The Horror Stories are True

Just received a rejection on my Exceptional Talent application - the stories of poorly qualified reviewers doing a cursory job (especially for commercial applicants) seem to be valid.

Here’s some detail and context:

Submitted for Exceptional Talent (Commercial) on April 18th.
For context, I have been the Chief Operating Officer (span of control all but Product & Engineering) and prior to that Chief Marketing Officer of a Series C SaaS company - we raised more than $150 million during my tenure.

Here’s what was submitted in terms of evidence:

My CV naturally (similar to Seth Elliott - Holyvolt | LinkedIn)
1 Reference Letter from the Founder/CEO of my previous company (a digital mobile scaleup invested in and purchased by Peugeot/Stellantis)
1 Reference Letter from a successful VC (founder and partner) on our cap table
1 Reference Letter from a digital technology recruiter

Mandatory Criteria:
TechCrunch article describing our $120 million Series C - I was quoted throughout this article as COO
Reference Letter from CEO of this company detailing my contributions to growth - including 10xing the revenues, expanding the pipeline, and contributing to Product Development
Techcrunch article describing our Series B (largest in category) - I was quoted throughout this article

Letter from the organizer of the Digital Enterprise Show → validating how they invited me to participate in the show and how I (a) served as speaker on multiple panels, (b) MC’d an entire mobile and digital cities track, and (c) judged the Innovation Hub contest (30 digital startups). The letter further confirms that the DES stands as a premier global platform that convenes leaders, innovators, and experts
from the digital technology ecosystem to explore emerging trends, exchange knowledge,
and foster collaboration and attracted more than 26,000 attendees.

List of Press Articles - provided a list of 9 articles in major mainstream and trade publications that were authored by me. The outlets included Entrepreneur Magazine, Crunchbase, The Next Web, ReadWrite, Strategic Finance Magazine, CEO Magazine, and others. I provided (a) name of the publisher, (b) screenshot of the title and my byline and (c) clickable url to the actual content.


Reference from a different VC on our cap table - she also calls out the 10x increase in revenues, my role as pivotal in expanding the Company’s influence across the market and enhancing its technological capabilities, thereby solidifying its position as a leader in the digital technology space. She also notes my activity in 3 acquisitions, capacity for driving significant organizational change and fostering innovation within the tech ecosystem.

3 screenshotted pages from my employment agreement. The compensation is more than 2x average for this type of position.

Board pack showing the previously referenced revenues increase + new logos added

Board pack showing increase in pipeline generation and also cohorted retention results

So what happened?

less than 20 days after submisison, I received a rejection from TechNation . . . the rationale?

Mandatory Criteria was deemed met

Insufficient evidence of work beyond the applicant’s occupation that contributes to the advancement of the field. The applicant has provided a number of articles however they appear to be connected to roles at the Company. However there is insufficient evidence of how the sector has advanced or been positively impacted as a direct result of the applicants contribution.

So here somehow the reviewer didn’t understand what was offered? the pieces were not some sort of ‘pay to play’ - the reference to my company is simply in my bio to each piece (per usual practice) - and the pieces range in subject matter and unequivocally contribute to advancement of the sector.

Furthermore, the reviewer simply ignored the Digital Enterprise Show letter discussing my invitation and subsequent participation in a technology focused event with more than 26,000 attendees. . .


Reviewer believes the signatures on my employment agreement ‘looks to contain the same signature for the company and applicant.’ They don’t - but I can certainly appreciate if this is a concern. However, no effort was then made to validate this (since it’s simply a question of fact). I can easily submit the dropbox sign audit trail showing that the signatures are not the same.

Reviewer then says ‘There is insufficient evidence of significant technical, commercial or entrepreneurial contributions to the field as a founder, senior executive, board member or employee of a product-led digital technology company. The Board pack whilst notable does not directly link the applicant to the outcomes and therefore difficult to determine the specific contribution of the applicant.’

This seems incomprehensible to me - as COO (number 2 in the company) with all the previous listed evidence (including multiple references specifically calling out contributions to these results) how can that be a valid conclusion? And beyond that, given that I served prior to COO as CMO, would not the pipeline achievements be easily attributable? Anyone that has familiarity with the commercial and operating activities of a digital SaaS company should be quite comfortable with this linkage.

Prior to submitting, I’d heard a number of stories and instances where people submitted and the reviewers were clearly either pressed for time and did not perform a thorough review, or were not qualified to review the applications, or both. I’d hoped that was not the case, but given the above results it seems I’m now also caught in that same net. It’s quite disappointing and frustrating.

Of course, the normal response is ‘oh you should request a review.’ And I’ll probably do this - but there’s simply no reason for me to expect that the next reviewer will prove any different, I’m afraid.

It seems to me that the purpose of the Global Talent Visa is to precisely enable people like me to stay (I’m currently in the UK as was here under Tier 2) or come to the UK. This type of review process is running contrary to the idea of actually capturing talent in order to advance the ecosystem. Very disappointing.

I think you need to calm down and reflect on your entire application. First, I think there are better ways to present your evidence. Sometimes l, the way you prove you meet the criteria may confuse an assessor. In this case I think you have grounds for appeal. For OC2, how many evidence did you provide in total? For the articles you have written, simply clarify that the article mentions your job title and doesn’t mean you wrote it as part of your role. Draw their attention to the value you articles contribute to your sector or specialist field.

State that for OC3 your employers and investors write about your significant impact which was further corroborated in your recommendation letters. Also mention that high salary is also a suggested example of evidence you can use in OC3 and as such you meet the criteria.

For me the issue with your application is that you provided the minimum number of evidence. I would suggest at least 3 evidence in each criteria this will enable the assessor look at other options in case one out of the two documents provided in each criteria is weak.

Hello sir,
I want to agree with Francisca_Chiedu that you should take a deep breath and calm down a bit. I can understand its dissapointing to be rejected by a seemingly flimsy review. As we all know, the Tech Nation review is a subjective process; the outcomes are not dependent on wether you qualify or not, its more dependent on whether the assessor feels you are qualified. The assessors judgement is based solely on your evidence.
So this will be my advice.

  1. Appeal based on the grounds you have articluated. Unfortunately during your appeal, you cant bring in new evidence.
  2. If you hope to apply again in future, ill advise you clearly articulate your evidence to align with the criteria requirements. For instance, for exceptional leaders, Tech Nation is not looking for your impact as a leader in just helping your organization; but more to your impact within the sector. You cant let them assume this impact, you need to showcase and display the connection between your contribtuion and actual impact within the sector. How has the sector (beyond your organization) advanced from your contributions? I think if you include this clearly, you will nail it. On the whole, I feel you have a very strong profile, and great potetntial to be endorsed. Stay Positive!!!
    All the Best!!!