There's no question that the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency has become a huge spook factor for some American founders. So much so, in fact, that they've considered moving their startups to (or even starting up in) Canada. For folks looking to flee the country, London is calling as an alternative that can offer entrepreneurs many advantages.
Home to the most companies--152--on this year's Inc. 5000 Europe list, London ranked as the No. 1 fastest-growing city on the continent. It is also the third largest tech hub in the world (coming in just behind San Francisco and New York City), according to a recent report commissioned by London and Partners. What's more, the U.K. was the leading destination for U.S. entrepreneurs looking to relocate.
"The tech scene in London started in Shoreditch ["Tech City"], but now it's happening everywhere," says Russ Shaw, an American entrepreneur who moved to the European city in 1992. Since then, he's held several executive positions at companies such as Virgin Media and Skype.
In addition to being the founder of Tech London Advocates, a private sector group of more than 2,700 entrepreneurs and executives, Shaw also serves as Tech Ambassador to the Mayor of London's office. "Part of the reason I stayed in the U.K. is that my career experience was broader than I ever could have imagined," he says.
As much as $3.6 billion was raised by British firms in 2015, according to data from CB Insights and London and Partners. Over the past five years, the number of digital upstarts increased by 50 percent.
If you're looking to starting a business London (or simply to relocate your startup), here what's you need to know about the city's booming tech scene:
1. Minimal government red-tape
It's relatively easy and inexpensive to launch a company in London, notes Shaw.
An entrepreneur visa, for instance, typically costs around $1,683 (£1180), not including a healthcare surcharge. To be eligible, you must have access to at least $71,324 (£50,000), meet an English language requirement, and provide evidence that you can support yourself while in the U.K.
2. Renting office space is costly
Real estate in London doesn't come cheap. Although rent prices in New York are 12 percent higher by comparison, it's still expensive to set up shop in the British capital city.
In 2015, the average rent price hit $78 (£55.34) per square foot --up from the previous year's $73 (£51.56), according to data from real-estate provider Savills.
Shaw suggests first trying to get into a good co-working space, incubator, or accelerator. TechHub, Huckletree, and Campus London are notable options.
3. An abundance of highly-skilled talent
With its proximity to world-renowned universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, London has garnered a reputation for being a highly-skilled ecosystem. Currently, it boasts more engineers than Stockholm, Berlin, and Dublin combined.
Still, when asked to name the single most pressing challenge that startup founders in the U.K. face, Shaw is quick to point back to the talent pool. With all the competition, he says "getting access to the right talent"--at the right time--can be difficult.
4. Funding has been on the rise
Venture capital funding has certainly improved over the past years. In 2015, London tech companies scooped up an estimated $1.6 billion--more than they'd raised in all of 2014.
Thanks to the growing number of high-profile accelerator programs, and a government mission to prioritize the growing fintech sector, there are fewer barriers to scoring funding in London.
With fewer billion-dollar "unicorn" success stories to speak of, VCs can be hesitant to offer seed and early stage funding for any untested business models.
"This first wave of entrepreneurs had a really tough go because needed to demonstrate not only for their companies, but on behalf of the ecosystem, too," explains Shaw.
5. An increasingly global city
With as many as 44 percent of the population being ethnic minorities, London has been heralded as a true melting pot of language, religion and culture. The city is home to 8.6 million people (the highest figure since 1939, according to the Greater London Authority).
Beatie Wolfe is a music entrepreneur who divides her time between London and New York City. "Being challenged is a good thing," she says, referring to the boons of her dual-citizenship. "You have to refine your thinking constantly, and I find that so helpful."
6. Easy access to major foreign markets
The most obvious advantage to starting up in the U.K. is accessibility to other global markets. In recent years, a "Scandinavian Invasion" has been occurring in London, as Nordic startups hope to eventually get a foothold in the U.S., for instance.
Similarly, a presence in London may give many American entrepreneurs better access to major markets across the Eurozone. "We invest across Europe, so London is our launchpad. If you are trying to expand globally, London's a very sensible place to do that from," said Rob Kniaz, a partner with the venture capital firm Hoxton Ventures, in the London and Partners report.
Still, the possibility of a British exit from the European Union (for which a referendum will take place in June of this year,) would likely mean a shakeup of the existing tech ecosystem.
"A 'Brexit' would not be a good thing. Being in the EU allows for freedom of movement," says Shaw. "If there's a Brexit, you risk being closed off from 27 other European markets."
7. Benefits of a potential single digital market
Shaw notes that there are other unique advantage to staying in the European Union, such as benefiting from a unique piece of legislation that would create a single digital market.
This law, as he explains, "would harmonize the rules around IP copyrights and patents that will also make it easier for companies to seamlessly trade through digital across the 28 markets."
As a result, it would actually save companies huge amounts on the value added tax and legal expenses.