Brexit: Problems and opportunities for Europe's tech startups
(30 Nov 2018) LEADIN:
Brexit, it’s a challenge, but also sometimes an opportunity for startup companies, say attendees at Berlin’s TechCrunch Disrupt event.
While some startups say they decided to move their companies out of the UK to other EU countries following the Brexit vote, others say the falling pound makes hiring in London more affordable.
At TechCrunch Disrupt startup event in Berlin, one of the hot topics is Brexit.
The startup scene is fluid, with founders and staff often moving between different European countries, their target market being inherently European or global.
The United Kingdom leaving the EU – on 29 March 2019 – presents challenges, especially for companies based in the UK, says Mike Butcher, TechCrunch’s editor at large.
“Brexit is very worrying for the technology sector because it’s really about two things – access to money and access to talent,” he says.
“One of the great things about being a member of the EU was that the UK had access to an enormous amount of talent in the EU.
“It’s still up in the air how those high-skilled people are going to be allowed in to the country, there’s no real visibility about this at the moment.”
One startup founder who decided to leave their London base after the Brexit vote in June 2016 is Australian Stephanie Brennan, founder of Evarvest, an international investment service.
She’s now set up the company in Vilnius, Lithuania, a city that’s becoming a Fintech hub.
“We moved to Lithuania to be able to access the European market,” she says.
“So, of course, we will still be expanding in to the UK, but for us it is a little bit more challenging now with Brexit.”
Imburse is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, but most of the developers are based in London.
For the company, Brexit has so far been positive, says co-founder South African Oliver Werneyer.
“Quite honestly, it’s been good for us,” he says.
“We are based out of Switzerland, paying people in the UK. As the pound has depreciating, actually the salaries are getting lower and lower for us. So, it’s becoming more and more affordable to have the teams in London.”
Zhana Dar, the Israeli founder of Fin.do, an international transactions company, says one of the reasons she decided to set-up her company in Lithuania was based in part because of the Brexit vote.
“We tried to understand if there are risks involved,” she says.
“And considering that there were risks involved, we decided that it’s better to take a safer approach.”
TechCrunch Disrupt is a startup event organised by San Francisco-based TechCrunch, a technology news website.
The company holds Disrupt events throughout the world, which have included London, Nairobi and Lagos.
TechCrunch Disrupt Berlin winds up 30 November.
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