One of my biggest concerns around the possible Brexit is that an unfillable talent gap could be created, particularly among the UK’s start-ups.
In November, a survey by City:AM found that only 9% of the UK’s tech firms were in favour of leaving the European Union.
Over the past 20 years I have grown and sold three tech businesses, routinely employing around 60% of developers from within the EU. Now, I find myself launching a fourth business, with members of the team from Spain, Sweden, Poland, Romania and France. I do employ home-grown talent, but there simply aren’t enough of them to plug the gap.
Why do we fear migrant workers? In my sector they are essential if we’re going to keep the lights on.
All I read during the London’s mayoral campaign was how the capital was one of the most exiting global tech destinations in the world and how it was to become even greater. Yet nowhere in any of the EU manifestos or in the debates do I see any mention of how this will be achieved if we leave.
It is essential, in my opinion, to keep the freedom of movement of people within Europe to make sure that we keep innovating and keep wages reasonable across the sector so that tech start-ups can flourish and technical advancement can continue. Also many people might not be aware of the huge amount of remote development work goes on in countries like Latvia, Czech Republic & Slovenia. A vital outsourcing tool for start-ups allowing them to bring down costs in the early days such as office space.
I am all for nurturing home-grown talent and I am a huge advocate of paid internships and graduate training programs, there simply aren’t enough people that want to specialise in this type of work.
I also fear that a Brexit could impact on the attractiveness of the UK as a go-to country for tech businesses wishing to raise vital early-stage investment. A trend over recent years has been the increased interest in early stage British tech businesses from overseas investors.
Overseas investors have been attracted by the innovative and disruptive business ideas being incubated in the UK. A Brexit could deflect the investment focus away from London and the regional tech hubs across the country to other cities who have their eyes on the European technology capital crown, such as Berlin, Lisbon, Dublin, and Barcelona.
Like the vast majority of my fellow business owners, I am hoping for a ‘Remain’ vote on 23 June. If we want to create a nation of entrepreneurs, then leaving the EU would have far reaching costly implications for SMEs at a time when they should be supported.
By Andy Pearce, CEO of Thortful.