City view: Edinburgh

While Edinburgh is most famous for the annual festival which transforms its streets into the setting for a month-long knees-up, arguably its most significant moment came in the late 18th century, when the city played host to the birth of modern economic theory.

Economist Adam Smith, often dubbed the 'father of capitalism', penned his most famous work, The Wealth of Nations in the city, making one of the most defining contributions to the European Enlightenment, which took Western society out of medieval values and placed it firmly within thinking distance of the Industrial Revolution.

As a thank you for his troubles, the people of Britain put him on their £20 note, while the people of Edinburgh - or Dunediners, to use local vernacular - saw fit to erect a statue of him, which stands looking out sombrely over the Royal Mile towards the gleaming towers of the city's financial centre, just a mile away.

Hot sectors

Among Edinburgh's top private sector employers are the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Halifax Bank of Scotland (HBOS), Standard Life and Scottish Widows, which makes Edinburgh's financial centre one of the largest in the UK.

Tourism is also big business in the city, with almost 3.8 million tourists traipsing through the city to sample its mix of culture, shopping and, of course, the festival.

The festival deserves a special mention, says Edinburgh entrepreneur Alistair Broom, founder of local mobile delivery solutions business The PODfather, if only because of its sheer size. "There's an international festival which involves orchestras and operas and things like that, and then there's the festival fringe which is for the rest of us with comedy festivals and theatre shows," he says.

"There are maybe a thousand performances a day for three and a half weeks. There are street performances, street theatre, midnight vigils, street parades... it's crazy."

Living in the city

"The city is so vibrant - people are coming and going all the time," says Broom.

He says the best place to live is Marchmont, a mile to the south of Edinburgh's Old Town. Composed mainly of nineteenth century tenement-style buildings, the area is particularly popular with students.
"It's very handy, central to everywhere," he explains. "You can go out and meet friends, drink, then wander home. There's the Meadows as well, which is a large area for sports, barbeques and that sort of thing."

If you have cash to spare, you could try the Grange - where JK Rowling has her house. "I guess it's where we all aspire to live," says Broom.

Business support

While Broom says businesses 'don't really have very much interaction' with the local council, the entrepreneurial scene in the region is thriving, with several large organisations set up to provide inspiration and, most importantly, networking opportunities for small businesses.

One of Broom's favourites is Global Scots. "It's basically an organisation made up of people who have left Scotland, made it big, and are either still abroad or back in Scotland looking to help growing businesses.

"They have a bi-annual conference - one year it's in Scotland and the next it's somewhere else. It's good to be around that sort of thing."

Where can I...

... take clients to lunch?
Named after the highland town of the same name, Stac Polly takes modern European and gives it a traditional Scottish twist. Expect a menu which includes plenty of seafood, Aberdeen Angus steaks and, of course, haggis and neeps alongside more traditional European ingredients such as filo pastry or goats' cheese.
Stac Polly, 29-33 Dublin Street, Edinburgh EH3 6NL. Tel: 0131 556 2231

... take a break?
Having clinched Theme magazine's 'best Scottish café' award shortly after it opened in 2004, Always Sunday has become a staple for many of the city's lawyers whose work takes them to the high court just up the road. The café offers the usual mix of cakes, coffees, sandwiches and soups in a small but relaxed setting - perfect to unwind in the middle of a hard day.  
Always Sunday, 170 High Street, Edinburgh EH1 1QS. Tel: 0131 622 066

... meet other entrepreneurs?
Based on a format pioneered at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Business Forum Scotland's events are a twist on the usual booze-fuelled format which characterises most networking events. The monthly gatherings give two fledgling businesses the chance to give a presentation on the challenges they are facing to an audience composed of business people, professional advisers and financial experts, who will provide advice on the issues facing small businesses. It's a great way to meet people, share your experiences - as well as providing some food for thought.
Business Forum Scotland, 19 Munro Way, Livingston EH54 8LP. Tel: 01506 491 747 See website for event information.

... host my launch party?
An incongruous, dome-shaped structure located at the Old Town end of the Royal Mile, Our Dynamic Earth promises its visitors 'the Mother Earth of all adventures'. For events, you have a choice between the museum's Stratosphere space, which, with its canopy roof, enormous central dome and views across Edinburgh, provides a great space for anything from fashion shows to gala dinners; the Ozone, which is better suited to smaller parties; or you can enjoy cocktails in the rainforest or by the icecaps at the museum's themed Earthscapes gallery.
Our Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8AS. Tel: 0131 550 7800

... host my conference?
Located in hte middle of the city and a few minutes' walk from Waverley station, Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue has 16 rooms which can accommodate anything from a board meeting to a conference with xx delegates. The venue also features computer training rooms, a cafe and a restaurant - so you can hold a vigorous staff training session, and relax with a glass of wine afterwards. 
Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue, 6 St Mary's Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SU. Tel: 0131 538 8333

Vital statistics

  • No of businesses: 292,330
  • Biggest industries: Financial services, healthcare
  • Percentage of the population who are entrepreneurs: 10%
  • Notable local entrepreneurs: JK Rowling, author; Adam Smith, economist; Shaf Rasul, computer entrepreneur and new Dragons' Den investor

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