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Deal or No Deal? London Tech Leaders Weigh In on Brexit

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As the bright cliffs of freedom edge ever closer and we prepare to take back control from our EU overlords, remoaners still insist on pointing out pesky facts.

London is Europe’s leading tech hub fuelled by talent from across the continent. A bad deal threatens to undermine the most dynamic part of our economy @AndyCockburn Share on X

For many years the tech sector has been the bonniest jewels in UK PLC’s crown, paraded as a shining example of innovation, growth and general coolness. I myself enjoyed working in and around Silicon Roundabout for many years and can honestly say that it’s been fun and utterly humbling to be around so many brilliant people contributing so much to the country’s economy. Some of them were even British.

“As a Northern Ireland native, I’ve seen first hand the difficulty that division can cause, just as I can see the major and needless impact that Brexit is having on bringing back the divisions on that island. Isolation and protectionism has never proven to be a positive long term strategy, and that is becoming clear in this case too. And with more in the tech industry, and in the UK as a whole, considering themselves citizens of the world, we risk closing our doors and driving away a diverse set of people that help make us all better.”

Rob Elkin, Busuu

We now had 2 years of due diligence on Brexit and the British people deserve a vote on this deal. Anything else would be highly irresponsible and undemocratic @bernardooo ‏ Share on X

Tech Trends Tech for UK Best for Britain

Cartoon by Bruce MacKinnon @CH_Cartoon

Show me a thriving start-up that is not a melting pot of cultures from all over the world and you’d seriously be looking at an anomaly. It’s never been surprising for me to hear dozens of languages being spoken around the office, and to be constantly asking my colleagues how to best pronounce their names.

We employ a bunch of highly skilled people and 70% of our staff don’t have a UK passport. Finding and attracting great team members is a major challenge and is the single biggest constraint on our growth. Anything we can do to make it easier for smart people to come to the UK is a bonus. Doing the opposite is frankly economic suicide. Adam Fudakowski, CEO, Switchee

To me, such places are living proof that diversity breeds innovation, so to talk about adopting policies that would make Britain (to borrow some government terminology here) a “hostile environment” for immigration really seems to a move designed to drain the lifeblood from the creative industries – tech included.

We punch above our weight, which means we have a lot to lose. The country of Magna Carta and the Mother of Parliaments deserves a meaningful debate on concrete options, and a vote based on considered strategic goals @richmarr ‏ Share on X

“The UK and especially London has become a vibrant and globally successful centre for technology innovation. Many of the most exciting start up businesses here have been founded by immigrant entrepreneurs and grown with UK and European employees joining the companies as they grow rapidly.” Simon Murdoch, Managing Partner, Episode 1 Ventures

As anyone who’s ever worked in a start-up will also attest to, a huge part of a company’s energy and resources goes towards attracting, recruiting and retaining talent. Competition is dog-eat-dog fierce and even with freedom of movement allowing European citizens from 29 countries to come and work in London without any restrictions, it was still a challenge to get the right people on board – there just aren’t enough qualified individuals to go around, British or otherwise.

“Our world leading digital industry is being led into a back water of mediocrity by a crop of leaders who don’t even know what Brexit they want and why they want it. By keeping the best talent in the world out with central government quotas on immigration they’ve pulled down the shutters. Digital leaders will simply start up elsewhere. Toby Beresford, Rise

The Bank of England recently released figures that showed the UK economy is currently 1% smaller than expected two years ago, and this climate of economic uncertainty caused by Brexit is also affecting financing in the sector: Funding from the European Investment Fund has collapsed since the Brexit vote, and a replacement scheme has yet to be assured long-term by the government. The European Investment Bank, which backs a majority of the United Kingdom’s VC funds, has slashed deals with UK VCs and private equity groups by more than two-thirds, with no equivalent funding from the UK government in sight.

