November 27, 2019

250 UK tech entrepreneurs set out policy demands

Political parties have so far failed to address the biggest concerns of startups and scaleups.

Maija Palmer

12 min read

Some 250 of the UK's most successful entrepreneurs — including names like Justine Roberts, founder of Mumsnet, Taavet Hinrikus, founder of TransferWise and Simon Woodroffe, founder of YO! Sushi — have sent an open letter to the next UK government asking them to commit to policies supporting the tech sector.

As the UK gears up for a general election campaign,  different parties have made various pledges related to tech. The Conservative party manifesto, for example, contains promises of delivering full-fibre broadband to every home within five years, extending R&D tax credits and creating a new online crime-fighting agency (more details of all the tech pledges here). The Labour party, meanwhile, generated news headlines with its proposal to renationalise parts of BT to provide free broadband connectivity to citizens.

No party appears to be offering the things that the tech sector itself actually wants

But no party appears to be offering the things that the tech sector itself actually wants. The 21 requests in the Startup Manifesto, outlined in the open letter below,  show an overwhelming concern over the effects of Brexit on staffing, finance and regulation.


Six of the requests relate to changing the immigration system to make it easier to hire talented staff from abroad. This includes a call for better implementation of the UK's Start Up and Innovator Visas. These were introduced in April, but in the first three months only two Innovator Visas were granted.

Six of the requests are for changing the immigration system to make it easier to hire from abroad.

If Brexit makes it harder to recruit from the European Union and the new visas continue to be this restrictive, fast-growing tech companies will be deprived of vital sources of talent. The effect on the industry would be far-reaching: nearly half of the UK's 100 fastest-growing tech companies have at least one foreign-born founder.

There is also a call for the new government to secure a Data Adequacy agreement with the EU to ensure the free flow of data between the UK and the EU after Brexit. In the case of a no-deal Brexit it could overnight become illegal to transfer data from the EU to the UK.

There is also a call to extend the UK's Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI), which makes it relatively simple to issue employee stock options — but only for companies with fewer than 250 employees. The EMI cap has started to be a hindrance for larger scale-up companies, making it harder for them to entice top talent with a great stock options package.

Open Letter

As founders of some of the UK’s most successful businesses, we call on the parties seeking to form our next government to prioritise the needs of Britain's startups and scale-ups.

Despite Brexit uncertainty, the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit is undimmed. Since 2010, the number of people engaged in early-stage entrepreneurial activity has increased by a third. Total venture capital investment in UK tech topped £6bn in 2018, more than any other European country. And all this growth has meant hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

Entrepreneurship is essential to the British economy. That’s why we support the Startup Manifesto by The Coalition for a Digital Economy (Coadec) & The Entrepreneurs Network.

What startups need from government to build world-beating companies is simple. Access to top talent from both here in the UK and abroad; the right tax incentives to foster and grow early-stage businesses then access to the capital needed to scale them; and a clear, simple set of rules and regulations flexible enough to encourage new and innovative startup business models.

This means reforming the visa system so startups can attract the best and brightest without needless bureaucracy, streamlining tax reliefs so we can get timely investments in ambitious businesses, and reforming pension regulations to attract more funding into early-stage businesses.

These policies would be good for startups, but more importantly, they would be good for the UK. When you support Britain’s entrepreneurs you support the whole economy. We urge all the political parties in this election to bear that in mind and develop a startup and scale-up friendly approach for the years to come.


