What Silicon Valley Is Saying About Brexit

Brexit
A man takes a copy of the London Evening Standard with the front page reporting the resignation of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the vote to leave the EU in a referendum, on June 24, 2016. A number of Britons who voted to leave the EU have taken to social media, admitting they wish they had backed remain. LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

The United Kingdom is exiting the European Union (EU), and its seismic ripples are being felt over 5,000 miles away in Silicon Valley. The British exit, or "Brexit," shook the global market on Friday morning, but for tech, the impact reverberates much closer to home. London's start-up center is the third largest in the world behind San Francisco and New York City, and a healthy number of entrepreneurs flocked there to work in the tech sector.

The British tech sector has overwhelmingly supported remaining in the EU. Almost ninety percent supported the "Remain" vote, according to a March survey. But now that Remain lost—receiving 48.1 percent of the vote—some tech firms told the British press they may consider relocating.

Coincidentally, President Barack Obama was in the heart of the global tech sector at Stanford University on Friday to speak at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit. Obama did not specifically address Brexit, but said the U.S.'s relationship with the United Kingdom will remain unchanged. "We agreed that our economic and financial teams will remain in close contact as we stay focused on ensuring economic growth and financial stability," Obama said.

Most of the Brexit discourse among Silicon Valley CEOs, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs took place on Twitter.

Some such as Om Malik, True Ventures partner and founder of the defunct tech journalism outlet GigaOM, expressed surprise:

Brexited! Wow. Just wow!

— OM (@om) June 24, 2016

First #brexit used to happen in colonies. Now it is happening in Britain itself. We have come a full circle.

— OM (@om) June 24, 2016

Others such as British Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kulkeer Taggar and venture capitalists Keith Rabois and Jason Calacanis tried to make sense of what happened:

A consequence of increasing income inequality. A direct consequence of globalisation is that working class wages are suppressed.

— Kulveer ⚡️ (@kul) June 24, 2016

This is the key lesson. Elites can no longer dictate policy. https://t.co/Axqny4Y205

— Keith Rabois (@rabois) June 24, 2016

And yet others such as venture capitalist Paul Graham wondered how the Brexit will be viewed by future generations:

A lot of people in England are going to feel sheepish next time they talk to their grandchildren.

— Paul Graham (@paulg) June 24, 2016

Most of Silicon Valley supported the United Kingdom remaining in the European Union, but there was a small contingency who supported Brexit. Paul Carr of PandoDaily wrote five reasons why Brexit will be a good thing. Marc Andreessen, arguably the most influential venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, mused that Brexit might turn out well.

But the most stereotypically Silicon Valley line of thought about Brexit has been the libertarian-tinged idea that nation-states or continental unions are too inefficient, that a smaller city-state—perhaps the size of London or the Bay Area—would be more effective at governance.

Long held hypothesis:
A city-state is the most naturally occurring governmental size. Larger nations will break up. #brexit

— Jeff Garzik (@jgarzik) June 24, 2016

City states failed because of conquerors (Alexander, Caeser, Genghis). If we have democracies, maybe it can work this time?

— Kulveer ⚡️ (@kul) June 24, 2016