I have been an entrepreneur since 1998 when I started IXEurope, together with Christophe de Buchet. [The colocation provider IXEurope was eventually acquired by Equinix in 2008 - Editor]
By late 1999 we were operating in the UK, France, Germany and Switzerland. Investing from a UK base, it did not seem at all strange that one of our four subsidiary companies was based in a non-EU country. Perhaps the EU was less integrated at the time - in any case the fact it was not an EU state nver came up in the process to choose Switzerland as a market.
Source: Thinkstock / miks
Business as usual?
Today I have a business in the Russian Federation and we are looking at another project in sub-Saharan Africa. I don’t see any short term Brexit effects on those projects for now beyond instability in the financial markets which may affect financing.
It is true that the EU is the biggest single market but there are plenty of markets outside it. India’s middle class is estimated at around 267 million alone so perhaps we should focus at least as much outside the EU on other major markets as we do inside.
Our many cultures inside and beyond the EU make for rich connections and exchanges. I hope none of that is overshadowed by the events of the coming two years - the timescale that it would take for Brexit to take place..
Perhaps a focus of UK PLC on emerging markets over the next ten years may be a better use of our unbeatable legal system and financing markets. We might just find that this becomes our niche.
The UK could do well to re-adopt the motto Export or Die but this time around we need to export ideas, business savvy and creativity as well as products.
Export or die
And who coined the phrase Export or Die in the early 1950s? Was it some English “chap” from the ministry? No, it was a German-Jewish emigré called Hans Juda, who along with his wife Elsbeth created “The Ambassador”, a magazine for the textile industry. Launched in 1948 under the title International Textiles, The Ambassador was “probably the most daring and enterprising trade magazine ever conceived”.
I hope the next few years will see more involvement from the UK datacentre industry in emerging markets, benefiting from the rich pool of talent we have (and always have had) from people of many many nations gathered on our small island.
Guy Willner is chairman and CEO of Ixcellerate