From the top · 29 June 2016

Shell-shocked tech leaders urge entrepreneurs: “Now is the time to lean in”  

Martha Lane Fox founder Martha Lane Fox led the group of 58 “shocked” tech leaders

A group of more than 50 high-profile technology business leaders have urged Britain’s entrepreneurs to look to the future, after what’s been viewed by the tech sector as a shock Brexit vote.

The worst thing to do now would be dwell on the result of the referendum and not to focus on the future, according to the group – led by founder and tech sector grandee Martha Lane Fox.

In an open letter to London’s Evening Standard newspaper, the collection of 58 – mostly London-based – tech bosses wrote that it was now important to let the world know that the UK “will never stop being a competitive, entrepreneurial and dynamic place to innovate and create jobs”.

The letter warned of the risk that doomsday-like predictions of economic decline and the diminished role of the UK in the world would become self-fulfilling unless business leaders take it upon themselves to act positively – viewing Brexit as an opportunity.

“Whichever way you voted, now is the time to lean in,” the letter read. “As entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders, that’s what we’ll all be doing in the days, months and years ahead.”

Alongside Lane Fox, the letter’s signatories included Betfair’s Ed Wray, Twitter UK managing director Bruce Daisley, David Cameron’s former tech advisor Rohan Silva and chief executive of London-based hub Tech City, Gerard Grech.

It admitted that the entrepreneurial community was “shell-shocked” by the result of the referendum, stating that the vast majority of tech entrepreneurs wanted the UK to remain in the EU, and “we’re all grappling with the new reality we find ourselves in”.

The letter follows a warning from Ed Vaizy last week that tech startups could be among the first to consider leaving the UK following a vote for Brexit.

In an exclusive interview with Business Advice, the minister of state for culture, communication and the digital industries said that “frictionless” movement of labour between EU member states has been one of the main reasons why the tech sector in Britain, and London in particular, has experienced a boom in recent years.

Vaizy added: “At the moment London is the default European city young tech companies want to come to. A couple of years after a Brexit vote, and these tech firms might be looking towards Berlin or Paris instead, as I know how keen countries like France and Germany are to attract inward investment.”

What does Brexit mean for your business? Read our helpful guide here

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Fred Heritage was previously deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London.