I need help to understand if I'm eligible

Hi, I am a Software Engineer with about 8 years of experience, most of them in product startups.

This is what I gathered so far, please help me understand if I have a shot or I’m just wasting time.

My most recent (5 years) job experience is as follows:


  • Lead full stack engineer for a product startup from San Francisco
  • Senior front end engineer for a sports tech startup from Seattle


  • Web engineer for a product focused corporate job in Tokyo (this was only two months, so maybe I shouldn’t include it?)
  • CTO + Full stack engineer for a new startup in Tokyo (this company was bought by the next one)


  • Tech lead + web engineer for a edtech startup in Tokyo (4 months)

2020 - 2021

  • Tech lead for a foodtech startup in Tokyo


  • Senior Full Stack Engineer for a software house in Dublin (although this was not really consultancy, as we built the entire app I worked on in-house, and I lead the development)

2021 - present

  • Software engineer for a HRtech startup in USA/Tokyo

As for evidences I’m not sure if I have what it takes, I hold a 3 year college degree and no academic publications under my name.

I read that for “proof of innovation” it doesn’t have to be something like a patent, but implementing/innovating in your day to day job is enough; Examples that I innovated in a previous company:

  • Implemented a design system and a component library to help the non-tech people of the company be able to create their own landing pages
  • Lead the entire product migration from a legacy Ruby on Rails application to Next.js

Proof of advancements is a hard one for me as I dislike tech conferences, meetups and similar events.
things that I could use are:

  • I have a few Medium articles/tutorials that amount to 200k views today
  • I mentored several Japanese students at the Ed Tech startup in Tokyo (this was not part of my job, but an extra since I wanted to help them) as well as several acquaintances and friends from my home country.

I have payslips for all of my previous jobs and salaries ranged from £44500 to £92000, currently my salary is £49000 so I don’t know if this counts as “high salary” criteria.

For the three reference letters I can ask the following people for it:

  • Ex CTO of the Dublin company and several colleagues from this same Dublin company
  • My current CTO and several colleagues from this same company
  • My previous CEO (although she has no technical knowledge) and a coworker (that was in a similar hierarchy level than me)

Thank you in advance

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Since you have 8 year experience, you can only apply for exceptional talent. So far you have limited evidence. You need to show what evidence you have for the mandatory and two optional criteria.

Thank you for your reply. From these 8 years, they’re not full years, as I had breaks between them, I think by adding all the days up it’s around 5 years.

For my MC I’m thinking of using 3 reference letters from past and current CTOs
and for OC1 I’m thinking of talking about work innovation at past companies and OC2 I’m considering talking about how I mentored people on web development, my medium articles, payslips and contracts etc. With all the reference letters mentioning the evidences.

Kind regards

Another question I have. I used to work for a product-led startup from the US but my contract was through an recruitment agency (from the UK) and I still have the contract (mentioned as a consultancy agreement), invoices and reports. Would this be a valid experience?

If the product-led company can provide a reference regarding your impact at the organisation. This should be fine. It is not compulsory to add the contract of employment

Alright so I took the last few days to properly organize my evidence and this is what I have so far:

I have some questions, are recommendation letters used as evidence as well to support the criteria?

Recommendation letters:
Recommendation letter 1 from previous company’s CTO talking about how I led the project’s development as well as how innovative I was
Recommendation letter 2 from a past company’s CEO talking about how I innovated and the impact I had in the company’s/product growth
Recommendation letter 3 from a Lead engineer at my first internship and full time job how I had a great impact in the product’s growth with performance improvements, introducing new features and improving code quality

High salary evidence (current contract, invoices)
Recommendation Letters
Reference letter A, where it mentions how I was a leader and took the initiative to start a mentoring group of 40 students pro bono
Reference letter B, that mentions how I was a leader, mentoring and teaching several students in Tokyo pro bono outside of work hours

OC1 - innovation
Recommendation letter 1, where I innovated the product’s fitness app by implementing a Ghost Racer (concept from racing games, where you run against yourself after completing a lap around a circuit)
Recommendation letter 2, where I innovated by working after hours on a component library bundled with a website builder so the marketing team could roll out new campaigns and landing pages faster + Screenshots of github repository and graph contributions, link to storybook’s application with all available components and some official company articles about the system
Reference letter C, that mentions how I innovated by creating a custom form builder so the business team could roll out new forms quickly

OC2 - activities outside of work
Reference letter A
Reference letter B
Medium articles and tutorials that amount to over 200K views + their github repo
Open source repositories used as assignments for the pro bono lectures/mentoring in Tokyo
Open source contribution’s fixing and improving the website of an org that provides both free and paid game development courses and tutorials
Reference letter C, that also mentions how I would host free mentoring sessions at night also in Tokyo (different students)

OC3 - technical contribution and impact
Recommendation letter 1
Recommendation letter 2
Recommendation letter 3
Reference letter C

I’m not sure if OC2 holds more weight than OC3 so I am still deciding which one to use, but this only matters if the recommendation letters are usable, or if I need to get different reference letters.


recommendation letters are not part of evidences. you have to provide 10 evidences in addition to the recommendation letters.

best of luck

For Mendatory criteria , only reference letters may not be sufficient. You might need to provide evidence for mentoring.

High salary is good add on but can not be main evidence for MC.

Medium / LinkedIn articles are not valid proof for publication.

Your 3rd recommender, who is lead engineer may not be considered person with higher positions such as Director and above.

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