Application Guide

for Tech Nation growth programmes

Applying to one of our programmes but need some words of wisdom and guidance? Here you can find all the support you need for applying to a Tech Nation growth programme, in one place.

About the Application

We want you to help you build an informed and effective application, so click here for some advice from our judges on what they’re looking for.

How long does the application take to fill out?

We suggest you spend about an hour to fill out your application. Giving someone a clear and concise view of your business takes focus and dedication.

What will you do with the information we give you?

All data contained in this application will remain strictly private and confidential, and will not be shared outside of the judging panel. If there are any judges you think might present a conflict of interest, please do let us know.

Can I do it in more than one sitting?

We suggest you do! Review your answers and have a friend who is not familiar with your business read through the application – does it make sense to them? If not, it probably won’t for other people.

Can I apply to more than one programme?

Yes, and if you think you are eligible for more than one programme, we encourage that you do! If you’re eligible, it improves your chances of getting on a Tech Nation programme, and it’s quick and easy to do.  Here’s how:

Step 1: After completing your first application, start another application for a different programme as normal. It’s important you log into and use the same Survey Monkey Apply account.

  • Log into Survey Monkey Apply
  • Go to the Programme landing page
  • Click “Apply” to the programme of your choice

Step 2: Once your second application has been created, Survey Monkey will detect that there are already answers filled in for many (or all!) of the tasks. It will mark them with a green tick and as complete in the “Your tasks” menu. It should look like this: 

The answers can still be edited to suit each individual application.

  • Find the question you want to edit in the menu above and click on it. It will say “Read Only”
  • Click on the three dots in the right hand corner of the question.
  • From the menu, select edit. This will allow you to change your answer.

Changing your answer in one application will not affect the others, as long as they have been submitted. 

Step 3: For the programme-specific tasks that do not have the green tick, you’ll need to click into those tasks, answer the questions, and mark them as complete. When all tasks are completed, submit your application as normal.

How much detail should I include?

You can be as detailed as you like, but ideally, it should not take a judge more than 15 minutes to read through your application. No matter the programme you’re applying for, here are a few basic things you should focus on:

  • Avoid jargon and don’t be too technical
  • Demonstrating good market knowledge and the ability to benchmark your company against a well-known business
  • Focus on being open and honest about your business, don’t just say what the judges want to hear. 
  • Focus on communicating the reason why there is a need for your product or service
  • You need to demonstrate that you have good traction, your achievements and product-market fit to support this.
  • Show us the data! The more data points that you can add, the better. Sometimes the language used can be very sales-based, which can be hard to follow. Facts are more impactful and often more useful. 

What if I don’t know which programme to apply for?

There are certain entry requirements for each programme, based on where you are in your scaling journey. Check which one would be the perfect fit for your business here.

Want some more in-depth information on the programme you’re thinking about applying for? Contact the Entrepreneur Engagement Manager in your local area:

You can also send your queries to the Programmes team at programmes@technation.io.

Who do I contact if anything goes wrong?

You can get in touch with the Programmes team by emailing them at programmes@technation.io, and they will help to resolve any issues you may have.

Timescales and communication

What important dates should I be aware of?

Applications are open for:

| Net Zero | Fintech | Applied AI | Libra | Upscale | Future Fifty |

Applications for all the above programmes open: 5 May 2021
Applications for Net Zero, Fintech, Applied AI, Libra and Upscale programmes close on the 30 June 2021. Future Fifty will close applications on the 16th of July.
Judging for all the above programmes: July / August 2021

When will I be contacted regarding the status of my application?

We will contact you regarding your status within three weeks of the judging process being completed.

  • If your application is successful: we will inform you via email, telling you more about what’s in store and how the PR announcement will work.
  • If your application was unsuccessful: we will inform you via email. Because of the number of applications we receive, Tech Nation will not be able to offer individual feedback.  

*If you haven’t heard from us, please make sure to check your spam filter before contacting us about your application status. Please also ensure you check from the email ID you submitted your application from through.

Your application checklist

1.

Names and brief professional backgrounds of all the founders

2.

A short description of what your company does and links to your websites and social channels if these are active

3.

A high-quality logo:
Files we prefer: .ai or .eps
Alternatively: .png and jpeg can work


*Please note: files should be as large as possible.

4.

Your vision, mission and values

5.

Financial & investment info plus investment plans

6.

Defined goal and future plans

Tips for applying to specific programmes

We gathered some tips and guidance from our Programme Leads and our experienced judges on how you can make your application stand out during our sector callout. No matter how many programmes you may be eligible for or plan to apply for, these are their top tips and guidance.

Net Zero applicants

What makes a great application?

