News Item Default

Pathfinder Accelerator alumni unite and celebrate success in fuelling innovation

Published: 17/04/2024

Entrepreneurs in the Highlands and Islands are reaping the rewards of a programme designed to pressure-test their product or service and get it to market in a shorter space of time. 

Participants from each year since Pathfinder Accelerator began in 2018, will gather at Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness for the finale event tomorrow (Thursday 18 April).

The accelerator programme forms part of the Northern Innovation Hub, which is led by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and funded by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal partnership, with £11m from UK Government.  
Over the last six years, 194 life science and technology-focused enterprises have been equipped with practical tools and techniques to put their ideas through their paces and support them in the next chapter of their careers.  

During the evening, six Pathfinder graduates will pitch their business in a Dragon’s Den style competition. They are all pitching for a cash prize, donated by training specialists Skillfluence, who deliver the programme.  
The evening will also include a fireside chat hosted by Skillfluence’s Jamie McCallum with previous participants from businesses who have completed Pathfinder. Chair of HIE, Alistair Dodds will provide the opening speech and the evening will be closed by HIE’s Chief Executive, Stuart Black.  

Sacha Woolham, founder of The Strategy Collective UK is one of the six people pitching in the Dragon’s Den style competition.  
She said: “The programme has really helped me define my goals and give me the tools to work towards them. It was great to be supported by experts, which included two hours with someone who understood all the funding opportunities and how to not just think about today but think about longer term and what it would mean for the business.” 

Aleksandra Czech-Seklecka founder of VanFill Ltd, an app that helps reduce carbon emissions and transportation costs for transport providers, took part in the Pathfinder event will also pitch on the evening.  

She said: “We’ve done extensive work to develop our proposition, market and business model. It’s great to have been able to also develop an understanding of our most significant risks and undertook fail-fast-fail-cheap activities to mitigate them. Ultimately this has led us to develop our MVP and go on to win awards for our idea. I now know how to plan my next steps and what to focus on.” 
Aaron Ross, co-founder and managing director at family-business Roslin Distillers based in Fassfern in Lochaber will be pitching too.  
He said: “Being in your own business can also be a lonely place at times so it was great to meet so many likeminded entrepreneurs, many at different stages and share experiences, both positive and negative, for the greater good. Taking part in Pathfinder has given me renewed confidence in my business and my ideas and provided me with a tool kit and framework to test new ideas and business models.” 

Other entrepreneurs pitching on the evening are Zoe Russell co-founder of Rethink Carbon, a company that helps carbon capturing through land management; Calum Kirkness of Greenspace Solutions – Polycroo Tunnels and Andy Hall of 4C Engineering.  
Skillfluence developed and designed the course structure including an e-learning platform to make it more accessible. 
Although originally targeted at SMEs in the Highland Council area, the programme was extended to provide additional funding support from HIE to enable 44 more businesses from across the wider Highlands and Islands to take part.

Alistair Dodds, Chair of HIE, said: “The Pathfinder Accelerator programme has had a profound impact on its participants. Each entrepreneur who took part over the past six years has gained valuable insights and skills to strengthen their business and grow the region’s life sciences and technology sector. They’ve also established connections to share knowledge and experience with one another as they apply all that they’ve learned to maximise opportunities and tackle challenges in the years ahead.”  


The Inverness and Highland City Region-Deal is a joint initiative supported by up to £315m investment from the UK and Scottish governments, The Highland Council, HIE and UHI, aimed at stimulating sustainable regional economic growth. 

Photo clocksie from top-left: Sacha Woolham, Zoe Russell, Aleksandra Czech-Seklecka and Aaron Ross

Related Articles