EIE is Scotland’s Premier Tech Investor Showcase


Two Big Ears


It’s that time of year again – 50 young data driven entrepreneurial teams are refining their pitches and preparing to take to the stage in Edinburgh in front of an investor audience at this year’s EIE.

EIE is Scotland’s Premier Tech Investor Showcase and highlights the most innovative data driven companies seeking funding. Since its launch in 2008, almost 500 companies have completed the investor readiness programme hosted by Informatics Ventures and gone on to raise in excess of £750MILLION in seed and follow on funding.

Leading TalentSpark, I’m always fascinated by successful founding teams – and the people who are the driving forces in the business, particularly in those early stages. In the run up to #EIE20, I wanted to revisit some of the previous #EIE participants.
This week I want to focus on two companies who achieved that elusive goal that most start-ups aspire to yet very few achieve – a trade exit to a major household name.

Two Big Ears was founded in 2013. The company was born out of an MSc project while the founders where studying design and digital media at the University of Edinburgh.

Founders Abesh Thakur and Varun Nair created an incredible real time and cross platform binaural audio engine for virtual reality and gaming. The easy to use audio toolkits were designed to help developers create more immersive experience without having to worry about the math behind all the audio magic. The company presented at EIE14.

Whilst the terms of the deal were not disclosed, Two Big Ears was acquired by Facebook in 2016 with the technology being incorporated in to Facebook’s development tool ‘Facebook 360 Spatial Workstation’. The founders moved to the USA where both are still employed by Facebook, leading the technology giant’s efforts in spatial audio, tools, VR/AR and audio infrastructure.

Founded by Jim Bonar in 2010, mLED spun out of University of Strathclyde to become a world leader in optoelectronic design and manufacturing of micro light emitting diode technologies for wearables.

As a platform capability, mLED’s breakthrough micro-LED array technology provided a 30X improvement in brightness over existing micro-display approaches, making it suitable for operation in bright, sunlit conditions (where competitors were unable to operate).

Founder Jim Bonar became CTO in 2013 and was joined by CEO Seonaidh MacDonald who was charged with transforming the Scottish start-up into a commercially profitable international business with trade sale appeal. The company first showcased its technology at EIE in Edinburgh in 2013, again in 2014 and later the same year at EIE London where Seonaidh secured the coveted ‘Pitch of the Day’Award.

The company’s final EIE appearance was in 2015 and the following year the company was acquired.

Jim became Scientific Research Manager at Facebook Reality labs in the US, whilst Seonaidh remains in Scotland where he is now chairman of another previous EIE alum – Pufferfish.

Challenging flat technology by opening a world of possibilities for better communication, engagement and interaction with the captivating PufferSphere, Pufferfish is now working with customers in 40 countries worldwide. Since pitching at EIE the company has experienced dramatic growth and secured further investment to service an ever-expanding innovation and development roadmap. Watch this space!

Jane Kennedy is Associate Director at TalentSpark- a group of specialist start-up consultants who work collaboratively to deliver essential talent, employer branding content, and business services to pre-investment, high growth start-ups and scaleups in Scotland. She is currently seconded to Informatics Ventures to help deliver EIE.