Summary of policies


  • Ensure that the Start Up and Innovator Visas are implemented successfully
  • Reintroduce the Tier 1 General visa – or an equivalent
  • Reduce the Tier 2 Visa Salary threshold and allow stock options to be considered in visa applications
  • Extend the Tier 5 Youth Mobility Scheme visa to European citizens
  • Modernise Enterprise Management Incentives (EMI) by increasing current limits from a £30m asset capitalisation to £100m, and from 250 to 500 employees
  • Support more women to start and scale businesses
  • Utilise private coding schools as lifelong learning providers

Access to Finance

  • Reform the Tier 1 Investor Visa by lowering the minimum qualifying investment threshold for investment in UK startups, scale-ups and venture capital funds
  • Reform advance assurance for Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS) and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS) to unlock more investment in high-growth startups.
  • Unleash pension fund capital by adjusting the pension charge cap
  • Encourage the British Business Bank to provide more risk capital
  • Reform R&D Tax Credits so that they are fit for a modern digital economy
  • Improve access to Innovate UK grants
  • Devise a coherent regional startup strategy


  • Secure a Data Adequacy agreement as soon as possible
  • Promote innovation in regulated sectors by creating a cross-sector regulatory sandbox
  • Use Open Banking-style reforms to promote innovation in sectors such as telecoms and energy
  • Revolutionise the way government collects, stores and shares data
  • Redraft the Age Appropriate Design Code to be more pragmatic
  • Work with startups to ensure tech regulation does not create new barriers to entry
  • Protect encryption from politicised attacks

The 250 signatories:

