One of the UK’s most successful startups has issued a stark warning to the government that the UK is no longer attractive to innovative companies looking to get started and must take decisive action to retain its leading position as the world’s number one hub for fintech.
Taavet Hinrikus, the founder of unicorn startup Transferwise, has said he would not chose the UK if he were starting his company today due to the uncertainty around Brexit.
Speaking at the government’s first international fintech conference alongside chancellor Philip Hammond and Bank of England governor Mark Carney, Hinrikus said: “While we’re happily headquartered here in London, if I were setting up Transferwise today I would not chose London.
“We have no idea what Brexit will mean for the city or for the country and that uncertainty is damaging.”
The entrepreneur welcomed the positive signal given by today’s event, where the chancellor promised Brexit would “open the doors to new opportunities” and that government would help startups attract the investment they needed to grow and “provide the right kind of support so that Britain’s innovators can seize the opportunities that lie ahead”.
But, Hinrikus said the UK “needs to take some pretty decisive proactive steps”.
“I don’t know of any other country in the world where the chancellor and the head of the central bank have shared the stage with two startups,” he said.
“That’s a pretty clear sign of commitment but in the tech world, it’s about actions not words.”
The warning came as the event, organised by the Treasury and the department for international trade, heralded the UK's world class leadership in the sector, its contribution to the economy and aimed to drum up interest from international investors.
Hinrikus, along with many others in the tech sector, have raised concerns over the tech industry's ability to hire talent from abroad after Brexit, as well as the status of existing non-UK tech workers in the country. The tech industry has called for the creation of a post-Brexit visa to avert a skills crisis, however, Prime Minister Theresa May is under pressure to deliver the immigration controls promised by the EU referendum.
Hammond today said the UK must "continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world" to remain the number one place for technology.
The loss of passporting for financial services after Brexit has also pushed Transferwise to search for a new European headquarters. Hinrikus told Reuters that the startup will set up a European headquarters in another city in the bloc by March 2019, and which would have remained in the UK if not for Brexit.