One of Scotland’s most highly rated entrepreneurs says the country needs more unicorns to stem the exit of homegrown talent.

Mike Callachan is the founder of home delivery platform Snappy Shopper, which is allowing convenience stores and corner shops to take advantage of the growth in online grocery sales.

Around £150m worth of transactions pass through the platform every year and the Dundee startup is on a mission to grow that figure to a £1bn a year of annual platform sales.

“That translates into a business that would be worth in the region of £1bn,” said Callachan, which would give the business fabled unicorn status.

A report in 2021 found that Scotland had produced three unicorn companies – maverick beer maker BrewDog; fantasy sports platform FanDuel, now headquartered in the US; and travel comparison site and app Skyscanner.

Analysis by and the Digital Economy Council identified four other Scottish ‘futurecorns’: Roslin Technologies and NuCana BioMed (Edinburgh), Interactive Investor (Glasgow) and Amphista Therapeutics (Motherwell).

Snappy Shopper is hoping to join that group and Callachan said the key was keeping talent in the country.

Speaking at last week’s Northern Tech Awards in Edinburgh, he said: “It’s clear that Scotland has a great history of innovation. If you look at Europe in particular we’re very proud of our education system.

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“I went to St Andrew’s University and I believe that outranked both Cambridge and Oxford in a recent league table.

“Undoubtedly we’ve got exceptional schools, education and emerging talent but the key is we need exciting Scottish companies to retain that talent to allow them to reach their full potential.

“If they go to Scandinavia, or Europe or the US to fulfil that ambition then Scottish companies will suffer.”

Scotland has become one of the leading centres of the UK tech scene in recent years and Callachan said the expectation to become Scotland’s next unicorn was a ‘positive pressure’.

“It’s a positive pressure but it’s mainly put on by ourselves,” he said. “The management team we have firmly believe in it.

“We put the customer at the heart of everything we do and ultimately by empowering local shops we’re pushing on an open door because people like supporting local.

“We don’t want to live in a world where there’s one shop called Amazon where you buy everything from it.

“People like the idea of local shopkeepers and local high streets and we don’t want to see them follow the path of city centre high streets where huge retailers have disappeared.

“There’s a momentum and a purpose behind what we do but as part of that vision and mission statement it does say we want to get to a place where we do over a £1bn a year of annual platform sales.

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“It (the Scottish tech sector) definitely needs a halo brand because the proof is in the pudding ultimately.”

Callachan founded Snappy Shopper in 2018 and three years later they raised £19.4m in investment.

He said the simplicity of the business model appeals to customers and investors alike.

“If you go to the fridge and there’s no milk you can order it on our app and it will be delivered in 30 minutes,” he said.

“We’re the technology. We empower local high streets to offer home delivery services in the community that they operate.”

“We call it ‘local store to door’. We believe in the circular economy. Spend money in a local stores and the money will stay in the local economy.”

The average basket size is just under £30 and the entrepreneur said Covid changed people’s approach to home delivery and local shopping forever.

“People were working more from home so were relying more from local shops and we think that’s a great thing,” he said.