TechCrunch’s Post-Brexit Conversation Proposes Survival Tactics for UK Tech Industry

How can we get away from BREXIT being viewed as judge, jury and executioner of the tech industry?

When we attend TechCrunch our write-ups are usually about the latest innovations making waves and on which tech startups have got us hyped up. This time round we decided to focus on TechCrunch’s main topic of conversation, Britain’s post-Brexit tech future.

Brexit Resolution presented at TechCrunch London 2016 | Photo Credit:Tom Butterworth (@TechBanker)
Brexit Resolution at TechCrunch London 2016 | Photo Credit:Tom Butterworth (@TechBanker)

Since former PM, David Cameron, announced Britain’s exit from the EU on 24th June 2016, there has been much discussion about the effects it would have on the UK’s technology sector. Considered to be a leading force in technology and innovation, it is imperative that Britain keeps an open door policy on recommendations from UK tech founders. These are the people that TechCrunch has partnered up with so together they can tackle 10 key areas that they have found need to be addressed in the Brexit negotiations.

London's Silicon roundabout tech hub, is it strugging following the Brexit referendum
London’s Silicon roundabout tech hub, is it struggling following the Brexit referendum?

These are areas borne on the back of TechCrunch’s London Brexit Sentiment Survey which highlighted key points that include a huge concern amongst UK tech founders about access to EU talent post-Brexit and the lack of confidence in the UK government over its skilled immigration policy. TechCrunch and a select group of entrepreneurs and VC’s have directed their proposal on what the British technology sector needs to the Rt Hon Theresa May MP. In it they stress that it is imperative that the government recognizes “the need to attract and retain the very best talent globally”.

“It is important for all the UK’s business sectors that the tech sector continues to flourish.”

According to Atomico’s ‘The State of European Tech 2016’, the UK tech sector is growing 50% faster than the European average and creating jobs more than any other industry within the UK. In order for this to continue, the consortium of founders and VC’s state that “UK startups require a commitment from the government” and that “it is important for all the UK’s business sectors that the tech sector continues to flourish, since all business now runs on and is affected by technology”. You cannot argue with that.
Rt Hon Theresa May MP,
Hon Theresa May MP,
Describing BREXIT as a “recent rhetoric”, the leaders that have partnered up with TechCrunch are Bernard Liautaud of General Partner, Balderton Capital, Brent Hoberman CBE of Founders Forum, Dale Murray CBE co-founder of Omega Logic, Edward Wray Co-founder of Betfair, Kathryn Parsons co-founder and co-CEO of Decoded, Niklas Zennström CEO and Founding Partner of Atomico, Richard Reed CBE, Co-founder of Innocent Drinks / JamJar Investments, Sherry Coutu CBE Chairman of Founders4Schools and Sonali De Rycker, General Partner of Accel Partners. These founders have come to notice that startups are beginning to leave London. They believe it is because they are being enticed by the lure of Berlin and other EU cities. On this Julian Baladurage, co-founder of MBJ, one of the firms headed to Berlin, told the Financial Times, “Brexit imposes a certain risk of visa requirements for non-Brits.” He continues, “Our team is very international so we can’t risk having to apply for 100 visas.”

“We must ensure that Brexit does not damage the tech sector by making it difficult for skilled tech workers from strong tech nations.”

So what could this mean? Is Britain equipped to survive, firms like MBJ exiting stage left? Well, in order to tackle this issue, it has been proposed that we need to make sure that Brexit does not damage the tech sector by making it difficult for skilled tech workers from strong tech nations such as the USA, India, the Commonwealth, Eastern Europe to obtain the required visas. They believe that our current situation can be preserved by introducing a “STEM Passport”. If approved by the government, it will allow the UK to recruit the best skills and entrepreneurial talent across Europe with minimal barriers. It will also protect existing migrant workers who were already part of Britain’s tech industry.

Better together we are Europe supporters
Better together we are Europe supporters

In support of their proposal, they referred to the Balderton research which has listed Britain as the No.1 destination for inbound tech talent. So therefore it would make sense to give STEM graduates from other leading universities an instant qualifying visa to live and work in the UK.

“By harnessing the power of technology, students can get access to coding, data, cyber security and entrepreneurial skills”.

In their proposal to the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, the tech founders also addressed education. They stated that schools, colleges and universities are the most dynamic and innovative place for technology to evolve.  By harnessing the power of technology, students can get access to coding, data, cyber security and entrepreneurial skills.

brexit_science_and_tech

Other areas of interest that were put up for discussion include business incentives, diversity, single market access and international policy. The topic of conversation that stood out for us was that of market stimulants. We thought it was great that they brought up regulatory arbitrage on matters such as blockchain and AI. We have written about blockchain before and the beneficial impact it is going to have on the fashion industry. AI for us is a point of interest and we agree with their argument that the UK government needs to support the R&D fund for industries that focus on artificial intelligence, robotics and medtech/big data.

On Brexit: “Tech will not only benefit the privileged few,but the whole country”.

On their concerns we feel that they are not asking too much. The points that they have brought forward will, in the long run, not only “benefit the privileged few but the whole country”.  What is great is that their ‘Tech Britain Is Open’ campaign complements the Mayor of London’s current efforts with his own ‘London Is Open’. We are confident that both campaigns will put the technology sector on the agenda. In my humble opinion, we need an open conversation that will stop the majority of people viewing Brexit as judge, jury and executioner of the tech industry . Having gone through their proposal with a fine tooth comb, I do think that Britain could end up owing its future growth to the vibrant tech sector. So it is on this note that we, at FashNerd, wait with bated breath for a response from Rt Hon Theresa May MP, so keep us posted TechCrunch.

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