Dressed in suits with questions and passports in hand, a delegation of over 15 US entrepreneurs and investors--including a number from Southern California--entered the seat of the British government at 10 Downing Street Thursday. 10 Downing Street is the equivalent of the White House here in the United States. Expectations were high, as the business leaders were looking forward to meeting and speaking to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron. Instead, they were met by one of the PM's advisors, Kieran Kumaria and Tech City Chief Executive, Eric Van der Kleij.
Mr. Connell spoke about the many pro-foreign-enterprise initiatives the Cameron government has passed and Van der Kleij fielded questions and feedback on topics ranging from Patent Law to secondary markets. "Patent Box," a new preferential tax regime on patents being considered by the UK government, was a topic of considerable discussion. The new system would impose only a 10% corporation tax rate on revenue after 2013 derived from patents filed after 2010. Such a measure would signal a fundamental shift in European patent law since, as Van der Kleij reminded the delegates, "In the UK and actually across Europe, you cannot patent software."
While disappointed at not being able to meet with the Prime Minister, Erik Bjontegard of Big PlayAR--which is based in Beverly Hills--was still very impressed with the openness of the UK Government. "I have started a series of international companies, I have had companies in the UK here before, I have started companies in Norway and I have dual citizenship and started a company in the US. I have not seen this before and that is the uniqueness. That we, as a company from the US, got to sit in 10 Downing Street; I doubt that would happen at the White House." A number of Southern California companies are visiting London and its TechCity area this week, to learn about the efforts of the British Government to attract U.S. companies to work with companies there.
In the last 12 months since Prime Minister David Cameron set out his commitment in Tech City, the British Government has passed a number of policies to help encourage foreign investment and entrepreneurship in the UK. Highlights include a 225% increase in a R&D tax credit for SMEs, a £10m relief in capital gains tax for entrepreneurs and the creation of the Entrepreneurs Visa.
(Editor's note: Travis Oberlander, Contributing Editor to socalTECH, is traveling in London today following a group of Southern California startups, to learn more about the UK's outreach to the technology industry)