How will Brexit impact my start-up?
The UK is home to some of the world’s most promising and successful technology companies. We have a booming FinTech ecosystem and are leaders in deep tech fields such as artificial intelligence. In the run-up to the EU Referendum the UK startup ecosystem stood united in its support to Remain in the European Union. Here are my initial thoughts after the referendum went the other way.
I run a growing tech start-up based in London, we have a team of highly skilled data scientists and engineers – one-third of the team comes from other EU countries. I always recruit the best talent I can find – and will continue to do so – regardless of nationality.
There is a shortage of skilled workforce from the UK, so free movement across the EU, along with streamlined European trade in the single market and a single set of EU regulations, significantly contributed the success of the UK tech sector. Not having to apply for visas for EU team members has always helped us to build a better team. But I’m confident that visas will continue to be obtainable for our current team and skilled technologists we look to hire in future.
We are an inclusive multicultural company that supports a global community of data scientists: geographically, ~43% Europe (~16% UK), 32% Asia, 20% Americas. Over 50% of our revenue is billed in EUR and USD, and this was for the convenience of our customers. Now there are more reasons for support global currencies.
Many promising tech startups may leave the UK entirely to establish new headquarters in other countries. It’s more likely that we will bring forward plans for expansion to other European countries, Asia and the US, to form smaller global teams instead of operating from a larger HQ in the UK. A globally distributed team would cause revenue to flow out of the UK and into global economies, but not at the expense of the company itself.
It’s too early to understand the true extent of the impact on fundraising. Some investors will wait to see what happens in the coming months. But I’m confident smart investors will continue to look for opportunities to back great teams and ideas. Many investors have experience building businesses and – like entrepreneurs – are eternal optimists who go to great lengths to build new technologies that create jobs, and will continue to be a force for good during this period of change and reflection.
My feelings towards the result
First, I had an overwhelming sense of shock and disbelief. It was sad to see Leave win with a campaign of fear, misinformation and false promises.
Then I felt some anger. There should be the equivalent of advertising standards in politics with serious repercussions for ‘mistakes’ like the Leave promise to channel £350m to the NHS.
Then there was dismay. It was frustrating to see ‘what is the EU’ Google search trends shows just how little effort so many people gave to understanding the real impact of what may be the most important vote in their lives. Many Leavers were disappointed to learn about the real impact of leaving the EU. I believe the press have a duty of care to their readers to give the basic facts they need to make an educated decision.
And then I wanted to understand. Many Leavers appear to have voted against the establishment, not the EU. The result clearly shows that large parts of the UK felt disenfranchised. However, ironically, the parts of the UK that had the highest leave vote are likely to bear the brunt of any economic and social consequences.
But it is still too early for acceptance.
What should happen next (IMHO)
This is not a time for an unelected Prime Minister to take the helm. Before invoking Article 50, the UK needs a general election with a clear mandate around Brexit to decide if the advisory role of the EU Referendum should be acted upon. It is within the power of House of Commons under the Fixed Term Parliament Act to trigger an early general election by passing either a “no-confidence” resolution, or two-thirds of all MPs vote in favour of an early general election. Anyone can become a member of a political party to take part in internal elections to influence the appointment of new party leaders.
There is still hope if we can work together. Now, more than ever, the UK needs to stay calm and work with integrity to resolve some of the deep rooted issues that caused such a national divide under newly elected leadership. While politicians are scrambling to regain some order across the fractured political parties, we can all do our bit to make things better.
It’s important at this time that we reach out to our friends and co-worker across the UK, in the EU, and around the world, to show them that this the events of the past few days only serves to increase our desire to continue to build relationships and collaborate on projects for the greater good.
This post reflects my personal views only.