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The Recycling of Entrepreneurial Talent


Entrepreneurial recycling considers how individuals evolve over time. It looks at how entrepreneurs use their newly acquired wealth, along with their experience of starting, developing and then exiting a business, to engage in other entrepreneurial activities, notably (but not restricted to) starting new businesses and investing in others. Therefore, this research sought to identify the extent to which recycling occurs in Scotland and the impact this makes; what can be learnt from their experiences; what attracts experienced business people to a particular path or opportunity; and how could their knowledge and expertise further benefit the Scottish economy.


The research interviewed a sample of GlobalScots, a worldwide network of business leaders, entrepreneurs and executives with a connection to Scotland, and a strong desire to see Scottish businesses succeed locally and in the wider world, as well as several other individuals with substantial experience in business. This gave us insights from those individuals who make the greatest difference to economic growth and employment, through the development of high-ambition companies, as well as those who operate in the entrepreneurial space. Their accumulated knowledge and experience would provide a valuable basis for the research.


Our findings uncovered a series of trends in entrepreneurial recycling. The most critical element in recycling was not networks but relationships, based upon trust in and knowledge of, the skills, abilities and personal characteristics of colleagues. Attracting recycled talent rather than recycled cash and investment was a greater priority for entrepreneurs and companies. There was a clear preference for and comfort in working alongside those with whom they were familiar. When this did not exist previously, it was often developed over time through a form of ‘diligence’. When describing the characteristics sought in companies and people to work with, interviewees identified a similar core set of characteristics, although judgement ultimately came down to an ‘educated gut feel’ about their capabilities. The motivations driving actions are very similar. They are opportunity driven, and usually entail developing a robust proposition, drawing on the skills, knowledge and experience of current and previous work colleagues. Interviewees did not by specify the type of opportunities they were seeking, instead determining its viability at the time it materialises. We also found no evidence of the common assumption that cashed-out entrepreneurs simply stop activity.


The report makes no recommendations but outlines areas for further consideration by relevant Directorates within SE.

Author Scottish Enterprise
Published Year 2015
Report Type Research
  • Enterprise
    Support to existing/growth businesses