Talking technology and incubators: interview with CodeBase CEO Stephen Coleman

PwC has announced an alliance with CodeBase. The arrangement sees PwC take up space at the Edinburgh incubator to offer advice and also showcase modern offerings for startups and scale-ups including small business accounting package My Financepartner. CEO and co-founder of CodeBase, Stephen Coleman took some time to talk about CodeBase’s beginnings, where is is going - and who are the ones to watch.

For someone looking at Codebase from the outside - how would you describe it?

A technology incubator focused on high growth software and digital businesses.

In the time Codebase has grown, we've seen a number of similar efforts try to be established. Why should someone go with Codebase over the others?

1) Community and 2) Operational capability. People are our greatest resource, and tech communities evolve from the ground up, not top down. We've surrounded ourselves with operators who understand how to actually build these businesses.

Any regrets over firms that you've bounced from entering into Codebase - "ones that got away" so to speak?

No regrets so far - time will tell ;)

Edinburgh attracting the right talent

Co-founder Jamie Coleman has spoken about the Edinburgh 'cluster effect' in the past in that it has all the right qualities for attracting talent - does that still hold true?  

More so than ever. With the successes of Skyscanner, FanDuel and others, there's been an increase in the skill level for building digital companies in Edinburgh, which has greatly benefited the founding teams across the city.

Has there ever been a point where the challenge has seemed too much?

It's consistently challenging - the early days of any business are difficult, and there are highs and lows, successes and failures that need to be borne. We're lucky to have a great team to get through the tough times.

Jamie predicted the rise of Administrate and TVSquared - who's the next ones to watch?

CareSourcer, Relaymed and Pasabi.

Digital Scotland

Is Scotland getting better at embracing digital potential and opportunities?

Scotland now has firmly got the memo that software is at the heart of digital growth, and digital transformation is vital to the Scottish economy.

Any sectors in particular getting ahead of the game or lagging behind in Scotland?

Edtech and Healthtech are really growing from strength to strength. Consumer focused companies are lagging behind.

An ongoing debate at the moment is the suggestion that everyone should learn coding, even ahead of the likes of Gaelic. What's your take on that?

Not everyone needs to code, but everyone needs to understand what coding can do and how it can shape the modern workplace. Software has the ability to transform the world, and a knowledge of what coding is will be vital to future jobs.

Are we getting more creative in our use of tech?

Every day we're seeing the blurring of the lines between engineering and creative worlds, as design permeates into the core of software.

Digital skills in Scotland

We are continually hearing Scotland suffers from a shortage of digital skills - what digital skills would you advise people to be learning to stay ahead? Or is it not about digital skills and more general skills?

The mindset of continual reinvention, critical thinking and problem solving are more important than learning any particular programming language. With those core skills, any language can be learned.

Are we still at a point where the digital sphere is being more embraced by the young or is there scope for older people to get involved and do it, setting up and starting again?

Lifelong learning and continual transformation is at the core of the modern age - there's no age limit on learning and contributing.

What's the best level of managing at Codebase? Does it require a hands-off approach or do you need to micromanage to the level of towels in the bathroom and number of peanut butter jars on the shelves?

There's a cultural piece and tactical piece. Having an overarching culture of trust is key, alongside specific tactical intervention.

What's the top tips for making the best case for being accepted to Codebase?  

Having an incredible product with a massive market and a great team.

How to get rejected by CodeBase

What's the guaranteed ways of making sure you are rejected from Codebase?

To show no understanding of what your TAM (Total Addressable Market) is.

In the context of the larger national economy - what is wrong with the current models for supporting new businesses and what can Codebase do to change that?

There needs to be a greater operator-led education and mentorship in order to drive best pratice, to stop companies reinventing the wheel and relying on well meaning but wrong advice.

The Codebase building itself is both iconic and challenging - what have been the biggest challenges of making it fit for purpose?

We've been growing so rapidly (5x the size of our original footprint in the building in 2 years) that we've had to put a lot of work into making sure the community spirit is kept strong.

Good coffee, ping pong and the obvious beer and pizza - other than this, what's your tips on building a community?

Caring, being human and fostering the right level of ambition while being the bouncer against elements that may harm the community’s development.

Colin the Australian -  Could you live without him?

Absolutely not, culture beats strategy every time.

Codebase is not about the next Facebook or WhatsApp

What is the biggest falsehood you would like to quash about Codebase and startups in general?

That the people here trying to build the next Facebook or Whatsapp - 80% of the companies here are building enterprise software.

Have you ever felt that you've bitten off more than you can chew?

Of course. #couragewolf

Any thoughts on starting your own tech business or is Codebase enough?

No comment ;)


Contact us

General Enquiries

Scotland, PwC United Kingdom

Tel: +44 (0)141 355 4000

Follow us: