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230 Entrepreneurs Rebuke UK Gov Plans To Curb Migration For Tech Talent

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Plans by the UK government to curtail the number of skilled tech workers allowed into the country have received a stinging rebuke from over 200 of the UK’s most successful technology entrepreneurs.

The founders of Lastminute.com, TransferWise, Zopa, Unruly, Crowdcube, Nutmeg and Shazam, amongst 230 other tech start-ups and investors, today sent an open letter, to UK Prime Minister David Cameron saying the plans “could restrict growth and hurt the UK’s digital economy”.

Included amongst the signatories were Martha Lane Fox, founder of Lastminute.com and the Government’s former digital champion; Debbie Wosskow, the chairman of sharing economy body SEUK and a Government adviser; and Hermann Hauser, the founder of Acorn Computers, and tech legend. It also included many prominent backers of Mr. Cameron’s Conservative Party at the last general electionas well as the founders of Citymapper, DeepMind, SwiftKey and Unruly which has all raised significant VC backing.

While net migration levels to the UK have reached new highs, the plans to “significantly reduce” the number of skilled workers coming to Britain from outside Europe could hurt the UK’s ability to hire Europe’s best talent, says the group of entrepreneurs in the letter which was put together by lobby group Coalition of a Digital Economy.

The Government’s migration advisory committee is considering plans to raise the minimum salary threshold for the entrepreneur visa (which allows non-Britons to come to the UK to start businesses) so that the visa only applies to director-level roles; as well as putting curbs on the Tier 2 system of skilled work visas, used by many startups to bring in tech talent.

The letter stated: “The UK has become a global tech hub thanks in large part to start-up founders, investors and employees from across the globe, including many of us who were not born in Britain but choose to invest our time and talents here. We call on [the PM] to ensure that any future changes to the immigration system make it easier, not harder, for qualified digital entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start their business, and for growing start-ups to hire top international talent.”

According to the Global Skills Index from recruitment group Hays and consultancy Oxford Economics, the skills shortage in Britain worsened for a fourth consecutive year in 2015.

Signatories to the letter, organised by Coadec (The Coalition for a Digital Economy), include:

Alex Stephany, CEO of JustPark
Andrew Fisher, Executive Chairman of Shazam
Azmat Yusuf, founder of Citymapper
Ben Medlock, co-founder of SwiftKey
Demis Hassabis and Mustafa Suleyman, co-founders of DeepMind (acquired by Google)
Hermann Hauser, serial entrepreneur and investor (including founding Acorn Computers, from which ARM was spun out)
Joe Cohen, founder of Seatwave
Martha Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com and former government Digital Champion
Mike Lynch, co-founder of Autonomy (acquired by HP), and founder of Invoke Capital
Nick Hungerford, co-founder of Nutmeg
Robin Klein, investor in startups including TransferWise, Zoopla, LoveFilm
Saul Klein, Founding Partner, LocalGlobe (formerly Partner at Index Ventures)
Sarah Wood, co-founder of Unruly
Taavet Hinrikus and Kristo Kaarmann, co-founders of TransferWise

Executive Director of Coadec, Guy Levin said: “The Government has a strong record supporting digital entrepreneurship, so it doesn’t make sense that are considering changes that would make it tougher for startups and scale-ups to thrive. Any changes to the immigration system must make it easier, not harder, for digital entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start their business, and for growing startups to hire top international talent.”

Commenting, Alex Depledge, co-founder of Hassle.com and Chair of Coadec said: “A lack of people with the right skills and experience is holding back the growth of the UK’s digital economy. Putting coding on the curriculum and investing in apprenticeships are steps in the right direction, but it is also vital that we are attracting the best talent from around the world. The UK is now home to a world-class startup ecosystem, but if we want those companies to scale, they need to be able to hire the best person for the job, wherever they come from.”

Sarah Wood, co-founder and co-CEO of Unruly, said: “As a global platform for digital video advertising, almost two-thirds of Unruly’s revenue comes from outside the UK. We simply could not have scaled the business to the size it is today (15 offices, £28.7m revenue) without the programming expertise and language skills of international software engineers and digital professionals from around the world. If the Government is serious about growing Britain’s digital economy and competing on a global stage, it cannot afford to cut off the oxygen that feeds our ecosystem – skilled talent from around the world, drawn to London and the UK precisely because of its diversity, creativity and vitality.”

Text of the Letter and Signatories

27 October 2015

Dear Prime Minister,

We represent a cross-section of the UK’s digital startup and scale-up ecosystem, including the founders of Citymapper, DeepMind, JustPark and SwiftKey. The UK has the largest and fastest growing digital economy in the G20, worth over 10% of GDP.

During the election campaign you argued that the UK should be ‘the startup nation in Europe, and one of the great startup nations in the world.’ We share this ambition and applaud your government’s long-standing support for the UK’s tech community. From SEIS to support for FinTech and the sharing economy, you have championed entrepreneurs and innovators in the interest of securing our country’s long-term economic growth.

However, finding talent with the right skills and experience we need to grow our businesses remains one of the biggest barriers to achieving that ambition. The UK has become a global tech hub thanks in large part to startup founders, investors and employees from across the globe, including many of us who were not born in Britain but choose to invest our time and talents here. We are very concerned that changes to immigration policy will make it more difficult to attract and recruit the talent high-growth companies need to compete and succeed in a global marketplace.

The government’s Migration Advisory Committee is currently examining proposals aiming to further restrict the Tier 2 system of skilled work visas and to reform the Entrepreneur Visa. Further restrictions on skilled migration could restrict the growth of our businesses and hurt the UK’s digital economy.

We call on you to ensure that any future changes to the immigration system make it easier, not harder, for qualified digital entrepreneurs to come to the UK to start their business, and for growing startups to hire top international talent.

It is of course also vital that we continue to support the growth of digital skills within the UK, and we stand ready to do our part.

Sincerely yours,

Adam Horner
Co-founder and CTO, Satago
Adrian Lloyd
Founder & Partner, Episode 1 Ventures
Adrian Sevitz
Co-founder, vzaar limited
Alain Falys
Co-founder, Yoyo Wallet
Alasdair McPherson
Partner, Craigie Capital
Alastair Paterson
CEO, Digital Shadows
Alena Dundas
Founder, Gymdeck
Alex Loizou
Co-founder, Streethub
Alex Stephany
CEO, JustPark
Alexander Asseily
Founder, State, Jawbone and Elvie
Alexander Trewby
Co-founder, Divide (acquired by Google)
Alexandra Depledge
Co-founder, Hassle.com
Alexandre Dalyac
Co-founder, Tractable
Alice Bentinck
Co-founder, Entrepreneur First
Alice Taylor
CEO, Makielab
Alicia Navarro
CEO, Skimlinks
Alliott Cole
Director, Octopus Ventures
Amy Lai
Founder and CEO, Wittos
Andrew Evans
Co-founder and CEO, Smart Pension
Andrew Fisher
Executive Chairman, Shazam
Andrew Gibb
Founder, Coldpress
Andrew Hunter
Co-founder, Adzuna
Andrew Jervis
Co-founder, Clickmechanic
Andrew Scott
Founder partner, 7percent Ventures
Andrew Tibbitts
COO, TechHub
Andrius Sutas
Co-founder, AimBrain
Andy Bennett
Founder, Knodium Ltd
Andy Hobsbawm
Founder, EVRYTHNG
Andy Stephenson
Founder, Weekend Box
Aneesh Varma
Founder, Aire
Anirvan Lahiri
Co-founder, The Stay Guru
Ankur Modi
CEO, StatusToday
Anne Johnson
Founder, Cunning Systems
Anthony Eskinazi
Founder, JustPark
Anton Wellenreiter
Partner, Charlotte Street Capital
Azmat Yusuf
Founder, Citymapper
Ben Drury
Co-founder, 7digital
Ben Gateley
Co-founder and COO, The Eleven
Ben Medlock
Co-founder/CTO, SwiftKey
Ben Perreau
Co-founder, Synkio
Ben Whately
Co-founder, Memrise
Bernhard Niesner
Co-founder, Busuu
Bill Earner
Managing Partner, Connect Ventures
Bindi Karia
Startup expert, connector and advisor
Bo Pedersen
Partner, Charlotte Street Capital
Brendan Gill
CEO, OpenSignal
Bruce Beckloff
Managing Partner, Bloc Ventures
Bryce Keane
