This afternoon, at TechCrunch Disrupt London, Frederic Court of Felix Capital, Sonali De Rycker of Accel and Reshma Sohoni of Seedcamp didn’t mince words when it comes to whether Brexit will have an impact on the U.K.-based startup industry. They said they expect that it will, and that sucks.
Sohoni was among the first to speak on the issue, and she tried to sound an optimistic note at the outset. Despite uncertainty around what Brexit will ultimately mean — given that the U.K. hasn’t decided on a host of issues, including about how visas will be awarded — she said “I don’t think we’re seeing an immediate panic mode. Things [are operating] in a business-as-usual kind of environment.”
De Rycker quickly sounded the alarm bells, however. “I think we’re sort of in a deer-in-the-headlights mode, candidly. We do not know what’s happening, and that’s disappointing for planning.”
Court sounded even more emotional about Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, calling it “very sad,” and noting that Facebook alone employs individuals from 56 different countries in its London office. He went on to suggest that a harder stance on immigration into the U.K. could be ruinous over time. “People ask, ‘Are you going to stay or leave?'” said Court. “But that’s not really the point. People are here. They’ve built their lives here.” (This applies to Court himself, who moved to London from France 20 years ago.)
“I think many people will stay,” he said. The bigger challenge, he added, are the people who might have come and will now decide it isn’t worth it, given the complications involved.
The other VCs agreed wholeheartedly. Founders are already thinking that “maybe I shouldn’t even bother coming here,” said Sohoni. “These [founders] need to think long term about where they are going to build their teams. When you compound the high cost of living [in London] with the difficulty of getting visas, it’s [collectively] a problem.”
De Rycker suggested that while companies already based in the U.K. may stick around as they scale their businesses, for founders who are instead getting their companies off the ground, the equation has just changed. “Are you still going to proactively pick London versus another hub” like Paris, Berlin, or perhaps Stockholm? That very issue is “actively being discussed in board meetings” already, she said.
The conversation — which also touched on how much the European startup scene has matured in recent years and where the VCs are spending their time these days — is worth watching if you missed it. You can check it out below.