British techies in Silicon Valley are watching Brexit unfold with barely concealed horror

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  • British entrepreneurs and investors in Silicon Valley
    are watching Brexit unfold back home with shock and
    horror.
  • Business Insider spoke to UK techies in the US about
    their thoughts on Britain leaving the European Union.
  • There were widespread concerns it would make it harder
    for British firms to attract talent and make the country a less
    attractive place to work.
  • Brexit is now just weeks away, and will finally happen
    on March 29, 2019 — unless it’s delayed.

Brexit is right around the corner — and people are starting to
freak out.

The tech industry has
asked for more clarity over the form of Britain’s exit of the
European Union for the past two years
. But now, with just two
months to go, there’s still no clear answer over how it will look,
and that uncertainty is starting to impact decision-making.

Business Insider spoke to British entrepreneurs and investors in
Silicon Valley about how they view Brexit, and if it’s affecting
their business — and the response was one of overwhelming fear
and sadness.

Their answers provide a window into how some expat Brits,
divorced from day-to-day life back in the UK, are reacting to the
political turmoil roiling their homeland.

“The downside case is obviously that the UK becomes a lowly,
irrelevant island in the North Sea, with very limited relationships
and limited asset, and there’s an enormous brain drain … into
countries where they have great, stronger trade agreements, and
stronger future prospects,” said Pete Flint, the cofounder of
Trulia who now works as a venture capital investor at NFX.

“I’m horrified”

It’s little surprise that Silicon Valley is concerned about
Brexit.

The American tech industry is famously liberal. Back in the UK,
one poll of the tech sector prior to the referendum found that

almost 90% of respondents were pro-Remain
. It threatens to
damage a range of industry interests, from the availability of
international talent to access to funding, respondents said.

Some techies expressed concern on a personal level about what’s
going on.

“I’m horrified,” Josh Browder, the founder of legal startup
DoNotPay, who has been in the US for four years, said bluntly. “I
think if there was a hard Brexit … incomes would go down, prices
would go up, and it would be a lower quality of life for people
like my mother who lives in north-west London.”

Nicky Goulimis, cofounder and COO of Nova Credit, an
international credit bureau, compared it to a Shakespearean
tragedy.

“I guess I’m fairly heartbroken by what’s going on, independent
of any rational perspective,” she said. “My family’s from Greece, I
grew up in London, and I think just seeing the uncertainty, and the
EU is such a force for good in the UK as well as in the entirety of
Europe.”

Uncertainty causes caution

The uncertainty is already impacting business decisions, some
say.

Andy McLoughlin, a cofounder of Huddle who now works as an
investor for Uncork Capital, said: “We do have a bunch of British
entrepreneurs in the portfolio and would absolutely consider
looking at UK businesses in the future but until we understand what
how this all plays out, I can’t see us doing anything.”

McLoughlin is also co-chair of GBx, an exclusive group of
entrepreneurs, investors, and other assorted techies in Silicon
Valley. Of the group, he added: “There are a few [members of GBx]
who have some operations in the UK and are wondering whether it
will make sense to keep teams and their non-US center of gravity in
the country.”

NFX’s Flint also said it was making his investment firm more
“cautious.”

“As investors, we’re primarily focused on the US market. I think
we are more nervous about investing in EU or UK businesses … as a
result of Brexit. Brexit is probably anticipated to be a big
negative on the UK economy, and a slight negative on the European
economy,” he said. “It’s made us increasingly cautious.”

It’ll make access to talent far harder for startups in the UK,
Browder said — though he predicts it could stand to benefit him
and DoNotPay personally if it creates more immigration and
bureaucratic hoops for people to jump through. “But that’s a
conflict of interest, as a person I think it’s really bad for the
country,” he added.

London “has this history of reinventing itself”

Others argue there’s less cause for pessimism.

London & Partners, a non-profit organisation backed by the
mayor of London, points to significant investments from tech giants
like Google, Facebook, and Apple in London since the 2016
referendum, as well as smaller expansions and investments from
Silicon Valley startups like shoe firm Allbirds, Credit Karma, and
analytics service Mix Panel.

“We see London very much as this thriving global magnet, that is
this centre of global energy,” said Penny Hardwood, the
organisation’s SVP of business development. “It’s incredibly
dynamic, over the last 2,000 years it has this history of
reinventing itself.”

Fundamentally, there’s still a vast amount of uncertainty and
unknowns: Will the UK crash out of the EU without a deal on March
29, 2019. Will the negotiations be extended? Will the ultimate
agreement be favourable to the UK economy? Might there be a second
referendum? How would it even turn out?

For now, more than two years into the process, the answers still
aren’t clear, and Britain is fast approaching the brink. Brexit may
ultimately prove the doubters wrong, but for Brits in the Bay Area
at present, the future back home looks gloomy.


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SEE ALSO: Her
Majesty’s Techies: Inside GBx, the exclusive Silicon Valley club
full of British techies that have created billion dollar
companies


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Source: FS – All – Economy – News
British techies in Silicon Valley are watching Brexit unfold with barely concealed horror