The Romanians at heart of UK tech boom

Eastern European immigrants won’t all steal British jobs

When Big Ben chimes midnight on New Year’s Eve an invisible wall in eastern Europe will crumble. January 1 marks the end of UK labour movement restrictions with Romania and Bulgaria, two of the European Union’s poorest countries.

Pressure group Migration Watch predicts as many as 70,000 immigrants a year could flood the UK. This has led to frenzied fears that they will take British jobs and drain the welfare system, while gypsies erect permanent encampments on Park Lane and Mayfair.

Rubbish, says Emi Gal.

Gal, a 23-year-old Romanian expat, is part of a new wave of eastern European immigrants coming to the UK to start businesses in high-growth sectors such as technology and social media. Britain’s pre-eminence in these fields attracts entrepreneurs who lack the markets and infrastructure needed in their eastern European homelands.

“Romanians are good at two things – engineering and entrepreneurship,” says Gal. His native country has produced a Nobel prize-winning biologist, the inventor of the jet aeroplane and even sent an astronaut into space.

Gal moved to London three years ago, after studying computer sciences and mathematics in Romania, to set up his video advertising technology firm, Brainient. His business adds interactive features to online videos, helping clients increase ad revenue by an average of 30 per cent.

“If you take a publisher that’s making £20m a year, that’s £26m,” explains Gal. “That means more tax and that means hopefully more staff. What people expect when they hear Romanians are gypsies.”

Estonian Taavet Hinrikus is another member of this new eastern cohort. He came to London in 2007 as an employee of Skype, whose software was built by Estonian developers.

Hinrikus has since left to set up his own company TransferWise, an international money transfer service that cuts out bank fees and counts PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel as an investor.

“We have a lot of developers in Estonia, but when it comes to marketing, there are no marketing people in Estonia,” says Hinrikus. “The UK is the centre point of the entrepreneurial activity in Europe. I say to all my entrepreneurial friends in Estonia, ‘Hey, you need to have your company based in the UK’.”

Lithuanian Rytis Vitkauskas chose London as a base for his last-minute ticketing app YPlan for similar reasons. “My number one choice was London because it’s a hub of entrepreneurship and finance.”

While the wave of eastern European immigrants in the mid-2000s were accused of taking British jobs, start-ups like these are creating work for Brits. TransferWise employs 15 people in London, Brainient 10 and YPlan 30.

“We’ve created jobs, hired from universities, trained interns – that’s a good impact,” Vitkauskas says.

While the government is encouraging students to study more technical courses to meet a growing digital skills gap, many eastern European countries are already producing graduates well equipped to build digital and technology businesses.

“Slovenia is really good for technical skills,” says expat Tine Postuvan. “We have a lot of developers. They’re a little bit cheaper and the knowledge is really good compared to Ireland or the UK.”

The business he co-founded, Equal Eyes, which makes smartphones accessible to the visually impaired, moved to London last year to join Telefonica’s Wayra, a project that helps start-ups by offering free desk space and mentoring.

“We knew we had to go to a bigger market,” says Postuvan. “It was basically between the States and London. We were accepted into the Wayra accelerator and we’re here because of it.”

Schemes such as Wayra are helping to attract developers to Britain as the country’s digital economy grows. Despite the fears over the strain on welfare budhets and jobs, eastern European developers may well become the new “Polish plumber”.

The ‘out of europe’ chorus is swelling

Hotelier Rocco Forte and Dragons’ Den online entrepreneur Julie Meyer are among the latest business names to back a campaign to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU.

Business for Britain announced its latest signatories as it unveiled a poll that found almost half of businessmen and women want a referendum on whether to remain part of the bloc. Only 30 per cent were against holding a vote.

The Eurosceptic group was launched to much fanfare in April, with former Marks & Spencer boss  Sir Stuart Rose and Phones4u founder John Caudwell among its first batch of more than 500 backers. An additional 250 have now joined the campaign, which is the nemesis of the EU-supporting Business for New Europe group founded by Roland Rudd, the City’s foremost spin doctor.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

1st Line Support Technician / Application Support

£20000 - £24000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A leading provider of web based m...

Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

Accountant / Assistant Management Accountant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an Assistant Management Ac...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices