Review: Application and framing of startup and venture studio (ex consulting) experience

Hey everyone, this is my first post, but I’ve been reading the guide and this forum (maybe too much…) as I’ve been piecing together my application for the Global Talent visa via the Exceptional Talent route as a technical applicant, using optional criteria 2 and 3.

Some parts of my application evidence are complex due to my experience and the relationship between the different pieces of evidence, and I’m hoping to receive some guidance.

I appreciate any support I receive and hope to meet some of you in the UK soon!

CV

Older than 5 years

  • Founding software engineer of social media application, relatively successful with industry awards, but couldn’t monetise

Within the last 5 years

  • Software developer at a web app dev house, some client work, but most time spent developing two internal products that spun off:
    • Product #0 not included in evidence: Founding software engineer, mildly successful but was dissolved
    • Product #1 for evidence: Founding software engineer, innovative product/first of its kind, went on to become successful and raise 10M+ USD in seed funding after I left
  • Roughly 6 months of freelance product development experience that I will be excluding
  • Co-founder and course instructor of successful and freely available online coursework (references in research and academia, public praise, 2000+ students and 200+ graduates, many of whom are high-profile industry leaders)
  • Co-founder and head of engineering at a successful consulting company (although I want to argue that it’s now becoming a venture studio):
    • Product #2 for evidence: Lead systems engineer, framing as working “on behalf of the company” over a period of two years, innovative product, highly successful, raised 5M+ USD in seed funding during engagement
    • Product #3 for evidence: Founding software engineer of spin-off startup, innovative data analytics product, some AI elements possibly, UK-based, 200k USD in pre-seed funding at 5M USD valuation and accepted into industry-leading accelerator program

Personal Statement

In summary, beyond expertise, come to the UK to continue developing Product #3, a UK-based spin-off of the company, and establish the company as a venture studio/continue building software products in the digital technology sector.

Recommendation Letters

  • Product #1: CEO
  • Product #2: CEO
  • Product #3: Advisor and UK-based serial entrepreneur with successful product-led digital technology companies (in my opinion, a more subjective recommender vs. CTO who has only recently joined and has limited exposure to my work)

Evidence

Mandatory criteria

  • #1 Competitive remuneration: currently paid by consulting company/venture studio, considering including letter of intent/offer conditional on seed funding for salary at the spin-off if stronger evidence
  • #2 Open-source contributions: developed open-source framework for software modelling and simulation in personal capacity before founding the consulting company, framework later acquired by the consulting company (references in research and academia, public praise, contributions to community of 600+ members)
  • #3 Awards for excellence in the digital technology sector: winner of two renowned hackathons in the crypto industry, with substantial rewards
  • #4 Speaking at specialist events for field in the digital technology sector: invited to speak as an industry expert on a panel online via a Twitter Space with 500+ attendees, publicly shared on LinkedIn by the organising company, a top VC firm

Optional criteria 2

  • #5 Contributions to open-source software community:
    • Development of various open-source software over the course of my career, all with a range of 100-500 stars
    • StackOverflow profile showing sustained growth reputation, only 823 now, but #184 in week rank at some point in the last 5 years
    • GitHub profile showing sustained commits to open-source repos over 5 year period, and member of various open-source communities and receiver of various GitHub badges
  • #6 Development of freely available educational coursework: see CV
  • #7 Organiser of meetup group and facilitator of mentor program:
    • The organiser of a 500-person in-person software development meetup group, hosting various events, including lightning talks of 80+ attendees
    • Kick-started a mentor program, only two mentors, limited mentorship experience, but trying to get it going in a different community of 400+ members

