Seedrs CEO, Jeff Lynn on Brexit
Along with the CEOs of a substantial number of other UK tech businesses, Jeff has put his name behind the Britain Stronger in Europe campaign.
He explains: “As a business Seedrs is in favour of Britain remaining in the European Union. We are a pan-European platform with London at our core, and we believe that we and our users stand to benefit from the open market that comes with Britain’s continued EU membership; in contrast, leaving the EU creates a number of very real risks for the British business community.”
As a pan-European platform, based both in London and in Lisbon, the organisation has pro-European values at its core.
“We see a huge amount of opportunity in our business to facilitate cross-border flows of capital, and to connect European businesses and investors wherever they may be located. I think that the slightly ‘little England’ mentality that characterises some, though not all, of the Brexit argument doesn’t fit with that vision.”
Jeff believes that participation in the EU, the world’s largest free market, is a ‘very powerful thing’ that benefits Britain tremendously, and that while the EU has its flaws, exiting would be tantamount to ‘closing in on ourselves’.
“We’re big believers in the European ideal – a Europe filled with many nations with their own identities, their own cultures, but as unified a market as possible. To me personally, and to us as a business, that’s an important part of how we view the world and it’s why we wanted to speak out.”
In March, Seedrs conducted a survey of UK investors and entrepreneurs, with a view to determining attitudes to Brexit. The findings were not altogether surprising: much like the general populace, the business community was highly divided.
Around half of investors (51%) and entrepreneurs (48%) said they would vote to stay in the EU, whereas 47% of investors and 43% of entrepreneurs would vote to leave. The remaining 9% of entrepreneurs and 2% of investors said they had no preference either way.
“Our investors are everyone from very high net worth city professionals all the way down to much smaller retail investors, and we have entrepreneurs across all sectors. The results came back that it’s almost split down the middle, much like the country.”
Given the complexity of the issue in hand, Jeff feels voters would benefit from a higher calibre of information. In particular, entrepreneurs and investors need to ensure they are up to speed with the debate, and steel themselves for the likely economic impact.
“I think from what we’ve seen of the debate out there, it still seems relatively high level and soundbite-based. You have one side saying, don’t worry, we’ll just become like Switzerland, while you have another side saying it’s going to be terrible and we’re all going to lose massive amounts of money. I think some more data and facts around that will be very important as the debate proceeds.”
Lynn believes business leaders have a something of responsibility to speak out on the issues that most affect them. While conceding that moral and social debates may be a different story, he feels that CEOs should be encouraged to share their perspective on issues pertaining to wealth creation.
“I’m sympathetic to business leaders who worry they will aggravate their customers – maybe there are particular key constituencies that they don’t want to annoy – but sometimes as a leader of a business you need to take a stand, take a risk. I don’t think the risk is that great here, and the value of contributing an opinion is significant. That’s how democracies are meant to work.”