Founder, Albion Drive
Cecile Baird
CMO, Credits
Charlie Newman
Co-founder, Pinipa
Charlie Osmond
Founder, TripTease
Charlotte Lacombe-Bar
Co-founder, Mooshoo Labs
Chris Dawson
Co-founder, One Utility Bill
Christian Hernandez
Co-founder, White Star Capital
Christopher Hunter
Co-founder, Odyssey Sensors
Colette Ballou
Founder, Ballou PR
Constantin Bjerke
Founder, Crane.tv
Dale Knight
Co-founder, One Utility Bill
Damien Lane
Partner, Episode1
Dan Bladen
Founder, Chargifi
Dan Sutherland
Founder, Carrenza
Daneal Bassiouni
Co-founder, Homefund
Daniel Benamran
General Manager UK, BlaBlaCar
Daniel van Binsbergen
Co-founder, Lexoo
David Cleevely
Founder, Cambridge Angels
David Fogel
Deputy Director, Wayra UK
David Galsworthy
Co-founder and CEO, TechSpace
Debbie Wosskow
Co-founder, Love Home Swap
Demis Hassabis
Co-founder, DeepMind
Devin Hunt
Partner, Founder Centric
Doug Monro
Co-founder, Adzuna
Douglas Bell
Founder, London Innovators
Eamon Jubbawy
Co-founder, Onfido
Edward Chin
Co-founder, Supersolid
Eeswaran Navaratnam
Managing Partner, 01Ventures
Elizabeth Varley
Co-founder, TechHub
Emanuel Andjelic
Co-founder, Squirrel
Emily Forbes
Founder, Seenit
Emma Sinclair
Co-founder, EnterpriseJungle
Eoin Hyde
Co-founder, Innersight Labs
Eric van der Kleij
Head of Level39 & MD Entiq
Evgeny Shadchnev
Co-founder, Makers Academy
Faith Forster
Founder, Pinipa
Felix Leuschner
Founder, Drover App
Florian Stronk
Co-founder, Koyoki
Frank Kelcz
Founder, Excellerance
Gary Thompson
Founder, GoRaise
Gavin Sathianathan
Partner, Kingsley Capital Partners
George Bevis
CEO, TIDE
George Marangos-Gilks
Founder, The Tab
George Spencer
CEO, Rentify
George Whitehead
Chairman, Angel Cofund
Gi Fernando
Founder, Freeformers
Gideon Farrell
Co-founder, Converge
Gil Dibner
Investor
Giles Andrew
Executive chairman and Co-founder, Zopa
Giovanni Charles
Co-founder, Fluently.io
Glenn Shoosmith
CEO, BookingBug
Gus Ferguson
Managing Partner, The Tetrad Consultancy
Guy Levin
Executive Director, Coadec
Haakon Overli
General Partner, Dawn Capital
Harry Briggs
Partner, BGF Ventures
Helen Cammack
Co-founder, interests.me
Henry Firth
Founder, Pingtune
Hermann Hauser
Partner Amadeus Capital Partners and serial entrepreneur
Hugh Collins
Co-founder, Code Kingdoms
Husayn Kassai
Co-founder, Onfido
Hussein Kanji
Founding Partner, Hoxton Ventures
Ilya Levtov
Co-founder, Craft.co
Irra Ariella Khi
CEO, V Technology
Itamar Lesuisse
CEO, Peak
Jack Huang
Co-founder, TRULY Experiences
Jamal MonDesir
Founder, MADFoundry
James Gill
CEO, GoSquared
Jamie Edwards
COO, Kayako
Jason Bolton
Co-founder, Mooshoo Labs
Jeff Lynn
Co-founder, Seedrs
Jennifer Arcuri
Founder, InnoTech Summit
Jenny Griffiths
Founder, Snap Fashion
Jeppe Zink
Partner, Northzone
Jessica Williamson
Programme Director, TechStars
Jo York
CCO/CMO, Reframed.tv
Joe Cohen
Founder, Seatwave
Joe Root
Co-founder, Permutive
Joelle Hadfield
Co-founder, FightsMe.com
John Hackett
MD, ArenaFlowers.com
John Henderson
Principal, White Star Capital
John Spindler
CEO, Capital Enterprise
John Thompson
CEO, UserReplay
Jon Bradford
Co-founder, F6S & tech.eu
Jon Petrides
Co-founder, Guevara & Penda Health
Jordan Emery
MD, Quella
Josh Russell
Partner, Rokk3r Labs
Joshua March
Co-founder and CEO, Conversocial
Julian Carter
Co-founder, EC1 Capital
Julian Ranger
Founder, digi.me
Julie Meyer
Founder, EntrepreneurCountry; CEO, Ariadne Capital
Kate Unsworth
CEO, Kovert Designs
Kevin Price
CEO, Reframed.tv
Kieran O’Neill
Co-founder, Thread
Kristo Kaarmann
