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17 November 2003
The Herald
And the nominations for this year are as follows

SCOTLAND'S entrepreneurial spirit will be recognised later this month at a glittering gala awards ceremony.

The Entrepreneurial Exchange Entrepreneur of the Year 2003 awards will take place in front of 700 guests at the Hilton hotel in Glasgow on November 27, in an evening sponsored by The Herald, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the Bank of Scotland.

There are two categories this year:

Emerging Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur of the Year.

There will also be further entrants on the night to the Hall of Fame. Current members are Sir Richard Branson, Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden, Tom Hunter, Sir Tom Farmer, John Boyle, Sir Jackie Stewart, David Moulsdale, Brian Souter, Jim McColl, Richard Emmanuel, Willie Haughey, David Sibbald, Arnold Clark, Sam Russell, Ann Gloag, Donald Macdonald, Ian Wood, and Moir Lockhead.

Our preview of the three short-listed finalists in each category begins with the nominations for Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year.

Name: Alan Revie

Company: National Tyres/ Axle Group

Location: Langside, Glasgow

Started: 2001

Employees: 1250

Turnover: (pounds) 100m

The dramatic turnaround of Glasgow-based National Tyres was something of a personal triumph for Alan Revie, its chairman and chief executive.

He started his working life as a fitter with the company in 1976. He rose to manage the branch in Langside, which is now the national headquarters. Revie then worked for German multinational Continental, eventually on a number of mergers and start-ups in Germany and the Czech Republic. He was asked by them on several occasions - and had declined - to take on National, until he finally acceded and became chief executive in June, 2001.

Revie and his MBO team now own the UK-wide chain of tyre and exhaust repair shops with no outside investment. Their holding company, Axle Group, paid (pounds) 15m to Continental for National and its wholesale partner Viking International, but payment was deferred for four years and Revie said the purchase costs were being met by a series of disposals of already-closed properties.

At the time of the MBO, Continental had already begun disposal of its loss -making 200-outlet commercial division, which supplied tyres for buses and lorries.

Revie continued the programme, losing 400 jobs, but offered the outlets to their local management, resulting in 50 mini-MBOs.

This accounted for less than 50% of the saving needed to bring break-even back on to the company's radar. Closure of a financial centre in Ireland and relocation to Glasgow added another (pounds) 2.5m. Restructuring of the IT network contributed another (pounds) 7.5m. At the start of this year, it had achieved a profit of (pounds) 500,000 - against a loss of (pounds) 44m in 2001.

PWC VERDICT: Since the MBO, Alan Revie has already made extraordinary progress in transforming the prospects of the company. With Alan's drive and enthusiasm, the possibility of impressive profitable growth seems very real.

Name: Keith Neilson

Company: Craneware

Location: Livingston

Started: 1999

Employees: 60

Turnover: $ 6,475,000

Keith Neilson may be a Scottish entrepreneur, but he is making the big bucks in America.

The company's software application has been seized on by hospitals in the US as a means of speeding up the billing process - which applies to every patient, whether they use private insurance or the basic Medicare programme.

Effectively, it automates the auditing of Chargemaster - the interface between a hospital's clinical and financial computer systems which would then translate medical treatment into a bill. Previously, this process was done manually.

Neilson discovered the niche market when he was doing an MBA dissertation with Code Quest, a small consultancy within the US healthcare market. He has since bought that company.

Last year, Craneware won contracts to supply its software to both the largest and third-largest US Hospital Associations - organisations that are crucial to achieving sales penetration in these territories.

It has won $ 16m worth of contracts in the past 12 months and the opportunity to build on this is huge, given that Craneware has undisputed prime mover advantage and currently holds 86% market share. Craneware supplies software to more than 400 hospitals within 45 states of the US and should complete the set by supplying to hospitals within the remaining states before the end of this calendar year.

Neilson founded the company with Gordon Craig and has explored other sales avenues, including allying the software to the auditing procedures of some of the Big Four accounting practices.

PWC VERDICT: With Keith Neilson at the helm, Craneware's growth in market share has been nothing short of remarkable. We see Craneware as being a company well worth watching over the next few years.

Name: Simon Best

Company: Ardana Bioscience

Location: Edinburgh

Started: 2000

Employees: 17

Turnover: nil

Simon Best is head of Ardana Bioscience, one of Scotland's most promising new biotech companies. The former music graduate - he used to be manager of pop group the Human League - has made something of a speciality of business start -ups and, at Ardana, has raised more than (pounds) 33m in backing.

The company specialises in human reproductive issues - its name comes from a Hindu deity with an interest in the subject - and, among other research projects, it is working on a compound which could possibly be used as a new form of male contraception.

It now holds more than 30 patents, 10 times the number held at formation three years ago. Because of the long lead times in drug development, it is still loss -making, but a recent (pounds) 20m fundraising was the biggest in Europe and it aims to go into profit by 2008.

Best's background in bioscience began with ICI, where he was instrumental in introducing GM tomato paste to the UK market. Then he moved to head up the newly-formed business arm of the Roslin Institute, the animal research centre that most famously contributed to the creation of Dolly the sheep.

PWC VERDICT: Following Ardana's last substantial round of fundraising, Simon Best's focused 'mini-pharma' strategy is gaining momentum. His enthusiasm and business development skills are paving the way to a business with outstanding potential.



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