Optional criteria 3

  • #8 Founding software engineer of product #1: evidence includes fundraising (post leaving), speaking about the product at community calls with the current CEO, ownership of DevOps, key contributions to core backend and frontend features, git commit history, transaction volume of product (supported by my code)
  • #9 Lead systems engineer of product #2: evidence includes fundraising (while engaged with the company), feature launches directly as a result of my work referenced by prominent news sources, involvement in software architecture designs to frontend review and iteration, managing a team by writing technical specifications and tickets, but never developed any of the software myself
  • #10 Founding software engineer of product #3: evidence includes pre-seed investment and proof of my contribution to the fundraising process, software architecture diagrams, independent development of MVP, development of the current product with a team of two, involvement in the hiring of CTO to take over the project in a few month’s time, contributions back to the open-source community

Open Questions for the Tech Nation Community

  • Does anything stand out as being particularly contentious in my application and evidence?
  • Are there any pieces of evidence that are better suited to some other criteria, e.g. educational coursework being MC “led the growth of a non-profit organisation or social enterprise” vs. OC2 “How do I demonstrate that I have been recognised for my work outside of my immediate occupation that contributed to the advancement of the sector?”
  • I haven’t spoken at major conferences and don’t have any publications, but I’m hoping my contributions to the field with the freely available online coursework and framework and the references to this coursework and the framework in research and academia will make up for this. Given that both of these artefacts are now owned by the consulting/venture studio company but were developed by a small team and me before this company was founded, am I able to argue that these were developed “outside of my day-to-day job”?
  • The plan is for the consulting company to become a venture studio effectively. Are there any forum posts/cases of venture studios having successful applicants, or are they categorised similarly as consulting/outsourcing/etc…?
  • Before the consulting company, I worked on a low salary in pre-funded startups, working my way up in my career. Should I use my latest competitive salary, even at a consulting company, or is it critical that this is at a product-led digital technology company? Alternatively, I can use the letter of intent/offer conditional on seed funding for salary at the spin-off.
  • We were a small team at the consulting company, with at most one client at a time, effectively full-time. We had one of these clients for two years, and they were an innovative and successful product-led digital technology company. We were practically an extension of their own team. Many companies in Europe engage with their employees as contractors, and we were effectively contractors, just via the consulting company. How can I frame this best? I’ve been advised that you could use the term “working for X on behalf of Y”.

After a bit more reading of the forum and Tech Nation visa guide, I’ve tried to answer a couple of my own questions, and maybe these can be challenged :slight_smile: @Francisca_Chiedu I know you’re active in the forum and have responded to some other similar cases—if you get a chance, I’d appreciate any feedback you might have, or pinging anyone else in the forum that you think might have some good input. Thank you!

  1. Does anything stand out as being particularly contentious in my application and evidence?
  2. Are there any pieces of evidence that are better suited to some other criteria, e.g. educational coursework being MC “led the growth of a non-profit organisation or social enterprise” vs. OC2 “How do I demonstrate that I have been recognised for my work outside of my immediate occupation that contributed to the advancement of the sector?”
    • Evidence #1 Competitive remuneration also includes a clause about transfer of IP for the coursework to the consulting company, which should provide enough evidence that this was originally developed “outside of my immediate occupation”.
  3. I haven’t spoken at major conferences and don’t have any publications, but I’m hoping my contributions to the field with the freely available online coursework and framework and the references to this coursework and the framework in research and academia will make up for this. Given that both of these artefacts are now owned by the consulting/venture studio company but were developed by a small team and me before this company was founded, am I able to argue that these were developed “outside of my day-to-day job”?
  4. The plan is for the consulting company to become a venture studio effectively. Are there any forum posts/cases of venture studios having successful applicants, or are they categorised similarly as consulting/outsourcing/etc…?
    • The few cases I have seen, this seems to be okay, as the products are developed in-house. Whenever referring to the company, I’ll focus on its role as a venture studio.
  5. Before the consulting company, I worked on a low salary in pre-funded startups, working my way up in my career. Should I use my latest competitive salary, even at a consulting company, or is it critical that this is at a product-led digital technology company? Alternatively, I can use the letter of intent/offer conditional on seed funding for salary at the spin-off.
    • If I make the case of the company being a venture studio and, as a result, a “product-led digital technology company”, then this should be okay. It still says in the contract that I’m a “contractor” but also a co-founder with equity—this is just how the company operates.
  6. We were a small team at the consulting company, with at most one client at a time, effectively full-time. We had one of these clients for two years, and they were an innovative and successful product-led digital technology company. We were practically an extension of their own team. Many companies in Europe engage with their employees as contractors, and we were effectively contractors, just via the consulting company. How can I frame this best? I’ve been advised that you could use the term “working for X on behalf of Y”.
    • After reading through similar cases, like @921kiyo’s case (although I know this was for promise, and had no products as evidence), it seems like it’s doable, especially with the company as a venture studio.

Or, more accurately, a “venture builder”:

https://www.viko.net/innovation/what-is-a-venture-builder-and-why-is-such-a-hot-trend

  • A venture builder starts their projects based on its own ideas and builds the project with its own entrepreneurial team.
  • On the other hand, a venture studio works with a core team that validates the new ventures and later on searches for the team that will develop this idea.

This is not very useful advice :slight_smile: , but it looks like you have already put a lot of thought into this, and analysed the potential pitfalls, etc.

I’d recommend compiling the actual application, and then periodically zooming out, look at the overall story arc, and then see how to better use your evidence or shuffle it around.

I found this useful with my application. Only once I had a very good draft was I able to spot weaknesses, or specific areas that I wanted to package better. With each version, I had less and less questions.

They look at the application as a whole, so you should be able to answer those questions better once you have a complete draft.

It doesn’t answer any of your questions, but I hope it helps!

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I think you are eligible but some of your context may make you ineligible. Work in consulting and freelancing are ineligible. Your twitter space may not count as a sector leading event as I have seen previous application rejected that mentioned that Twitter space doesn’t suffice.

Your opensource and stackover flow if consistent and shows significant contribution may be good for OC2.

Also use people who know your work for more than 12 months.

I also think too much information may water than your application.

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@elias, thanks for the guidance—it’s helpful and motivating!

@Francisca_Chiedu, thank you for your feedback. After searching for Twitter Space in the forum, I found the following:

The applicant has provided evidence of speaking at the TxE summit. From the evidence, this appears to have been a twitter space, which does not meet the guidelines for speaking.

I think my options are:

  1. Remove speaking evidence and use three pieces of evidence for mandatory criteria, taking the risk that at most one other piece of evidence is excluded, or possibly add an additional piece of evidence for open source contributions: a reference/recommendation letter from a high-profile user of the software I developed in the industry (would having two pieces of evidence for the same type of contribution be worthwhile, or rather water it down?)
  2. Instead of using screenshot evidence of the Twitter Space, get a reference letter from the organiser of the event and ask them to speak more generally about some of the other speaking engagements I’ve had: “as evidenced by reference letter(s) from leading industry expert(s) describing your work, or as evidenced by news clippings or similar evidence”
  3. Move one of the products from OC3 into MC: “You led the growth of a product-led digital technology company, product or team inside a digital technology company, as evidenced by reference letter(s) from leading industry expert(s) describing your work, or as evidenced by news clippings, lines of code from public repos or similar evidence.”
  4. Submit the application and then try to find a conference to speak at in case any evidence is excluded

Risk of MC evidence being excluded: What do you think the risk is that winning two hackathons would not be considered “Awards for excellence in the digital technology sector” or that the competitive remuneration would be excluded as a result of it being considered remuneration from a consulting company rather than it’s more recent role as a venture builder? My latest payslips, although for the consulting company/venture builder, are all for time spent developing the new pre-seed funded startup.

For exceptional talent I am not sure Hackathon can be used as proof of recognition. I have also seen feedback for a promise applicant that suggests it doesn’t carry a lot of weight

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Hello. I will answer based on my experience (got endorsement and read 10+ proformas in the last few months).

