Just a couple of days ago, longtime Seattle tech entrepreneur Marcelo Calbucci was excited about moving his family to London. But now that Britain has voted to leave the European Union, he’s feeling a different emotion.
“I would use a ‘disappointed’ emoji,” Calbucci told GeekWire today.
He’s still going ahead with the move. His wife will be starting a job at Microsoft in London, and his kids (aged 7 and 10) are ready to go as well. But Calbucci has no idea what “Brexit” will do to the tech environment he was so looking forward to jumping into.
“People were moving to London to build these startups – now they might think twice,” he said.
— Marcelo Calbucci (@calbucci) June 24, 2016
A lot of other people are thinking twice, now that the surprising outcome of Thursday’s vote is sinking in. Some of the effects are immediate – for example, the stock-market drop created by today’s wave of uncertainty, and the plunge in the British pound’s value against the dollar.
“If you work for a British company, say, as an expat in the United States, you probably just got a 15 percent salary cut,” Calbucci said.
Others are longer-term: In advance of this week’s vote, a survey by Juniper Research found that 65 percent of Britain’s tech employees expected the country’s exit from the EU to have a negative impact on the global tech industry.
Microsoft UK’s chief executive, Michel Van der Bel said last month that Britain’s continued membership in the EU would support “important criteria for continued and future investment by Microsoft and others.” Now Microsoft and others will have to re-evaluate those criteria. (Today Microsoft declined to comment on the vote.)
“Facebook and Google have big offices in the UK because it gives them easy access to the EU,” Calbucci said. “Now my guess is that they’ll have to have a hub in the EU itself – likely Paris or Berlin.”
Paris and Berlin were the two other European hot spots that Calbucci and his family were considering. Before Brexit, they went with London because of the language factor as well as the “booooming” tech sector and the British government’s welcoming attitude toward foreigners. The Brits will still speak English, but other factors may lose some of their luster.
Although the proponents of Brexit say they’ll work to ensure that Britain maintains its level of access to the European market, the flow of people and goods between the UK and the EU is sure to get more complicated.
“I think travel through Europe will get more difficult, and more expensive as well,” Calbucci said.
Then there are the regulatory changes: It’s expected to take two years to negotiate the terms of Britain’s exit, and right now it’s hard to predict what that will mean for tech topics ranging from data protection to Net neutrality to mobile roaming charges.
Amid all of today’s uncertainties, a couple of things are becoming clear: One is that the world is going to get a lot more complicated, for techies and for the rest of us:
— GoogleTrends (@GoogleTrends) June 24, 2016
The other thing is that it’s not over yet:
The world is beginning to right itself. Britain first. America will follow. #Brexit
— WA Republican Party (@WAGOP) June 24, 2016
One of Marcelo Calbucci’s startups was Seattle 2.0, which was acquired by GeekWire.