Carlos Silva Co-founder, Seedrs
Aron Gelbard Co-founder & CEO, Bloom & Wild
Christian Nentwich CEO, Duco
Emma Jones Founder, Enterprise Nation
Sarah Wood Co-founder, Unruly
James Lohan Founder, Mr & Mrs Smith
Mats Stigzelius Founder and Chairman, Takumi
Mike Lawton Founder, Oxford Space Systems
Shaun Azam CFO, Sweatcoin
Stephen Rapoport Founder, Pact Coffee
Simon Rogerson CEO, Octopus Group
Edwina Dunn CEO, Starcount (Founder, dunnhumby)
Virginie Charles-Dear Founder & CEO, toucanBox
Giles Andrews Co-founder, Zopa
Tom Carrell CEO, Cydar Medical
Jonathan Sattin Founder, triyoga
Simon Woodroffe Founder of YO! Sushi & YOTEL
Dom Hallas Executive Director, The Coalition for a Digital Economy
Daniel Korski CEO and Co-founder, PUBLIC
Kris Naudts Founder, Culture Trip
Doug Monro Co-Founder & CEO, Adzuna
Celia Francis CEO, Rated People
Christian Faes CEO & Co-Founder, LendInvest
Merlie Calvert Founder and CEO, Farillio Limited
Tugce Bulut CEO and Co-founder, Streetbees
Alex Stephany Founder & CEO, Beam
Cecile Reinaud Founder and President of Seraphine ltd
John Spindler CEO, Capital Enterprise
Jeff Lynn Executive Chairman & Co-Founder, Seedrs
Rajeeb Dey MBE Founder & CEO, Learnerbly
Andrew Webster Co-Founder, DesignMyNight
Husayn Kassai CEO & CoFounder, Onfido
Justine Roberts Founder, Mumsnet & Gransnet
Vincent Fraux Co-Founder, Oxford Space Systems
John Fingleton Founder and CEO, Fingleton
David Dunn CEO, Sunderland Software City, Chairperson, UK Tech Cluster Group
Philip Salter Founder, The Entrepreneurs Network
Thish Nadesan COO, Cleo
Tania Boler Founder and CEO, Elvie
Taavet Hinrikus CEO and Co-Founder, Transferwise
Anna Lane CEO, The Wisdom Council
Adrian Gregory CEO, DataIQ
Ana Andres Co-founder, TidyChoice
Bryony Simpson Founder, Engineers for Pioneers
Iglika Ghouse Founder & CEO, USPAAH
Guy Tolhurst Group CEO, Indagate Group
Ian Drew Chairman,
James Dean CEO, Sensat
Iona Smith Founder, New Life Classes Ltd
David Murray-Hundley “the grumpy entrepreneur “ Chairman, E-Fundamentals
Elizabetta Camilleri CEO, indiluup
Hannah Cox Founder, betternotstop
James Clews CEO, Venture
Ana Andres Director, TidyChoice
Irina Pafomova Co-Founder, Engelworks
Janice Gordon Founding Director, Problem Solving Company
Andrew Dixon Founder, ARC InterCapital Ltd
Anne-Laure Le Cunff Founder, Ness Labs
Dana Denis-Smith Obelisk Support, CEO
Geeta Sidhu-Robb CEO, Nosh Detox Delivery Ltd
David Regler Founder, Maine Associates Ltd
Cordelia Meacher Managing Director & Founder, FieldHouse Associates
Emma Joy Obanye CEO, Mindful
James Lemon CEO, The Growth Works
Ben Fletcher Founder, Lead Bullets
Adrian Wong Founder & CEO at Fuse Foundry
Maria Tanjala Co-Founder, FilmChain
Mark Twigg Executive Director, Cicero Group
Merita Memisi CEO, Carter Labs
Christina Richardson Founder, weare3Sixty
Miguel Martinez Co-Founder and Chief Data Scientists, Signal AI
Daniel George Founder, StepEx
Michael Piddock Founder, Glisser
Maria Inmaculada Martinez-Rubio Venture Partner, Deep Science Ventures
Rachael Twumasi-Corson Co-Founding Director, Afrocenchix
Mike Battle Co-Founder & CEO, LaplandUK
Simon Hall CEO, eCommerce Performance Model
Charlie Stein-Cohen Founder & CEO, Net2Work
Manya Klempner Founder, Rathbone Boxing Club
Robert Hollamby Professor of Enterprise, Leeds University
Sven Al Hamad Co-Founder & CEO, Webiny
Gemma Taylor Director, Rocket Bridging Limited
Simon La Fosse Founder & Chairman, La Fosse Associates
Ashok Suppiah Co-Founder & CEO, Mitra Innovation
Dinara Asadulina CEO, Plombir
Kate Grussing Founder, Sapphire Partners
Matt Kuppers Founder & CEO, Startup Manufactory Ltd
