London Mayor Visiting NYC Says His City Remains Top Tech Hub

  • Khan says ‘London is open’ three months after Brexit vote
  • Economic picture isn’t as rosy as talks begin to take shape

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has a message for U.S. venture capitalists: his city remains a top investment destination, despite the U.K.’s vote to leave the European Union.

“The world, at the moment, is full of uncertainties,” Khan said at a stop in New York as part of a North American promotional tour. “But one thing I am certain of is that London is open, and London will always be open, and London and New York will always be very, very close."

Khan in New York, on Sept. 18.

Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

The mayor touted a survey conducted by the city’s promotional company, London & Partners, that showed a “majority of tech execs” rank London as Europe’s leading technology hub, ahead of Berlin, Paris and Dublin.

Still, the effects of Brexit may not be fully apparent yet and foreign and domestic investment are forecast to decrease over the coming years, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Dan Hanson. The U.K. is also still negotiating the terms of its exit, which will drag out over two years of talks and could impact business and investment decisions.

A European base for many U.S. companies, the U.K. is making a big public relations push to make sure they stay there. Prime Minister Theresa May was also planning to meet with representatives of some of the biggest U.S. companies in New York while she is in town for the United Nations General Assembly this week.

Gordon Innes, chief executive officer of London & Partners, was optimistic about London’s fate in a post-Brexit future. "In 10-, 20-years time, this will just be a blip," he said.

Khan spoke in New York at the headquarters of work space startup WeWork, which took the occasion to announce it will open two additional spaces in London. Other U.K. tech entrepreneurs were also on hand to make the case for the economic viability of the city and to “start making contacts,” in the U.S. venture capital circle.

Sarah Wood, co-chief executive officer of London-based video advertising company Unruly, said that while she’s bullish on the city, she’s also seizing the opportunity to expand abroad.

“Brexit is an opportunity to focus outside of Europe and look at the U.S. and remind ourselves that the U.S. is our largest trading partner, and then to look to other parts of the world, such as Asia-Pacific where we’re seeing phenomenal growth" Wood said in an interview. “For us, Brexit wasn’t a moment to hesitate, it was a moment very much to put our foot on the pedal and accelerate the international growth that we’d already been planning.”

Rich Riley, CEO of London-based music app Shazam, said he plans to keep the city as a center of the company’s engineering.

Talent “is what makes London so special,” Riley said. “We’re optimistic that that won’t change and we certainly have no plans to change anything as a result of this. We’re still investing and operating as we always were.”

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