How an Australian lawyer became a UK wearable tech startup founder

18 Jul, 2017

This is the first in a new series in which we talk to some of the people who have benefited from the popular Tech Nation Visa scheme.

Find out more and get answers to your questions at the Tech Nation Visa Breakfast event in Leeds on 12 October 2017.

Michelle Hua moved to the UK with the intention of staying for a year but ended up starting her own wearable tech business, Made With Glove. Here she talks about her journey, why she chose the UK, and how she was able to stay in the UK thanks to her Tech Nation Visa.

What’s your background?

My background is in law but after 8 years of working as a lawyer in Australia, I quit my job and started my own wearable tech business in the UK.

Why did you apply to come to the UK over other countries?

I initially came to the UK to travel and work for one year, as most Australians do. However I was inspired by working with other start ups. I applied for a Tier 1 (Entrepreneur) visa and started my wearable tech business. I felt that the UK, with its close proximity to Europe and the US makes it very easy to do business from the UK.

When my entrepreneur’s visa expired, I decided to apply for and succeeded in my application for the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa.

What are you working on?

My plans are to grow both my businesses: Made With Glove, a wearable tech startup designing fashionable heated gloves for women, and Women of Wearables, an organisation that inspires, supports and connects women in wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, AR and VR through our events and workshops.

I am also a public speaker, writer, mentor and my areas of expertise are wearable tech, startups, women in business, helping other applicants apply for the Tech Nation Visa Scheme, how to win competitions for your business, how to pitch, and women in tech.

Michelle Hua co-founded Women of Wearables, as well as her own startup.

How did the Tech Nation Visa process unfold for you?

The Tech Nation Visa process is split over two stages. The first one is the application for endorsement by Tech City UK. The second stage is approval by the Home Office. The process was pretty straightforward however.

Gathering all the evidence for the endorsement was the most challenging and difficult part. I think it’s because I wanted to put forward the strongest case and it was difficult trying to prove that I have an exceptional talent because I don’t think anyone thinks that they are exceptionally talented.

Any tips for anyone thinking of applying for a Tech Nation Visa?

I think listing your achievements from the start helps you prepare mentally for completing the application. You have to be confident that you deserve the visa, that you are exceptionally talented or show exceptional promise and be clear on why and how you will add value to the digital and technology industry in the UK.

If there’s one thing the UK could do to further help entrepreneurs, what would it be?

I can only speak from experience and while I am an entrepreneur, I am a foreign entrepreneur.

Foreign entrepreneurs require a different level of support than those that are already based here. For example, understanding the UK culture is something I’ve had to learn very quickly while a UK-born entrepreneur wouldn’t necessarily need that because they grew up here.

I am lucky that I am from Australia, an English speaking country. However, there are foreign entrepreneurs who are exceptionally talented but language and cultural barriers may prevent them from succeeding further in the UK. They may prosper in their home countries but may just need a different level of support in the UK to help them get to an even level playing field.

Organisations such as MiHub could be based in cities outside of London, preferably in the North which would add more value to the Northern Powerhouse.

Manchester Science Park had a space called MIIC (Manchester International Innovation Centre) funded by MIDAS which I was a tenant of when I first moved to the UK. It consisted of foreign entrepreneurs as well as UK entrepreneurs who had an international connection.

Being part of the Centre was very useful for me because I was amongst foreign entrepreneurs as well as UK based entrepreneurs who inspired me everyday. We shared ideas, helped each other and formed a great community. We were all supported by an amazing woman from Poland but it has since closed down.

It is my wish for the UK tech industry to become more diverse because diverse teams leads to sharing ideas which leads to innovation.

Get more information about the Tech Nation Visa. And don’t miss the event in Leeds on 12 October 2017.

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