Digital startups want us to remain in the EU

tl;dr Coadec’s survey found that 81% want to remain in the EU

The referendum has now been called, and the next four months will be dominated by the debate over whether the UK should remain in, or leave, the European Union.

To gauge the opinion of the UK’s digital startups (and to inform Coadec’s own position) we have been surveying startup founders, and people who invest in and work in the UK’s digital startups.

Survey results

The sample size was 175, including 126 startup founders, 26 startup employees, 19 investors and 4 others (the others were excluded).

The first question we asked was whether or not the renegotiation impacted their views, with 71% saying it did not impact their view:

The next question we asked was the same as the one on the referendum ballot paper itself. It found that 81% of respondents said the UK should remain a member of the European Union:

What are the key issues?

We also asked people to (optionally) tell us why they held those views. We promised respondents that their individueal responses would be confidential, so these are the broad themes that emerged.

For those who said the UK should remain, the key issues were:

  • Access to a large single market, with harmonised regulations
  • Free movement of labour, giving access to a talented workforce
  • Having a ‘seat at the table’
  • Stability and security

For those who said the UK should leave, the key issues were:

  • Sovereignty
  • Over-regulation and red tape

Analysis

These results aren’t surprising. The UK’s startup community is international in its outlook and in its composition. Founders come to the UK from across Europe (and the world) to launch and grow their businesses. They look to the Europe for talented staff to help them grow. And they aim to sell and expand across a trading block of 500 million consumers.

In their responses, even those who said they wanted to remain in the EU pointed out that the EU is far from perfect. The burden of regulation can be high, and the pace of change too slow. But despite this they made the case that the benefits of access to the single market, harmonised regulations and free movement of labour, outweighed the costs.

It’s interesting that the renegotiation was not seen as having an impact on most people’s views. We didn’t ask why, but from the themes that emerged as important it seems clear. The issues that mattered to those who wanted to remain were not under discussion, ie the single market and free movement.

Limitations

We need to be upfront that the survey has limitations, notably that the group who answered our call was self-selecting, hasn’t been controlled to ensure a representative sample, and is a relatively small sample. But it is indicative of startup opinion, and in line with anecdotal evidence. It is also in line with surveys from Tech London Advocates, which found that 87% wanted to remain; and from techUK who found that 71% of members wanted to remain in a reformed EU.

What next?

Based on the strong support of the startup community for remaining in the EU, Coadec is going to push for a ‘remain’ vote. If you’d like to be involved, drop me a line at guy.levin@coadec.com.