At the end of 2020, I had the pleasure to speak at the Future Incubators and Accelerators (FIA) Conference 2020 about "The Role of the UK in the International Ecosystem for Innovation and Cross-Border Investments".
It was a bit of an unusual topic for me but given my international background and with the UK leaving the EU just a couple weeks after the conference, I was happy to share my thoughts.
The main question of my panel was whether London’s role as a tech start up hub would be diminished post Brexit or not - and how the pandemic will effect founders' choices.
In my humble opinion, London will still be attractive to founders due to the diversity of minds and the high degree of startup expertise that exists in this city. Sure, the city has suffered an exodus of people during the pandemic, but I think that this may be a short term effect. In the long run, London will remain the city with the highest concentration of startup talent in Europe and most importantly it will remain the city with the highest concentration of investors as well.
In London, you will find experts from all sorts of backgrounds. From finance to fashion, AI, eCommerce, digital media etc, you can meet all of these people within the same city, or even at the same dinner party. If you compare this to the German startup landscape, for example, then talent is concentrated in different cities. You will likely find more finance expertise in Frankfurt, more deep tech expertise in Munich, more eCommerce expertise in Berlin and more digital media expertise in Hamburg. This is great if you want to work in a specific industry, but innovation happens mostly when you bring experts from different fields together - and this is where London is still unique.
Moreover, as we are talking 'cross-border investments', we also have to define what 'cross-border investments' mean in a world, where remote working may become the new norm.
For example, if a company is registered in the UK (which you can easily do online), but all directors and employees live outside of the UK, does that still count as 'cross-border investment'? I believe the answer is Yes, because the company will still pay corporation tax in the UK, but there is some room for debate here. Speaking of company incorporation, here is another big advantage of the UK: setting up a private limited company can be easily done online and costs only £12. The SEIS/EIS scheme is also a crucial part of the ecosystem as it encourages more money to flow into early stage investments. This type of startup capital allows young companies to grow to a stage where they can demonstrate commercial traction and/or product/market fit, which will make them more attractive for more foreign investment.
As you can see, we have touched on a lot of things. If you want to listen to the full session, watch the video here.
Many thanks to my co-panelists Dr. Babangida Kure, Lead Director at Go Global Africa and John Butt, CEO and Partner at Conduit Ventures for a lively discussion. Thanks to Waylink Invest for initiating the conference and Nzube Ufodike for inviting me to speak!