Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Tech City Visa and Endorsement

Andrés Castaño, 33, is Colombian and moved to the UK in 2009. He had already set up a technology company in Colombia in 2004, which grew to 12 employees and revenues of £300,000 before he sold it. Following that he came to the UK and did a MBA at the University of East London. At the end of his MBA he decided he wanted to stay here. “I saw the huge potential for starting another business here. To get experience in British tech companies he took roles at Sky and at Voucher Cloud. But he really wanted to start his own company and was already talking to investors.

In April 2016 the visa rules changed again and it became clear to him that he needed a visa that would give him the freedom to work for himself, rather than tying him to one particular company.

With Tech City’s help he gathered together all the paperwork and recommendations that he needed.

“Before this type of visa was very restricted but now the criteria are clearer. It actually only took four weeks to get the visa, once I had all the paperwork. With an endorsement you can work in the industry or create your own business. Tech City helped me to put my story together. It’s all about yourself and your skills.”

“The fact that there was someone at Tech City who was always there to answer my questions really helped. It gives you confidence. There’s no set rules about what sort of qualifications you have to have, so it is important to talk to someone,” Andrés says.

Now Andrés is working as founder and chief technology officer in ELEVEN and Patch Property App. Patch Property App includes amongst its investors the founder of the UK’s biggest estate agency chain. Andrés is also mentoring other entrepreneurs through MassChallenge UK, an accelerator programme.

“London is the tech hub where everything happens in Europe. The second place is Berlin, but London is the best place to be. I could go to the US – it was a choice of London or San Francisco or New York, but I decided to stay in London. I met my wife here and we are also having a baby now,” Andrés says.

“I like the culture here and the fact that people come here from everywhere. I call it my home now. To work in technology here and to raise money here is so much easier than in Colombia. Everyone here has a smart phone. In Colombia, your chances of buying and being able to afford an iPhone are much lower, because the standard of living is so much lower and lots of people are on minimum wage.”

“Brexit hasn’t changed my mind about staying here long term. It might be affecting the economy a little bit and it might affect our ability to get the right people for the skills – the industry has so much demand for people. When I worked for Sky we had to recruit people heavily from outside [the UK] because there weren’t the skills available.”

“I feel optimistic that we will still be able to recruit here. The VISAs are very restrictive but we think we will be able to apply and bring people in. The UK has become a tech hub that people want to be in.”