Shane Smith CEO, Intelligent Crowd TV
Karina Robinson CEO, Robinson Hambro Ltd
Randa Bennett Founder & CEO, VeeLoop
Vincent Boon Founder, Standing on Giants
Rick Lowe Managing Director, Brands In Ltd
Neeta Patel CEO, Centre for Entrepreneurs
Russ Shaw Founder, Tech London Advocates & Global Tech Advocates
Alpesh Patel CEO,
Julie Walters Founder, Raremark
Joe Seddon Founder & CEO, Zero Gravity
Ross Fobian Co-founder & CEO, ResponseTap
Diane Banks Founder & CEO, Northbank Talent Management Ltd
Elizabeth Drew Founder, Osmology (Acre Supply Co. Limited)
Actar Arya CEO, D A Languages Ltd
Mark Lightowler Founder & CEO, Phorix Limited
Sheelpa Patel Founder & Managing Director, Mavens & Mavericks Ltd
John Attridge CEO, BBXUK
Reina D'costa Founder, Bizlaw UK
James Boyd-Wallis Director, Fourteen Forty
David Holloway CEO, Marlin Hawk Group
David Benigson CEO, Signal AI
Joe Charlesworth Director, Highway Data Systems Ltd
Tim Chater Director, Zero to Sixty
Krisztina Tardos Founder, The Merit Club
Toby Schulz Founding Director, Vantage Power
Will Young CEO,
Agata Boczkowska COO,
Jude Ower Founder/CEO, Playmob
Robert Lingard CEO, Power Brand Communications
Hanadi Jabado Director of Enterprise, University of Cambridge Judge Business School
Hela Wozniak-Kay Co-Founder, Sister Snog
Sam Gordon Founder, Gordon & Eden
Halima Hamid Founder, The Rustic Roots Company
Lisa Thorne Managing Director & Founder, Together Group Ltd.
Chi-chi Ekweozor Founder & CEO, Assenty
Veera Johnson Managing Partner, Johnson Capital Advisory Ltd
Raphael Chow CEO & Co-Founder, Wevat
Jack Pearson Director, EngX
Una Cottrell Founder & MD, Authentic Marketing
Allison Alexander Founder, Branue
Lucy Sharp Co-Founder, Dot Residential
Frankie Fox Co-Founder, The Foraging Fox
Sean Ramsden Founder and Chief Executive, Ramsden International
Fiona Castela Director, Castela Consulting
Tilly McAuliffe Owner, Think Publishing & Wanderlust Magazine
Natalia Bojanic Co-Founder, Form Nutrition
Richard Carter CEO, CCww
Touria Roqaa Founder & CEO, Roccabox
Will Dracup CEO, Biosignatures Ltd
Simon Cherry Director, Phantom Ltd
Nick Sturge Director, Engine Shed
Yannick Brunner Co-founder, WealthKernel
Stuart Clarke Director, Paceline
Ben Brabyn Head, Level39
Iris Anson Co-founder, Etiq
Pratik Sampat CEO, ihorizon
Dr Nicholas Field-Johnson Senior Partner, Fraser Finance LLP
Madhuban Kumar Co-Founder & CEO, Metafused
Al Gerrie Founder & CEO, ZigZag Global
Rick Benfield CEO, thirdbridge
Andrew Tibbitts COO, TechHub
Kully Singh CEO & Founder, Player Up
Aneesh Varma Founder & CEO, Aire
Stephen Oldroyd Head of Strategy, Adzuna
Luke Robinson Partner, Post Urban Ventures
Alastair Paterson CEO, Digital Shadows
Sophie Sandor Founder, Uncouth Chic Films
Kristian Papadakis Founding Director, Presso Network
Davide Machado Founder, Splitcab Ltd
Jonathan Holtby CCO, Dataswift
Nilema Bhakta-Jones Chief Operating Officer, Farillio
Alex Gurr Head of Sales, Farillio
Manita Rai Operations Manager, HireHand
James Garner Founder, Sticky
David Hulmes Founder, Jackhumble
Darin Brockman CEO & Founder, Firsty Group
Alma Ramirez Acosta Co-Founder, Vibio
Rosemary Forsyth Founder, Forsyth Group
Yogesh Gupta Founder, GET-NILA LIMITED
Peter White CTO, W Cubed Tech Ltd
Kuvera sivalingam Co-Founder, Learn How Now
Niall Jones Founder, Innevent
Phoebe Yiin Head of Operations, Dataswift
George Biddle Founder & CEO, The Grad Soc
Theodosis Georgiou CSO, Wild AI
Jack Dow Founder & CEO, Grapevine
Sakunthala Panditharatne Founder, Asteroid Technologies, Inc
Tracey Johnson Manager, Digital Media Centre Barnsley
