Thirteen years ago, Two Worlds moved from Surrey to Highland Scotland, for a better quality of life and in the belief that, as a knowledge-based organisation, we could work from anywhere that had effective communications, and that creative inspiration and collaboration would be well served by the peace, quiet and beauty of the lochs and mountains.
The inspiration part has worked very well, with clients coming in from all over the world to walk, talk and plan with us, well away from the disruptive minutiae of daily life in city offices.
The first part, the comms, was more of a challenge: we ended up with miserable communications. Although road and air links are very good (with rail a little less convenient), broadband – all promises notwithstanding – was execrable. We spent the first few years on <1Mb/s, before moving to vastly expensive, unreliable and usage-limited satellite. The result of that was that two start-ups we’d hoped to grow locally (Connect TV and the UK operations of udu) had to be relocated, to London and to the USA respectively.
That clearly wasn’t acceptable: the whole idea of moving here was not just to work from Scotland, but to grow our company here and to play our part in the diversity and resilience of the local economy. So we worked for years with Stirling Council, on their Broadband Advisory and Development groups, to help steer the whole idea of the difference that effective rural broadband can make. We also founded our own community broadband company and raised the necessary enthusiasm, funding and partnerships to make it happen. Now, as a result of the efforts of our self-motivated and determined community, we are, with a symmetrical 1Gb/s fibre bandwidth to every property, in the top 1% of global broadband services. That’s already having a transformative effect on the local area and on the nature of the businesses and services it can support – our part of rural Scotland still has its challenges, but we’re no longer third-class online citizens.
We’re now in the process of creating a permanent R&D lab here in the glen, investing in both new build and the renovation of our existing live/work space to do so, with the latter already eco-renovated to include a full enterprise-grade infrastructure. Recent projects in adaptive intelligence around real-world data have identified a market for services that support the real time augmentation of our knowledge about the world and we’re in the process of launching a new startup to do just that: watch this space.