Exceptionally Talented Graduate From Ukraine

Since I started helping highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent and writing blogs about their dreams of living and working in the UK through the Tech Nation Exceptional Talent Endorsement process, my trusted networks in the tech industry often introduce me to students or graduates who they feel have high potential to make it big in the UK.

This really excites me because I absolutely love meeting more innovative people working in the tech industry and even moreso when they come highly recommended or if they are graduates and students. This is because people sometimes discount the skills of international graduates and students. I often teach and lecture at universities in the UK and from my experience of working with them, I am always inspired by their level of maturity, bright ideas, willingness to push forward and their abilities to dream big.

Taras Lanchev is one prime example.

Taras is from the Ukraine and has been in the UK since he was 12 years old. Sent to Edinburgh by his parents to attend boarding school because they felt the education system in the UK is much better, Taras learned at a very young age, life skills that even 20 and 30 year olds from the UK are only learning now.  Independence, living outside of home, moving and living in a foreign country, speaking another language full time, learning a new culture, eating new and different food, entering a new education system, constantly making new friends, travelling home all while studying and keeping his grades up were just some of the challenges he had to face.

After high school, Taras became more independent and chose to study Management at The University of Leeds. With a strong interest in computer science, Taras also selected computer science modules so that he could complement his commercial and business studies with a technical skill.  

While on a Tier 4 Student Visa, Taras admitted that he tried to work for someone in the UK however, he didn’t enjoy it very much. Being highly independent from a young age, the experience of being an entrepreneur by renting out his iPod to his friends in exchange for money and sweets when he was younger, being free spirited and having a thirst for knowledge, he was pulled in the direction of starting his own business in the UK. However, he quickly learned of the practical and logistical realities of not being able to do so because of his visa restrictions. That under a Tier 4 student visa, he could not register a UK company nor could he become self employed.

Being an active member of Founders Friday in Leeds only strengthened his desire to start his own tech company.  While studying at the University of Leeds, he built his tech app and piloted and tested it with a number of organisations with successful results.  He also organised Start up Weekend in Leeds, bringing the tech community together with investors, mentors, students and start ups and collaborating with companies such as Google, NatWest, Squire Patton Boggs and Pepsi.

So when Taras discovered the opportunity to apply for the Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, like many people, he had very strong reservations.

The Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa offers highly skilled and exceptionally talented foreign tech entrepreneurs and talent the ability and flexibility to live and work in the UK for up to five years.

He says his biggest hesitation was that he felt he was not good enough for it. After reading both the Tech Nation website and the Home Office website he thought that it was extremely exclusive and it would be very hard to get because you need to be the “brightest and best tech talent from around the world” (quote from Tech Nation website).

He also felt that even if he applied, the endorsement would be very hard to succeed in anyway.  Even though he reached out to his trusted networks in the Leeds tech community for support and highly respected and well known people including Kane Fulton, Tech Nation Entrepreneur Engagement Content Manager and Emma Cheshire who introduced me to Taras because I had been a successful recipient myself.

After speaking with Taras over Skype, it was very clear from the outset that Taras was not only extremely passionate, dedicated, inspirational and motivated, he had built a very credible tech application that investors were knocking on his door to invest in.

All Taras needed was a cheering squad, someone who had been there, succeeded and survived to tell the tale. And with most applicants, he also needed someone who is not involved in his world to sense check his thought process and provide him with guidance and ideas on how to strengthen his application. 

With that carrot and huge opportunity to start a UK company under a Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa, Taras got over his fears and applied for the endorsement.  And then he succeeded of course!

We discussed Taras’ 10 documents that he had to submit and being the sharing person that he is, here is the final list of his documents that he submitted.

  1. My startup idea including letters from the people who’ve given me grants for it, extract from the code and a link to a short video demo of how it works.
  2. Entrepreneur of the Month article that was written about me in 2016.
  3. Funding offers from investors and angels.
  4. I am a Blockchain Community Lead and an Advisor in an educational blockchain startup (nothing to do with cryptocurrencies), so I attached a screenshot from the website which states my position and also a letter from the CEO saying what I do and did for them.
  5. I was involved in some coding sessions for a big corporation who provided a letter of support.
  6. I was one of the winners of Startup Weekend Leeds in 2016, so I included pictures from the event and my certificate.
  7. I was one of the speakers at Founders Friday 
  8. I ran some free workshops on e-commerce and how to setup, run and manage an online store.
  9. After winning Startup Weekend in 2016, I decided to organise one in 2018.
  10. I also organised a Women in Leadership panel to discuss the gap in funding that women-led businesses get vs. the similar businesses run by men.

Even though Taras knew about the visa 2.5 years before he actually applied, a mixture of self doubt coupled with what seemed to be very high requirements and a target that he felt he would not be able to achieve prevented him from applying earlier.  

But, now that he has his endorsement and visa, his main advice is

Organise and make awesome things for your community and do not hesitate to apply because of what seems to be very high requirements.

With his visa in tow and living in Leeds, he successfully registered his company in the UK and working full time on his start up Calbot Ltd.

Calbot is an innovative meeting scheduling tool for teams and groups. It enables teams of any size to find the best time and place for a meeting in seconds by completely eliminating email-pong and polls. Research shows that 1 person wastes 15-17 minutes trying to schedule just 1 meeting meaning a team of 10 will spend hours emailing each other and not doing any valuable work! 

Its scheduling algorithm allows teams to find the best time for a meeting in seconds whether or not  people are signed up to the software or not. Check out his website here: https://calbot.cc

Taras just graduated from Leeds University and he is working with The Business School to publish his dissertation on Blockchain in academic journals.

Taras has shown great potential, reaching his first goal of achieving his Tier 1 Exceptional Talent Visa.  He is continuing to make huge strides in the UK tech ecosystem, namely in Leeds. He also recently sold his first business venture, Crypto Daddy. His confidence is now at an all time high and he has shown that London is not the only place to make a huge mark in the UK. Leeds and the North of England have many great opportunities for tech start ups and he is well onto his way of not only making a huge impact in the UK but I suspect he will be making a global impact very soon.

It really warms my heart when I receive emails from applicants that I help telling me of their good news.  I know that it’s not only because of me. Taras did the hard yards and he has a huge support network in the UK and in the Ukraine behind him too.  I can’t help but feel so proud to have played a small part in his journey of realising his dreams to live and work in the UK. I’m going to check out his new app because I too experience the email ping pong when scheduling meetings! Thanks Taras! And thank you for your kind words.  I wish you all the best in your future endeavours in the UK.

“Michelle, thank you so much for encouraging me to apply for this visa.  It genuinely means a lot to me.  I don’t think I would have applied if we didn’t have that call where you really pushed me to go for it! Thank you very much!”

If you would like guidance and help on the Exceptional Talent Endorsement process or appeals, I help highly skilled tech entrepreneurs and talent increase their chances and succeed in their application for endorsement. 

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