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Tomorrow across the UK, people will take to the polls for what is being billed as a once in a lifetime opportunity. For some it boils down to immigration, for others the economy, for others still its about self-determinism, if you're a start-up in the heart of London, the European start-up capital, the potential impact is extraordinary.
As a start-up here in the UK, Brexit is definitely something that is to be feared. Certainly for us it would have a big negative impact on our business, but what about the rest of the thriving start-ups and tech businesses in Britain? To preface this blog I would like to share a few figures on where the rest of the UK tech industry stands. A report by Juniper Research found that two thirds (65 percent) of the UKs tech employees believe Brexit would have a detrimental impact of the global tech industry. Some 80% of polled UK tech workers believe Brexit would make bridging the skills gap more difficult. Not to mention that none of Britains unicorns (companies valued north of 1 billion) favour the leave vote, often access to the bigger market is cited as the driving cause. One more word on unicorns, the UK currently leads Europe with 18 of 47 unicorns being founded in the UK.
Now as for why those working in start-ups specifically should vote to remain on Thursday. As a start-up we need to be dynamic, we thrive on our agility and having the right people with the right skills is our lifeblood. Anything which slows the acquisition of talent will have a detrimental effect on us and any other small businesses. The remain camp has failed to make enough of the positive impacts of immigration on the UK economy, the highly successful UK tech sector would have been a great case study to show this. The EU has given us easy access to a fantastic talent pool and we currently employ several workers from the EU who have been an integral part of our success. London, as with the rest of the UK, will become a less tempting prospect for relocation once the red tape goes up. As an innovative company working in the big data and artificial intelligence space, competition is already fierce to find the right people with the right skill sets. Brexit will only make this even harder. The brain-drain caused by Brexit will make rapid growth more difficult, not to mention putting off the founding of start-ups in the UK as well.
Access to the European market is another reason to stay in the EU. Europe is the worlds largest market, there is a great deal of uncertainty on what shape regulations will take for a Britain that stands alone. As a company in the process of transitioning to a scale-up, any extra red tape will be an unwanted hindrance. If at some point we decide to expand our business to include an office on the continent leaving the EU on the 23rd of June will make it more difficult. Not to mention potential access to customers we might lose by leaving the biggest world market. Anyone that engages in business should be looking for more access to big world markets not less. For a tech company in a very competitive market cutting access of any kind to 500 million customers would be a big mistake.
This isnt even considering the potential issues with data privacy if we leave the EU, as a big data platform provider this is especially important to us. Currently we follow the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), its possible that after Brexit we could go the way of Switzerland and create a mirroring set of regulations to allow data to flow freely between us and the EU. However, there is also the very real possibility that the UK would create its own legal framework for how organisations deal with data. This opens up British businesses to all sorts of potential difficulties when dealing with companies on the continent. This could slow down sales or in the worst case stop them completely.
Another pitfall of Brexit is investment. Raising capital can be an arduous task and putting off international investment would only make this more difficult. Already we're seeing the effects as investment in this country has ground to halt as investors abroad wait to see if the UK will still be a part of the EU come Friday the 24th. It's not just investment from the EU that we're risking either, it's from those outside the EU as well that want to use Britain as a beachhead to reach the rest of the EU market. We're a much less tempting prospect outside of the EU than in it. We're also seeing that with the investment that is still going on it's often with a 'only if there is a remain vote' clause. The potential impact on the tech industry is huge.
Being a member of the EU offers many positives for a start-up in the UK. In a crowded market we have access to the brightest minds in Europe, the ability to immigrate freely is a huge reason for why weve been able to attract so many skilled engineers and workers. Its a big part of why Britain has been able to establish itself as a tech giant in Europe. Furthermore, as part of the EU we have access to the worlds largest market and are a tempting prospect for investors, we also have the ability to shape regulations instead of just being forced to conform to them. London is the start-up capital of Europe if we want to remain that way there needs to be a remain vote on Thursday the 23rd.