We’re committed to the UK, and we’re committed to Europe

Scott Francis
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IMG_0904In the Austin American-Statesman on July 1st, Lori Hawkins and Lilly Rockwell ask “What’s next for Austin tech companies after Brexit?

It’s a fair question to ask – because Austin and London tech companies have been forging closer ties for years – a process that only accelerated after a direct flight by British Airways began about 2 years ago. We were flattered that they reached out to us for how we’re coping:

After United Kingdom residents voted to leave the European Union last week, a software company in Austin was faced with its own Brexit decision: whether to keep its European headquarters in London.

BP3 Global, which builds business process management software for Fortune 500 companies, had picked London as its European headquarters in part because it was an EU country. […]

Amit Malhotra, chief strategy officer for BP3 Global, said London will still be its “spiritual” European home and the company will keep the 15 staff members there.

“But our official headquarters [may] actually move,” he said, noting that they are experiencing growth in both the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Amit was diplomatic about it but I’ll be more blunt about BP3 and the UK:  we’re staying

We’re staying because we believe in our team and our customers. The UK office is our European Headquarters.  We chose the UK first because we found a great team to work with, and because it is both an English-speaking EU country and easily accessible by direct flights from Austin.  We may need to move our official / contractual headquarters to another European country in the future due to changes in regulations, laws, visas, or taxes.  But our de facto headquarters will be continue to be the UK for as far into the future as my crystal ball can see. 

And we’re doubling down on our investments in Europe – with the recent acquisition of Futurum and expansion into Holland and Denmark, we’re setting the stage for more activity in Europe.  I know there are many who see risk and problems ahead, but we see opportunity.  Opportunity to help customers realize value.  Opportunity to help customers achieve success.  Opportunity to grow the very best team in BPM – in Europe as well as in the US.

I couldn’t be more proud of the work we do in Europe- and as amazing as it is to find ourselves running a business across four continents, I can’t imagine the company without this team in the UK, and without these great customers.

In the wake of the referendum in the UK, and events commonly referred to as “Brexit” – there’s a lot of sturm and drang regarding the future of the UK economy, the impact on the European economy and the EU, and the impact on the US economy – and more directly, US businesses. 

Our own Austin American-Statesman also wrote on the subject a week ago in “Austin will feel some Brexit volatility“:

Austin residents with enough courage to peek at their retirement accounts Friday saw the stock market’s sharply negative reaction to the unknowns.

The uncertainty struck a fresh blow to oil prices, which had stabilized in recent months and had hinted at better days for the Texas energy sector.

[…]“It’s not just the big companies,” said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics in Austin and author of “Recession Proof.” “Anyone thinking about expanding into London for anything yesterday is not thinking that today.”

All of this is true – we’ve seen our bank accounts clipped by exchange rates, and our investment accounts clipped by the stock market.  But these are short-term impacts.  At BP3 we’ve weathered this kind of storm before – in 2008-2009 – and we emerged from the ashes of that recession even stronger than we were before.  These challenges are also opportunities to excel and to prove oneself in the market. 

If we were just now entering the European market rather than 2 years in, there is no doubt we would still proceed – and we might consider more seriously options other than London for our European Headquarters.  The CEO of Austin Technology Council was quoted:

“Every single company that has a European headquarters or office in the U.K. will have to rethink it,” Brunner said. “The question is whether this will make it difficult for there to be a fluid transfer of business. They’ll be asking, ‘Do I move it to Ireland? Do I move it to outside of Paris or somewhere in Germany?’”

Any Austin company or startup that wants to talk about this, I’m happy to discuss our experiences.  Please talk to us before you open up an EHQ, if this news is rattling your cage at all.   London may still be the right place to start, depending on your circumstances, but either way, it is good to understand the full spectrum of the challenges that confront a startup going international.