Google: Don’t let 'local' Brexit distract UK

The most senior Google executive outside Silicon Valley has said Britain should not be distracted by Brexit and should focus on supporting the growth of global technology companies.

Matt Brittin, the head of Google's Europe, Middle East and Africa business, said the conditions for success in the UK were now better than in 2010, when David Cameron said the founders of the tech giant believed they could never have built their company in Britain.

"I think it is getting better all the time, the conditions for big tech success here in the UK," Mr Brittin told me.

He said that although the vote to leave the European Union had caused uncertainty, it was a "local" issue and the government should concentrate on creating the right conditions for entrepreneurs to flourish globally.

"I think clearly there is uncertainty, and that is never helpful for investment," he told me.

"But in the big scheme of things the major trend that is happening is that the internet population is doubling from 2.7bn people to over 5bn people in a four to five year period.

"That is the trend entrepreneurs need to be paying attention to - and ultimately I am sure the government will sort out solutions for the local issues around Brexit.

"The thing entrepreneurs need to be doing is investing in that huge change globally because we're already world leaders in Britain - we're a big net exporter [in technology], we're creating jobs growth and opportunity through entrepreneurs today and they need to seize that opportunity now and not be distracted by short-term turmoil or uncertainty the markets are seeing."



Mr Brittin said it was vital that talent in the technology industry could move freely between different countries and a "consistent rule book" existed for as many countries as possible.

The European Union has been criticised for not moving more quickly towards a digital single market.

"It is important for every company to be able to sell their product and services around the world," Mr Brittin said.

"It is easier if the rule book is consistent in more countries, and the single market project is not complete in Europe so there is still a lot of work to do."

Despite concerns raised over recent takeovers by foreign firms of British businesses - such as Japanese Softbank's takeover of Arm, which designs computer chips - Mr Brittin said it was not a good idea for the government to intervene.

"I think the dynamic global economy is one where investment from all sources should be welcomed - it is for founders and decision makers to decide the best options," he said.

"If you restrict financing options, investment options, in one area it makes it a less healthy market."


Global ambition

The Google president argued the UK had good conditions for fast-growing technology companies.

"You need entrepreneurs, skills and finance," he said, when I asked him what was necessary for success.

"My sense is we have amazing skills. Google employs 4,000 plus people in the UK, they are as good as anywhere in the world.

"Access to finance is getting better and better.

"I think the entrepreneurial piece is the one we can learn from Silicon Valley, and the appetite for risk and the ambition to do something big.

"If you start a company in Silicon Valley five years ago you are thinking about reaching the US population - 300 million.

"If you start in the UK you're reaching the national population - 60 million.

"Everybody should think, when you're starting a tech company, you can reach the entire world because that's the way things are moving."