Geoff Anderson CEO, PixelPin
Natasha Guerra CEO, Runway East
Chris Longman Head of Video Production, Farillio
Simon Francis CEO, Flock Associates
Jack Gaskin Co-Founder, GoKart
Steve Day Co-Founder, Football Matcher LTD
Phil Day Co-Founder, Football Matcher LTD
Carl Stephen Patrick Hunter OBE Chairman, Coltraco Ultrasonics
Oliver May COO and Co-founder, Streetbees
Seb Barker Co-Founder & COO, Beam
Dan Walker Founder, Lnet Digital Ltd
Sophie Newbould CEO, Newbould & Co Solicitors | COO, Athensys
Ian Merricks Chair, The Accelerator Network
Fabrizio Nicolosi Founder, Leaders First
Emma Little Founder & CEO, ExecSpace
Yuliana Topazly Director, My OutSpace
Evgeny Shadchnev CEO, Makers
Kevin Flanagan Founder, Dialoguers
Edmond Ibrahimi CEO, Propertalis
James Butler CEO, Tollo Ltd
laurence nicholas john CEO, Ctrlio ltd
Lee Strafford CEO, ADV
Chris Barley Founder & CEO, Converso
Ellie Webb Founder, Caleño Drinks
Vivi Friedgut Founder, Blackbullion Ltd
Louise Doherty CEO, Yoller
Meera Panchal CEO, Synadd
Elizabeth Ellis Founder, Blue Marble Private
Dr. Maria Aretoulaki Founder & Director, DialogCONNECTION Ltd
Chang Liu CEO, Extend Robotics
Jerry Young CEO, ieDigital
Simon Thethi Founder, Tech City News / Indicium Ventures
Ajay C Thomas CEO, Sweans Technologies
Vicky Ngari-Wilson Founder, The Rural Retail
Teck Kua Finance Director, Founders4Schools
Sara Ahmadi CEO & Founder, shopest
Christopher Lier Co-Founder & CMO, LeadGen App
Sharmadean Reid CEO & Founder, Beautystack
Pawel Bojarski CEO, Sceenic
Paul Bellamy CTO, truenova
Paul Andrews Founder, School Lettings Solutions
Ross Williams Founder, Venntro Media Group
Dalila Duffy Finance Director, Mercanto Limited
Anna B. Sexton Founder, Open To Create... Ltd
Becca Courtenay Co-Founder, The Plantifull Food Co.
Michele Trusolino Co-Founder & CEO, Debut
Shelley Stuart Director, Stuart Consulting
Lizzy Hodcroft Co-Founder, Myndr Ltd
Charlie Mowat Founder & CEO, The Clean Space
Nicolas Colin Co-Founder & Director, The Family
Chris Butcher Co-Founder & CTO, Portify
Jonathan Wiggin Founder and CEO, Pionr
Sho Sugihara Co-Founder & CEO, Portify
Michael Nabarro CEO & Co-founder, Spektrix
Anne Sutton-Scales Start-up Founder,
Daniele Baroncelli CEO, Trenìt! / GoBright Media Ltd
Rafael dos Santos CEO, High Profile Club
Dharmin Polra Partner, London Investable
Michael O'Sullivan CEO, Bywire News
Sorcha Lorimer Founder & CEO, Trace
Carlo Alberto Seneci CEO and Co-Founder, Future Forge Ltd
Shaan Ahmed Founder, Uown
Kirsty Macdonald Investment Manager, JamJar Investments
Mark Stuart Lead Developer, Farillio
Fotini Markopoulou CEO, doppel
Freddie Blackett CEO, Patch
Sarah J. Wadham Founder & CEO, SJW Corporate Services Ltd.
Peter Bance CEO, Origami Energy
Keyu Sumaria Co-Founder, The Oblique Life
Adrian Palmer Former CEO, Proven Legal Technologies
Dmitry Ivanov Co-Founder, Wevat
Sophie Eden Co-Founder, Gordon & Eden
Elizabeth Varley Founder & CEO, TechHub
Alexander Fitzgerald Founder and CEO, Cuckoo Internet
Silvia Ferrero CEO, MediaLoc Ltd
Simon Hulme Programme Director, MSc Entrepreneurship, UCL School of Management
Diane Young Co-Founder & CEO, The Drum
Dr Christopher Haley Head of Startup Research, Nesta
Jessica Mendoza Founder and CEO, Monadd
John Stapleton Founder, Entrepreneur & Business Advisor
Giles Palmer Brandwatch
Letitia Seglah CEO and Founder, Build Scale Grow
Jonathan Cohen Canvus
Ufuk POlat Deplike
Kim Palmer Founder, Clementine
Annabel Denham Founder, Female Founders Forum
Emma Sinclair MBE Co-Founder, EnterpriseAlumni
Karen Kerrigan Chief Operating Officer, Seedrs