Having worked in Silicon Roundabout for many years I can say how fun and humbling it was to be around so many brilliant people who contributed so much to the UK economy. Some of them were even British Share on X

So it comes as no surprise to hear that over 80 UK technology and innovation leaders have signed up as supporters of new tech business group Tech For UK, calling on the Government to back a meaningful vote by the people, on the actual terms of Brexit (something that sadly seems increasingly unlikely).

The Brexiteers admit they can't deliver the Brexit they promised so we deserve a vote on the one they've got us instead @GeorgeBevis ‏ Share on X

Tech For UK represents the founders of many of the most innovative and successful businesses in the UK technology sector including Martha Lane Fox of Lastminute.com and Doteveryone, Ben Whitaker, Founder of Masabi, the UK rail ticketing startup, Bernhard Niesner, founder of the language learning giant Busuu, lending giant Zopa, and George Bevis, founder of small business banking provider Tide, among many others. It is also backing Best For Britain in its fundraising campaign for a meaningful vote on the terms of Brexit and the option to Remain and lead in the EU.

Britons voted for Brexit in the initial referendum with inadequate and often wholly spurious information on both sides of the argument @nicksaalfeld ‏ Share on X

“It’s time the people had the chance for a meaningful vote, or through parliament, on the terms of Brexit,” says TechCrunch Editor-at-large Mike Butcher who is a co-founder of TechHub, and co-organiser of Tech For UK. “The loss of access to European funds, the flight of talent which powers UK tech companies due to the uncertainty and scandal around immigration, the loss of access to the Digital Single Market, which was never consulted over — all of these factors are adversely affecting the UK Tech industry.”

'Lies run sprints, but the truth runs marathons’ - it's becoming increasingly clear that the fiction that was promised by the Leave campaign were just that @glennbookingbug ‏ Share on X

The technology sector has consistently grown faster than the UK economy in recent years, employing over 2 million people and attracting billions in foreign investment. Collectively, Tech For UK supporters have raised hundreds of millions of pounds, put hundreds of millions back into the UK economy and employed thousands of people.

“I spent 12 years working in China – living over there I came to appreciate the value, and leverage, that comes with size. We are a small nation of 65m and I do not believe we are strong or powerful enough to go it alone in a rapidly globalising world. We are European and can’t pretend otherwise. We already have clients making London-based teams redundant as they move whole divisions to Ireland. I catch myself thinking “well it’s ok I’m sure the government know what they’re doing…” and instantly remember they clearly do not. Ed Dean, CEO, Woodseer Global.

Brexit is the most important decisions for generations and it would be irresponsible not to let people have a decision on the exact term of the world they will live in @vhirsch ‏ Share on X

