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Glasgow Tech Fest | Scaling & Growing as a Scottish Business



Richard Scott, co-founder of Glasgow-based Axis Studios, took the stage at this year’s Glasgow Tech Fest to share a story of growth through the lens of his own company’s 24-year journey of development and transformation.

Axis Studios, an animation and visual effects powerhouse with bases in Glasgow and Bristol, traces its roots back to 1999 when it started as “just four of us in a room in Dunfermline.”

Recalling the challenges of finding their footing and adapting to unexpected turns in their journey, Scott said they “quickly learned to pivot, finding clients and establishing ourselves as a business.”

Over the years, Axis Studios evolved from primarily serving the video games industry to embracing a broader creative landscape. Scott highlighted key milestones, including ventures into episodic projects and visual effects for film and TV, as pivotal moments in Axis’s growth trajectory.

“I think one of the important things to say about all of this – whether it’s the right idea or not – is that the business has developed organically,” said Scott.

He added: “We’ve bootstrapped it for 24 years; there’s never been any equity investment into the business. It’s all been about what’s the next opportunity, what’s the dominant projects, what’s our current opportunity and then move on, with an aim not to just grow and scale revenue, but to grow creatively as well, which is super important.”

Scott emphasised Axis’s commitment to authenticity and staying true to its roots amidst expansion and diversification as being part of its success that can extrapolated to other businesses. “We’ve always stayed true to who we are—fantasy, action, adventure—traits deeply rooted in our DNA,” he affirmed.

Scott went on to show a showreel of the companies work in animation, an undoubtedly impressive showcase of both animation, real-time effects and full CGI work – looked at in the context of Scott’s assertion that the company grew from just four people in Dunfermline and has essentially reached this point with no external funding.

Looked at in the context of Scott’s assertion that the company grew from just four people in Dunfermline and has essentially reached this point with no external funding, the incredible snippets of animation that were shown speak to an aspiration that is extrapolatable to any Scottish company looking to grow. Conciously develop your offering in a way that’s in line with your culture and with what makes sense financially.

Scale & Growth Panel

Following Scott’s talk, the panel took to the stage to pick up on some of the themes the founder spoke about to further unpack how some of things Scott talked about can be extrapolated and applied to Scottish businesses.

Panel Chair, audit director from Johnston Carmichael, Gillian Boston, started by addressing the issue of company culture as you scale and grow.

Mark McKenzie, technical director, guitarguitar, takes up the question, saying: “The biggest reason for our success comes down to our people – specifically, processes, engagement, and empowerment.”

While citing ‘people’ as being a key driver of success won’t raise many eyebrows at a Glasgow tech conference, McKenzie backs up what he means by giving a tangible example of how they put people front and centre at guitarguitar.

He said: “I’m sure many of you’ve joined a company where it’s taken a week to get an email address or a laptop. In our ecosystem, any member of staff – whether that’s dispatching, technology, sales/purchasing – we ensure that you’re doing stuff that’s adding value from day one – it’s about empowerment and showing people how they can add value.”

Bringing the line of inquiry a little closer to home, Panel Chair Boston poses to Gareth Gordon, CTO at broadcast and remote production company, QTV, how Scotland, and specifically Glasgow, fares as a place to build a business, coming from the perspective of a CTO who has partnerships globally.

Gordon cites Scotland’s support pipelines as being a key driver of his business’ success. Specifically, funding that QTV received from Scottish Enterprise in 2013 that allowed them to go to international sports conventions, helping the business forge the connections it needed to grow.

While upbeat on support pipelines, Gordon fears of a malaise in some educational institutions with regards to tangible skills – certainly around media.

He said: “There’s a lack of awareness in the skills that are actually needed in many industries,” with Gareth sighting media in particular, with “an excess of people looking to become directors or creatives, but a dearth of people who actually know how to move equipment from one part of a room to another.”

Moving on to a question about business operations, specifically, Boston asks Hamish Livingston, CPO, Willo – who operates at an intersection between sales and delivery functions – how he manages those two functions that are often at odds.

“From my perspective, organisations face a real challenge, when departments are competing against each other’s interests, it can speak to deeper issues when it comes to the strategy, direction, culture, and ultimately, how they achieve alignment within the organisation,” said Livingston.

He added: “If you have a culture where everyone understands the problem you’re trying to solve, it will benefit the end user.”

Finally, the panel chair questioned Lina Srebrova, XR strategist at Digitalnauts on immersive technologies.

Boston posited that we’re seeing more widespread adoption since Covid of emerging XR tech and sought an insight into Digitalnauts’ journey concerning the lack of understanding in the market about what the company offers around emerging technology.

“The first couple of years was really spent in a beta phase, figuring out how to commercialise the business,” said Srebrova.

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For her, it’s about understanding the offering – walking out on a plank on a high-rise building was enough to sell her on the potential of VR.

Once people get beyond the point of grasping what the tech actually is “it’s about building out an offering where you can clearly and concisely communicate to your customer base on how your product can add value. Starting with the low-hanging fruit in Lina’s case was training as VR tech is a great fit.”

Get people to understand the technology. Now there’s new challenges: saving money, other priorities, seeing how technology is viewed (luxury over essential).

Srebrova concluded: “There’s always going to be challenges, it’s about having agency and being able to pivot to meet the next challenge.”

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