Co-founder, TransferWise
Leonard Austin
Co-founder, Ravelin
Lloyd Price
Co-founder, Zesty
Lopo Champalimaud
Co-founder, Wahanda
Luke Lang
Co-founder, Crowdcube
Mads Holmen
Founder, Bibblio
Mait Muntel
Co-founder, Lingvist
Marcus Greenwood
CEO, Universal Basket
Mark Russell
Co-founder, Universal Basket
Mark Ryan
Co-founder, Blooie
Marko Srsan
Programme Operator, TechStars
Martha Lane Fox
Co-founder, Lastminute.com
Martin Bailie
Co-founder, Tailored
Martin Sweeney
CEO, Ravelin
Matt Clifford
Co-founder, Entrepreneur First
Melvin Salas
Co-founder, Leaf.fm
Michael Thornton
Co-founder, Carbon Analytics
Mike Butcher
Co-founder, TechHub
Mike Lynch
Founder, Invoke Capital
Mike Minett
Co-founder and MD, The Positive Ageing Company
Monty Munford
Founder, Mob76
Mustafa Suleyman
Co-founder, DeepMind
Nabil Freeman
Founder, Freeman Industries
Nic Brisbourne
Managing Partner, Forward Partners
Nic Yeeles
Founder and CEO, Peg
Nicholas Katz
Co-founder, Splittable
Nicholas Russell
Founder, We Are Pop Up
Nicholas Sharp
Associate, Passion Capital
Nick Hungerford
Co-founder and CEO, Nutmeg
Nick Lally
Co-founder, Ravelin
Nigel Whiteoak
Founder, LoveCrafts
Oleg Fomenko
Co-founder, SweatCoin, bloom.fm
Oli Ashness
Founder, Simply Cook
Oliver Pugh
Founder, EarlyBird.fm
Patrick Stobbs
Co-founder, Jukedeck
Paul McNabb
Partner, Episode1
Paul Miller
Partner, Bethnal Green Ventures
Paul Slater
Co-founder, Fit Gurus Ltd
Paul Smith
MD, Ignite and Campus North
Pip Jamieson
Founder, The Dots
Prasanna Kannan
Co-founder, Homefund
Pratik Sampat
CEO, iHorizon
Raj Ramanandi
CEO, #1Seed
Rajeeb Dey
Founder, Enternships
Raph Crouan
MD, Startupbootcamp IOT
Rashid Mansoor
Co-founder, Adbrain
Razvan Ranca
Co-founder, Tractable
Reshma Sohoni
Partner and Co-founder, Seedcamp
Rhydian Lewis
Co-founder and CEO, Ratesetter
River Tamoor Baig
Co-founder, Hack Partners
Rob O’Donovan
Co-Founder of The Eleven and CharlieHR.com
Robert Dighero
Partner, Passion Capital
Robin Klein
Co-founder, The Accelerator Group and LocalGlobe
Rohan Luvaglio
Founder and CEO, Bizzby
Ruhul Amin
Co-founder, Onfido
Russ Shaw
Founder, Tech London Advocates
Ryan Kliszat
Co-founder, Verticly
Saasha Celestial-One
Co-founder, OLIO
Sam Mathews
CEO, NEVERBLAND
Sam Michel
Founder, Chinwag
Sam Oakley
CEO, StashMetrics
Sandy Forster
Co-founder, Pinipa
Sanford Dickert
CEO, OWLR
Sarah Cochrane
COO, Vetcloud
Sarah Wood
Co-founder, Unruly
Saul Klein
Founding Partner, LocalGlobe
Sean Seton-Rogers
Partner, PROFounders Capital
Sherry Coutu
Investor and non-exec director
Simon Edwards
Co-founder, Shuttlecook
Simon Hill
Co-founder, Wazoku
Simon Murdoch
Managing Partner, Episode1
Spencer Hyman
Co-founder, Navigator Commerce
Stefan Glaenzer
Partner, Passion Capital
Taavet Hinrikus
Co-founder, TransferWise
Tak Lo
Director, TechStars
Tessa Cook
Co-founder, OLIO
Tim Jackson
General Partner, Lean Investments
Tim Spratt
Co-founder, Permutive
Tom Allason
Founder, Shutl (acquired by Ebay)
Tom Foster-Carter
Co-founder, Curve
Tom Jones
Partner, Charlotte Street Capital
Tom Watson
Co-founder, Hubble
Tony Powell
Co-founder, Sponsorlist
Tracy Dorée
Founding Partner, Spring Partners
Tristan Deplantes
Co-founder, Mooshoo Labs
Turi Munthe
Founder, Demotix
Tushar Agarwal
Co-founder, Hubble
Ultan Miller
Co-founder, Release
Varun Shoor
CEO, Kayako
Vincent Dignan
Founder, Magnific
Vivian Chan
Co-founder, Sparrho
Wil Benton
Co-founder, Chew
Will Hodson
Co-founder, The Big Deal
Will Wynne
Co-founder, ArenaFlowers.com and Smart Pension
William Reeve
Co-CEO, Hubbub.co.uk