Last week, YBorder brought together thought-leaders of the UK Tech Community to discuss if London will stay a magnet for tech talent and what is next for its startup community. Here’s a short summary of the important key points that were addressed during the event.
The event was held at General Assembly (a campus to learn new digital skills) and brought together 65+ people from the Tech community to share their personal concerns and their thoughts on whether or not London will remain a tech capital.
Moderator Mike Butcher, Editor-At-Large for TechCrunch Europe, focused the discussions on what the reaction has been thus far, the impacts that are already being felt and what’s ahead for the future.
Reactions to the Brexit vote:
Alain Falys, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Yoyo Wallet, said the UK government had always been promoting Tech and now “it feels like we are going backwards.”
Brynne, CEO of Move Guides, a UK-based tech company helping HR professionals move their staff worldwide, added that for business executives the brexit vote so far has been perceived as a threat to recruitment of foreigners. The free movement of people is what has benefited most companies in the Tech community. Also, many tech startup CEOs are Europeans, and there is reasonable fear over how this freedom of movement will be curbed. “The process of getting visas is ridiculous” and it is only by “making it cumbersome” that the UK government achieved to slow down the number of people getting tier 2 visas so far, said Brynne.
Kristjan, partnership manager at Teleport, reported that from a survey to their users based in the UK, 32% of them confirmed they are leaving , 24.4% aren’t and 43.6% are still unsure after the vote. Kristjan stated, “For people working in tech in London, the question of staying in the UK or leaving is now out. It is not clear yet what decision people will take but the question is definitely out there now.”
Impact of the Brexit vote:
So far, nothing has happened – the UK is still part of the EU – but already:
- the bigger companies are slowing down recruitment plans until they get more certainty on what the Brexit actually means in terms of policies (agreed across all speakers)
- UK Tech Companies surveyed by YBorder (36%) are gathering information and preparing for new immigration rules concerning European staff.
- Some US businesses are enjoying the benefits of a cheaper pound (Brynne Herbert, Move Guides)
- Some startups are reporting to have lost investment opportunities from EU investors because it was tied to the UK staying in the EU (Mike Butcher, TechCrunch)
The future of Tech in Brexit Britain
The panelists went on to look at what’s ahead and what opportunities can be pushed for the Tech community to get out of the Brexit crisis successfully.
Mike Butcher pointed at the strength of institutions and agencies that have been built around the Tech Community like Coadec, Tech City UK and Tech London Advocates. These are actors that will play a key role in protecting and defending the tech community’s agenda. Look to get involved with some of them.
Alain Falys reminded the audience that London will stay attractive, not only because the tech community is strong here, but also because “London big” is not “Berlin big”: there is a global mentality to London that comes from the UK being a multicultural society, partly inherited from the Commonwealth links and the trade and legal links it created within the EU over the last 30 years.
Speakers suggested the community might relocate their tech teams – if immigration rules get tougher, recession hits hard and salaries of techies don’t decrease – and will look into setting up small offices in Dublin or Germany to continue to take advantage of “passporting” (the possibility to set up a branch in an EEA state to provide cross-border services or advice).
Kristjan from Teleport suggested that some companies might want to consider the e-residency scheme developed by Estonia.
Finally, during the Q&A, one person asked if the UK was considering that London follow the growth model of Dubai or Hong Kong. This was rejected by most as it would continue to widen the gap between two worlds: London and the rest of the UK which caused the Brexit to happen in the first place.
Overall, for the speakers and attendees, it was obvious that on the short term, the uncertainty over what the Brexit will mean is not going to be unveiled soon – politicians are going to have a PR battle royale in the next few months to gain control over the negotiation table in Brussels. However, what is sure is a recession on the short and medium term, because of this certain uncertainty. The irony.
The best thing tech companies and the tech community can do is gather, share information and prepare to weather this economic storm.
Thanks to all of you who came to the event and participated in the Q&A. Here’s a video of the event – on periscope. YBorder was delighted to provide a space where the UK Tech Community could discuss essential matters for its future, with quality speakers. YBorder is looking to recreate a series of similar events across other tech capitals – Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, etc. – where it’s helping to move tech talent.