A great application will make an articulate and compelling case for how the company helps the UK achieve it’s Net Zero targets. We have to set ambitious goals to achieve a reduction in global temperature- and to learn to adapt to a carbon damaged world- and we are looking for founders and businesses that demonstrate both ambition and the potential to scale.

We’ve opened applications to a broad number of industries including electricity & energy, transport & mobility, agriculture, food systems, manufacturing and building technology so we want to understand the impact you believe your company will have on your sector and ultimately- on our planet. The best applications demonstrate succinctly, clearly and with evidence: what the company does, why it is unique, and why it would be a good fit for the programme.

What are we looking for in a Net Zero company ?

  • Potential for impact: The change that your company can make in the world. What are the points of leverage you will exploit to achieve this impact.
  • Your superstar team: Highlight their expertise (technical or commercial)
  • Product market fit: Are you solving a problem that customers are willing to pay for?
  • Potential for scale: Do you have the ambition to scale and the total addressable market to do so? 
  • Traction: Make a clear case for your growth (commercially, product development or both)

What are the top 3 tips for Net Zero programme applicants?

  • Be clear about your traction. If possible, make a metrics driven case for yourself. If not, talk about your clients specifically. I.e paying client, pilot client, distribution partner etc. 
  • Be honest. Share your true blockers and challenges. Start-ups are never perfect and no-one expects them to be.
  • Tell us what you hope to gain from the programme. We tailor the programme to you and want a group of founders who are truly engaged with the peer network.

How can you make your application stand out?

Be yourself and authentically share your vision for your business, your current metrics and blockers.

Possible pitfalls to watch out for?

Don’t forget to:

  • Keep it concise: Remember that judges view multiple companies and a clearly articulated case tends to win out
  • Avoid jargon: Your application may be viewed by a judge who isn’t an expert in your field- so make it clear for them to understand.
  • Demonstrate your ambition: Scaling up a business takes grit and perseverance. Make the case for why you and your team will be able to make this journey. Don’t undersell yourself!

Fintech applicants

What makes a great application?

Although we expect to receive many applications from various sub-sectors of the FinTech universe, the very best applications will have a number of common elements. Generally they will be:

  • Concise: Articulating everything about your company in a concise manner will be critical. The judges will be assessing numerous entries and those which can be understood easily (and quickly) will have an advantage.
  • Clear: There shouldn’t be any ambiguity around the problem you are trying and why you believe your company is best placed to solve it.
  • Unique: Inevitably, many applications will be looking at solving similar problems, therefore communicating the uniqueness of your solution – and who’s building it – will be a key differentiating factor.
  • Honest: Of course this is the time to highlight why your company is special, but it’s most important that this is an honest reflection.    

What are the top 3 tips for Fintech programme applicants?

  • Gain an outside perspective: This is your company and occasionally it can become difficult to ‘see the wood for the trees’. Try to get feedback on various elements of your application with someone who has a limited understanding of your company, because that’s the position the judges will be in.
  • Highlight your traction: What you’ve achieved to date is one of the best ways we can assess you on your ability to achieve your vision. Clearly show any metrics, partnerships, clients etc. that indicate you can become a category leader. 
  • Think about your language: These applications will be judged by experts in a variety of FinTech subsectors, but they won’t be experts in all of them. Therefore it’s important to make sure the language used in your application is not too technical, without oversimplifying your solution.

How can you make your application stand out?

  • Shout about your people: We all know that most top fintechs are created by teams that  have a balance of industry and technical expertise, which is why it’s imperative that it comes through in your application.
  • We love to see strong metrics: Unsurprisingly, as people working within FS, we love numbers. If you can show strong data demonstrating traction and growth, you’ll really stand out.
  • Product-market fit: I know you will hear this again and again, but it’s super important. We want to see that your company is solving a problem and that customers are willing to pay for your solution. 
  • Clear path to scale: A key element your company will be judged on is scalability. Therefore, highlighting your ability and plan to scale your business will be key.

Possible pitfalls to watch out for?

  • Avoid name dropping for the sake of it: We are very interested partners/clients you have, but these relationships need to be meaningful. The best way to demonstrate this is by clearly articulating what your relationship actually is e.g. paying client, pilot client, distribution partner etc. 
  • Focus on what is important: It’s tempting to put as much as possible into the application, but quality is far more important than quantity. Really think about the key things you’d want a judge to remember about your company after reviewing your application. 
  • Tell your story: Avoid trying to say what you think the judges want to hear. You all have a unique story and that’s the one we’d really like to hear. 
  • Don’t leave it to the last minute: We know that this application will take a reasonable amount of time, so it’s best to start it early and maybe even come back to it with fresh eyes a few days later. 

Applied AI applicants

What makes a great application?

