How to break startup Britain? Brexit!

Author: James Kinsella
25 February 2016 17:13:49

London is one of the world’s leaders in innovation and high tech energy, and the capital of cool when it comes to new ventures. (It beats Berlin, by a long shot; check out this graphic that clearly depicts where the startup action is.)

And the cozy corner of Southeast England surrounded by the M25 isn’t the only place where fresh ideas are spawning new companies. From Edinburgh to Bristol – yes, Bristol – nearly every corner of the UK has a high-tech community making product, and often selling to our neighbors in the EU. 

Here’s how to kill that brilliant Britannia distinction: leave the EU.

The latest polls are painfully close, with YouGov’s most recent tally giving the Brexit fans a tiny advantage. But most interesting about this data is how it skews depending on whether you are a job creator or not. A vast majority of those who run businesses – large companies or digital startups – want to stay in the EU. Even among small enterprises owners, there is a preference – though less strong – for the UK to remain.

Why is business so bullish on the EU? Here’s my very personal view, and experience.

The EU makes Britain part of something much bigger than itself – indeed, about 8 times as big, providing the world’s largest market of middle-class consumers in the world. As China slows down – and risks becoming old before it truly becomes rich – the European Union’s wealth and standard of living continue to provide enormous opportunity for producers.

As second important reason is talent. In my career in Europe, I have created many hundreds of jobs in the UK – and many more across the EU.

Nigel Farage bemoans the fact that he hears foreign accents on the tube; I celebrate it (and I add to that non-British accented babble every time I open my mouth here). The extraordinary polyglot nature of Britain – and particularly London – doesn’t make us Brits weaker (and yes, I am proud to call myself a Brit). The babble makes us stronger, because it makes Britain more diverse and able to understand the rest of the world. 

And that rabble of babble are workers, many highly skilled and hungry for opportunity. They don’t steal British jobs; they help create them, because a well-educated work force attracts business. Our EU membership means we can attract from across the Union, and choose from the best. That’s the hard truth for the rest of Europe – the UK is a magnet for much of the EU’s young, restless talent. 

It is an amazing enterprise, the European Union. And so far, it has paid off magnificently: with 70 years of peace on a Continent that had been wracked by war for much of its history.

Now our challenge is to prove we can create a truly vibrant, world-leading economy, driven in part by technology and the start-ups that make innovation real.

Immigrants have a role to play, with their creativity, their hard work, and something they have already proven to have in enormous quantity: determination. I speak as one of them, and as someone who has chosen to be a Briton.  It’s better in Europe.



James Kinsella is the founder of Zettabox, a European-based cloud-sharing platform, launched to address data protection and sovereignty issues for enterprises faced with the responsibility to comply with new EU regulations. A long-time tech entrepreneur, James is a proud citizen of both the US and Great Britain. Reach him on Twitter @jimkzettabox or at