Post-Brexit Plan to British Government Proposed by London Tech Leaders

Entrepreneurs and investors have warned that if the British government does not clarify how it plans to keep the best technical talent, London’s standing as Europe’s leading destination for tech start-ups is at risk.

The government was pressed to act to ensure a continued flow of skilled migrants after Britain leaves the European Union by nine leading UK-based technology entrepreneurs and investors, including Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom in an open letter to Prime Minister Theresa May. It also called on the government to address EU market access and other issues.

“The No. 1 concern for entrepreneurs post-Brexit is access to talent, in particular technical talent,” they said in the letter. It was dated Dec. 6 and timed to coincide with the annual TechCrunch Disrupt London conference for start-ups and investors.

“Quotas on specific skills could severely limit the ability of new tech companies to grow,” they said.

In addition to Brent Hoberman of Founders Forum and Sonali De Rycker, partner at Accel Partners, aignatories of the letter also included Balderton Capital partner Bernard Liautaud, the now London-based founder of French software firm Business Objects.

To ensure a simple and competitive framework for companies, labor, tax, stock options and bankruptcy protection, the letter calls on the government to campaign for access to the European Union’s digital single market.

“London is (still) the best place in Europe to launch a global tech company,” said Zennstrom, who created pioneering messaging service Skype, then venture firm Atomico, which is best known for backing Finnish video games firm Supercell.

“What the UK government needs to make sure is that technology companies still have access to the best talent in the world. If (that happens) without a lot of red tape, we are going to be fine,” Zennstrom said at TechCrunch on Monday.

While cities including Dublin, Amsterdam and Frankfurt are also promoting themselves as alternative tech hubs in the face of Brexit uncertainties, Paris and Berlin are vying to displace London’s lead in the European start-up scene.

Since Britain’s vote in June to leave the EU, funding for UK firms has slowed in fintech, a sector where London ranks as a global leader. According to a report by KMPG and CBInsights, 35 percent more venture capital funding than Britain in the last two quarters has been captured by Germany’s rival fintech scene.

With measures such as providing funding for more fiber-optic broadband and committing to boost investment through the British Business Bank to replace potentially lost EU funding, the British government has put forward a number of initiatives to support the tech sector.

Plans to hire thousands more staff and to build new offices in London by U.S. tech giants Facebook, Google, Amazon and Apple have been touted as a  measure of confidence in the UK market by the government. But it has so far avoided making commitments to ensure a continued flow of technically skilled migrants into Britain.

“I think we are in ‘deer-in-the-headlights’ mode, candidly. We do not have a clue what’s happening,” Accel’s De Rycker said during a venture capital panel discussion at TechCrunch.

(Adapted from Reuters)

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Categories: Economy & Finance

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