Brexit one month on: What's the effect on London’s tech scene?

Russ Shaw
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Investors are still interested in the UK (Source: Getty)

The result of the most significant political decision of our generation was at odds with the overwhelming consensus of London’s technology companies and wider business community.

But, with the entrepreneurial spirit that has defined our digital success, tech companies and professionals almost instantly set their sights on turning adversity into opportunity.

The values that set technology against the rhetoric of Brexit are the very reasons the industry will survive.

Diverse, innovative and international, this is a community capable of attracting world-class talent and significant investment from around the world. The individuals that make up this ecosystem have not disappeared, and it is important that we do all we can to retain them and make them feel welcome.

Read more: MPs call for post-Brexit digital plan - or risk UK's fintech success

After the early warning signs of recruitment and investment deals falling through in the immediate aftermath of the referendum result, a wave of high profile acquisitions and the continued reassurance from tech leaders has somewhat calmed the waters.

It was announced that Japanese firm Softbank plans to acquire the chip designer ARM Holdings for £24.3bn. Tech startup Magic Pony was also sold to Twitter just last month for £150m and presents another example of a robust and resilient UK tech industry. And most recently, Mastercard announced it would acquire London fintech VocaLink for £700m.

Whilst it is clear that Brexit will exacerbate the challenges that already existed in London’s technology sector, they are not insurmountable and the private sector can find solutions to accelerate growth.

This is not the first time we have overcome difficulties, and sometimes uncertainty can lead to the creation of top-class companies. During the financial crash London began building a world-class fintech industry, and with the right circumstances similar companies could now emerge.

London is very much still open for business – a message that has dominated news headlines in recent weeks. I have been proud to take part in the #LondonIsOpen campaign launched by the Mayor of London, which showed international entrepreneurs and investors that London retains its entrepreneurial spirit and status as the top tech city in Europe.

Earlier this month Tech London Advocates issued a message to all of the EU and overseas nationals who work in London. We wanted to thank them and to assure them that they are very welcome in a community that they helped to create. The response to this letter was fantastic, which was signed by Mayor Khan and over 150 tech leaders.

We need to work collaboratively if we are to control the impact of Brexit on our capital’s tech sector- both with the government and with fellow tech companies, investors and key stakeholders.

Read more: These are the results of the first post-Brexit survey of tech startups

With this in mind we have launched a London Tech Hotline with London & Partners to provide an opportunity for people to ask for help and advice on the current Brexit uncertainty. Enquiries are handled by a group of experts from sectors such as law, accountancy and tech, specialising in areas ranging from international trade and currencies to commercial property and overseas talent.

Support and clarity from the government and City Hall is welcome and is exactly what London and Britain needs during this period of upheaval. If our entrepreneurs bring their problem-solving capabilities to our current problems and confront the realities of our challenge, then we can remain optimistic about our capital’s tech future.

The vote to leave the EU was not the one the tech community wanted, but one month on and the British tech sector has shown its true colours in the face of adversity. We have continued to attract investors, support talent and remain at the heart of global tech developments. London has shown that it has what it takes to continue its reign as a leading light in the global tech scene. Don’t bet against us.

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