Full list of supporters:
  1. Adam Fudakowski, CEO, Switchee
  2. Adam Price, Founder, VouchedFor & Hatch
  3. Alex Hoye, Co-founder, The Faction Collective
  4. Andrea Tricoli, Co-Founder, Expressly
  5. Andrew Walmsley, Non Exec Chairman, Inskin Media
  6. Andy Cockburn, CEO & Cofounder, Mention Me
  7. Ben Farren CEO, SPOKE
  8. Ben Whately, Co-founder and COO, Memrise
  9. Ben Whitaker, Founder, Masabi
  10. Benjamin Redford, Co-founder, Mayku
  11. Benji Lanyado, Founder & CEO, Picfair
  12. Bernhard Niesner, CEO, Busuu
  13. Bindi Karia, Innovation Expert & Advisor
  14. Cassandra Stavrou, Founder, Propercorn
  15. Cécile Baird, Founder, Decentrl.Agency
  16. Charlie Dobres, CEO, Busking It Productions
  17. Chris Pointon, Co-founder, Racefully
  18. Conor Graham, Cofounder, #HackTheHub
  19. Courtney Glymph, Product and Solutions Communications, CA Technologies
  20. Daniel Appelquist, Head, Samsung Research UK
  21. Daniel Murray, Co Founder, Grabble
  22. David Batey, Founder, Nickelled Ltd
  23. Dimitar Stanimiroff, CEO & Co-founder, Heresy
  24. Dominic Campbell, CEO, Futuregov
  25. Ed Dean, CEO, Woodseer Global
  26. Fabrice Bernhard, Co-Founder, Theodo
  27. Frank Kelcz, Partner, Collider VC
  28. Gareth Quinn, Founder, Digital DNA
  29. George Bevis, CEO, Tide
  30. Gianluca Gindro, Senior Data Scientist, Geophy
  31. Giles Andrews, Cofounder & Chairman, Zopa
  32. Glenn Shoosmith, Founder and CEO, Bookingbug
  33. Guy Morris, Managing Director, Quiz the Nation
  34. Hephzi Pemberton, Founder, Kiteka
  35. Ian Jindal, Founder, Pencil / InternetRetailing
  36. Ilicco Elia, Head Of Mobile, Deloitte Digital
  37. Irfon WatkinsFounder, Dovu
  38. Ivan Mazour, CEO and Founder, Ometria
  39. Jack Huang, Director, TrulyExperiences.com
  40. James Evans, Managing Director, Bluespot.io Ltd
  41. James Whatley, Planning Partner, Ogilvy UK
  42. Jana Hlistova, Founder, Diversity Hacks
  43. Jessica Kennedy White, UCL Educate
  44. Joanna Goodman, Tech Journalist
  45. Jon Atkinson, Technical Director, FARM Digital Ltd.
  46. Jonathan Petrides, Founder, allplants
  47. Josh Feldberg Head of Digital, 89up
  48. Josh Russell, Partner, Resolve
  49. Katie Moffat, Head Of Digital, The Audience Agency
  50. Laure Claire Reillier, Co-Founder and COO, Launchworks & Co
  51. Laurence Kemball-Cook, Founder & CEO, Pavegen
  52. Madhuban Kumar, CEO, Metafused
  53. Marc Roberts, CTO, HiyaCar
  54. Marcus Greenwood, CEO, Ubio
  55. Martha Lane-Fox, Founder, Doteveryone
  56. Martin Goodson, CEO, Evolution AI
  57. Matthew Gardiner, Founder, Catch London
  58. Melanie Moeller, Product Lead, Sky Spain
  59. Merje ShawMD, Path59
  60. Michele Cuccovillo, Partner, Rock Mission
  61. Mike Butcher, MBE, Editor at Large, Techcrunch
  62. Nic Brisbourne, Managing Partner, Forward Partners
  63. Nicholas Katz, CEO, Acasa
  64. Nick Patterson, Founder, Movemeon
  65. Nick Saalfeld, Director, Wells Park Communications
  66. Nuala Murphy, CEO, Moment Health
  67. Peter Ward, Founder, WAYN/Humanity Inc
  68. Pilgrim Beart, CEO, DevicePilot
  69. Priya Prakash, Founder, D4SC
  70. Riaz Kanani, MD & Founder, Radiate B2B
  71. Richard Marr, Cofounder, Applied Recruitment
  72. Rob Elkin, CTO, Busuu
  73. Rob O’Donovan, Ceo, Charlie HR
  74. Simon Murdoch, Founder, Episode 1 Partners
  75. Stephen Johnston, Founder, Fordcastle
  76. Tamara Sword, Founder, TRM&C
  77. Tim Boughton, CTO, Mention Me Ltd
  78. Timothy Brownstone, CEO, KYMIRA
  79. Toby Beresford, CEO, Rise.global
  80. Tom Alisi, Director, deep.ventures
  81. Tom de Grunwald, Creative Director, Microclimate
  82. Tushar Agarwal Co-Founder & CEO, Hubble
  83. Volker Hirsch, Founder, Blue Beck / Tech North Advocates
  84. William Reeve, CEO, Goodlord
  85. William Roberts, Founder, Loyalty Bay

Alice Bonasio is a VR and Digital Transformation Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.