  1. Consulting should be avoided. It introduces a contradiction in understanding the role. You need to get within certain “boundaries”. Just don’t talk about it. From your description, it sounds like you have experience building products as a lead programmer. Stick to that line of thinking. For example, in my case study, I was a programmer and then the lead of 2 startups. Evaluators got confused and rejected the first time, passed the second time.
  2. I don’t quite understand how coursework validates OC2. Can you elaborate on how it contributes to the industry?
  3. I’m not quite sure what criterion you are referring to in this question. If OC2, I think it’s important to show the extent of your impact on the industry outside of your work. If your online courses and other activities have a large reach, then you need to refer to that.
  4. Just don’t say the phrase “consulting company” if the company doesn’t actually fulfill that role. A venture studio has an it team, creates it products, and creates subsidiaries to develop those products. Talk about it as a product-led company, and the word “venture studio” can only be confusing, or you need to be very specific about what it is, but there is still a risk. The only thing that differentiates a venture studio from a product-led company is the business model. It doesn’t matter in the context of TN.
  5. I’ll answer below in a general comment

General comment:
In my opinion, you are too hung up on the concept of a “consulting company” as well as explaining the legal scheme of your work. This can play a disservice as it is important for TNs to understand the essence, not the legal intricacies.
As I understand it, you have been building products all your way through. You need to essentially describe everything from that position.

MC: Letters of recommendation are very important here, they create the first impression. Every reference should digitize your success, the numbers should be impressive. For example, “thanks to him, we received 10 million in investments”. And so on. Even if you have no publications, the power of experts and their words can help pull the case.

OC2: here it is important to emphasize that your contribution to the industry OUTSIDE of work was important to the industry. This can be shown indirectly, e.g. through the number of views of your courses and other similar metrics.

OC3: show that you are a serial creator of products. Lead the evaluator down this path, confirm with additional letters from CEOs of companies and there will be no problem with this. It’s important enough to show public validation. For example, your name in the product article or at least link the product article to you through letters (ask to confirm this fact).

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@igortsk I really appreciate the detailed response, including your personal experience.

  1. The coursework has been used and referenced by many prominent companies and organisations, and some of the software developed as part of the coursework is used in research. I hope this will be enough to answer “How do I demonstrate that I have been recognised for my work outside of my immediate occupation that contributed to the advancement of the sector?”.

  2. Much of my evidence may point to the fact that the current company I’m working for is not only a product-led digital technology company (e.g. visiting the website, my contract, etc.), and so I do think I need to clearly communicate that it is in its role as a venture builder that I’m applying. I’ll give this some more thought; thank you.

Re. OC3: “For example, your name in the product article or at least link the product article to you through letters (ask to confirm this fact).” - would the recommendation letter making reference to my impact and contributions be enough here, or would I ideally need to ask that same person to provide a specific reference for some article I hope to include in evidence?

I really appreciate all your suggestions!

  1. If the coursework has been published somewhere, it has been used frequently by others for their research or work and there is evidence of this (as you say there is), then yes. This is appropriate for OC2. But it is important to draw the line clearly that it is not related to the activity for which you are being paid.
  2. Be careful about stating “venture builder” if you don’t have the investment figures mentioned in the guide. I can’t remember exactly what-something like “over £30-50m”.

OC3: ideal here would be an article mentioning your name and the contribution you have made, even if the article is not about you. For example: “A has been involved in the development of T technology for 5 years now and has achieved impressive results”.

Then you can attach such a paragraph with a screenshot and prove your significant contribution to the development of “T” technology in OC3. I think the evaluator wants to make sure in this way that your contribution is not a fake. Refusals for such reason have started coming relatively recently. Apparently people are trying to scam TN. They are taking retaliatory action.

Keep in mind, however, that such an article written recently may seem suspicious to TN. I realise that there is not always such confirmation. I, for example, have shown a patent with my authorship as “external confirmation”.

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To clarify, I wouldn’t be positioning myself as a “venture builder” under the business category, but rather the company as a venture builder with myself as a technical applicant working on the venture. The only mention I can find of investment figures is under “Examples of Business Skills: Experience of leading substantial VC investment over £25m GBP”, but I don’t think that would be relevant for me?

it all depends on the details. I understand what you want to say, the only question is whether the TN will understand.