivity and how to effectively scale engineering teams.

Never repeat yourself’ Williams suggested, is a phrase we must avoid. To repeat (seven times, no less) is to progress, and by granting autonomy one can help cultivate creativity on a far greater scale. Williams also spoke in detail on observation in the workplace; to observe an individual (and their various strengths and flaws) is a far more effective method of development than testing.

Mayes’ thoughts on autonomy and development echoed Williams. The ever-changing nature of the work environment is leading to greater autonomy and remote working. These changes, Mayes suggested, are creating new challenges and raising questions over cohesion and conventional communication methods.


Early bird tickets for Turing Fest 2019 are on sale, however, there are “only a handful left” according to Brian Corcoran. This initial interest speaks volumes about the growing popularity of Scotland’s top tech festival.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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