Member’s Spotlight – Malcolm McMaster

Introducing the latest TRICAPITAL member’s spotlight featuring Malcolm McMaster. With a diverse career spanning maritime, high-tech, and satellite industries, Malcolm brings invaluable experience to his role as an investor. Committed to TRICAPITAL’s ethos of societal impact, he envisions a future marked by growth, diversity, and continued support for innovative ventures in Scotland.

Can you provide us with a brief overview of your professional background, and your career path?

My professional journey started in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, where I was trained as a chartered accountant. From the start of my career, I was fortunate to have worked in companies of various sizes, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100 in several different industries. Although my work moved away from accountancy, my training came in very handy in my positions in management in industries ranging from maritime equipment and service, plastics manufacture, telecom/mobile phones, and, most recently, the satellite industry. The maritime, mobile phone and satellite industries gave me significant exposure to global business markets and operations. This included being instrumental in company turnarounds which, while always challenging can also bring great satisfaction. In fact, it was a turnaround situation that originally took me to the United States, where I still live for part of the year, dividing my time between Northumberland and the US, with frequent stays in Glasgow, where our son lives and works.  My original work in the US involved working for a subsidiary company that was experiencing some difficulties. After helping to turn around the business, I was asked to do the same thing for another company in the business of extrusion and thermoforming of plastic products. This involved a very different set of problems, but restructuring the company’s production planning processes, increasing the focus on safety and human resources, and instigating more structured planning and reporting systems resulted in a return to profitability.

My next job opportunity took me to the world of high-tech. I joined Motorola’s mobile phone division as Director of product management, which later led me to an exciting software start-up based in New York City. The company was focused on providing cutting-edge video over cell phones and was well before its time. Unfortunately, as we were based in lower Manhattan close to the World Trade Centre, the 9/11 attacks effectively put the company out of business like so many others at the time.

I later returned to the Maritime Sector as president of Telaurus Communications, a provider of email, data and communication services to ships at sea. After a couple of years, the company was acquired by Globecomm Systems, a significant player in the satellite communications business who wanted to enter the maritime market, and I was appointed as President of the newly formed Globecomm Maritime. Over the next several years we grew the business organically and embarked on a series of acquisitions. The work with Globecomm put me back into high-tech and the maritime industry in one go, which was a dream job for me considering my background.

When Globecomm merged with another company, I left to pursue consulting work, and this was when, three years ago, I was invited to join TRICAPITAL. I was drawn to TRICAPITAL by the opportunity to invest in and help exciting new businesses in Scotland.  So far, it’s been a very rewarding experience and I look forward to seeing more very exciting businesses being introduced to our group. 

How do you envision your professional expertise complementing your involvement with TRICAPITAL, and how has it contributed to your success as an investor?

My business experience has proven invaluable in my role as an investor, especially when it comes to assessing potential investment opportunities. In the future, I look forward to the possibility of working more closely with companies where I can use my experience to help them grow. My focus is on investments that align with TRICAPITAL’s ethos, i.e., investing especially in companies that contribute positively to society. I see the collaboration with Scottish Enterprise as an enhancement of TRICAPITAL’s ability to support companies that make a meaningful impact on communities.

In my role as an investor, I believe that my strengths lie in leveraging my experience to help companies manage the inevitable challenges they will face on their journeys and to help steer them towards profitability. The emphasis on people and relationships has been a consistent factor throughout my career, and it’s therefore important to me to ensure that the businesses I support prioritise their employees, customers, and broader communities.

We’re eager to learn more about your personal journey as an investor. What sparked your initial interest in start-up investments, and what motivated you to become a member of an angel syndicate like TRICAPITAL?

I have been a “quiet” investor throughout my adult life, but after being introduced to TRICAPITAL by Rob Dick, one of the original founding members, who is sadly no longer with us, and later by Jamie Andrew, both of whom I met on the tennis court, my interest in the idea of using my experience to assist others in the start-up ecosystem was piqued.

The alignment of values, especially the focus on community impact and support from Scottish Enterprise, resonated with me. I am looking for investments that not only carry the potential for financial returns but also contribute positively to society. If I had to pick any areas of special interest to me, they would be high-tech, healthcare and societal well-being and sustainability.

Looking into the future, where do you identify the most promising investment opportunities in Scotland over the next few years? Are there specific industries or sectors that you believe will be particularly ripe for growth and innovation?

When considering future investment prospects in Scotland, I believe that it’s crucial to align with modern industries that address current challenges. It’s clear to me that Scotland is well-positioned to lead in environmental sectors such as solar and wind power, with offshore wind farms, in particular, being a sector with an expanding focus. Therefore, investing in companies contributing to climate change mitigation and adaptation can be both socially responsible and economically rewarding. The healthcare technology sector also stands out as a continuing growth area, given the ageing population and the associated surge in health-related demands. Embracing global trends, such as the development of AI, is not just an opportunity for Scotland but for the world. It’s about finding solutions to current problems while embracing cutting-edge technologies.

TRICAPITAL holds a prominent position among angel groups in Scotland. In your view, what sets the syndicate apart from others, making it a unique and compelling choice for both investors and entrepreneurs?

What makes TRICAPITAL unique is the commitment to the long-term success of the companies in which we invest. Unlike some other venture capitalists who are solely fixated on numbers and quick returns, TRICAPITAL is about more than just financial gains. The blend and diversity of expertise within the group goes well beyond a superficial level, offering substantial and practical support for companies. The focus is on helping businesses grow organically and in a controlled manner.

This commitment is deeply ingrained, originating from the ethos established by founder, Rob Dick. TRICAPITAL is a community-driven syndicate, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared success that sets it apart from others.

Looking ahead, what do you see as the future of TRICAPITAL?

The trajectory of TRICAPITAL involves continued growth and evolution. This requires a constant expansion of the membership, as well as expansion of the kinds of companies we invest in. While we have traditionally invested primarily in pre-revenue companies, we are now exploring opportunities at more advanced stages. This shift allows us to make even better use of the diverse experience within the group.

I especially applaud the efforts that have recently been made by Moray Martin to increase female participation in TRICAPITAL, spearheaded by new members like Lynne Cadenhead. I believe that this reflects a dedication to creating a fully inclusive and diverse environment of investors. I see the future of TRICAPITAL as being about offering companies a comprehensive range of experiences and skills to ensure the most robust support system possible, which will no doubt increase the chances of the companies in which we invest to achieve their goals and dreams.

Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with our readers regarding your experiences as an angel investor, your involvement with TRICAPITAL, or your insights into the broader landscape of start-up investing in Scotland?

As I have mentioned before, I can’t stress enough that being part of TRICAPITAL is more than just a financial investment. it’s about contributing to the success of burgeoning companies and offering these companies the hands-on support that they need. The friendly and community-oriented atmosphere within TRICAPITAL is what makes the group stand out.

As Scotland’s start-up landscape evolves, I share the belief that the increasing collaboration and varied experiences within TRICAPITAL put our network at the forefront of all Angel investors who are supporting innovative ventures. I believe that fostering an environment where ideas thrive, and businesses flourish is the true essence of being part of the TRICAPITAL group.