A great application for Applied AI succinctly, clearly and with evidence articulates what the company does, why it is unique, and why it would be a good fit for the programme. Areas that judges will consider favourably might be:

  • A stellar team, either through their technical or commercial expertise, or both;
  • Potential for scale, both in terms of ambition and market size; 
  • A clear articulation of differentiation (why is this unique?) and defensibility (why can’t this be copied?);
  • A genuine application of artificial intelligence as core to the product;
  • Compelling evidence of traction and velocity (either commercially, product development, or both); and 
  • Authenticity: Be yourself; don’t second guess the judges.

What are some top tips for Applied AI programme applicants?

  • Be succinct. Write clearly. You do not need to communicate everything ad infinitum, rather include what matters, exclude anything superfluous, and describe your company with clarity. Writing an essay for each question will dilute your impact.
  • Don’t hold back. Modesty is not a virtue here. This is your opportunity to shout loudly about all of your achievements, uniqueness, and potential. But do be honest. Humility goes a long way. 
  • Don’t forget to sell your team. This is often the most important part of the application. Judges will want to know the story behind the company and thus what drives you.
  • We want to know what experience you have and why your team is best-placed to solve the problem you set out to fix. What makes you, ‘you?’ 
  • Do be specific about your use case of artificial intelligence. We want to see genuine use cases with defensibility.   

How can you make your application stand out?

  • Use data: Clear facts and evidence help judges immensely. 
  • Every startup will have gaps and we don’t expect perfection. Rather, think through what sets your company apart from every other out there and make sure you articulate that clearly. In this case, if novel technology is the main source of defensibility, then the judges will want to understand (at a high-level) your approach and the team behind it. Likewise, that might be true for commercial expertise or partnerships.
  • Focus on your team as much as you do your product. 
  • Judges will want to understand scalability. What’s your ambition for the company? And how big could this be?
  • Don’t neglect the final questions on what you want to take out of the programme. Firstly, it helps tailor the programme to be most useful. Secondly, we want to see founders who are genuinely eager to learn from each other, are open to what they want to develop, and have thought about what they want to both give to and take from the programme. 

Possible pitfalls to watch out for?

  • An MMC report stated that “40% of AI companies do not really use AI.” The judging panel will therefore be on alert, so do be specific. 
  • Don’t rush your application – it’s a highly competitive process – but don’t spend hours and hours on this either; that’s usually a sign you may be writing too much. You’re a busy founder and you have a business to build after all! Be comprehensive in your answers, but don’t be verbose. 

Libra applicants

What are we looking for?

  • Potential for impact: The change that your company can make in the world. What are the points of leverage you will exploit to achieve this impact?
  • Your superstar team: Highlight their expertise (technical or commercial)
  • Product market fit: Are you solving a problem that customers are willing to pay for?
  • Potential for scale: Do you have the ambition to scale and the total addressable market to do so?
  • Traction: Make a clear case for your growth (commercially, product development or both)

What are some 3 tips for Libra programme applicants?

  • Be clear about your traction: If possible, make a metrics driven case for yourself. If not, talk about your clients specifically. I.e paying client, pilot client, distribution partner etc.  
  • Be honest: Share your true blockers and challenges. Start-ups are never perfect and no-one expects them to be. 
  • Tell us what you hope to gain from the programme: We tailor the programme to you and want a group of founders who are truly engaged with the peer network 

How can you make your application stand out?

Be yourself and authentically share your vision for your business, your current metrics and blockers.

Possible pitfalls to watch out for?

  • Keep it concise: Remember that judges view multiple companies and a clearly articulated case tends to win out
  • Avoid jargon: Your application may be viewed by a judge who isn’t an expert in your field- so make it clear for them to understand.
  • Demonstrate your ambition: Scaling up a business takes grit and perseverance. Make the case for why you and your team will be able to make this journey. Don’t undersell yourself!

Upscale applicants

What content does Upscale cover?

Upscale looks to tackle some of the trickiest challenges faced by scaling companies. Programme content is designed to mirror your scaling journey. We explore foundations, scaling your growth and taking growth to the next level. Previous Upscale progrmammes have covered:

  • Scaling as a leader
  • Hiring talent
  • Employer brand
  • Progression frameworks & performance management
  • International expansion & finance options as a scaling company

We also delivered functional sessions for the leads of marketing, operations, tech, product, finance and HR/talent.

What are we looking for in a prospective Upscale company?

We’re on the hunt for a company that offers an innovative solution to a problem, addressing a large target market, achieving product/market fit highly defensible, hitting either Series A or revenue metric – often both. To get the most out of the programme, you will likely be:

  • Rapidly increasing your headcount
  • Looking to increase market share
  • Planning significant nationwide or international growth. 

The selection takes four key areas of criterion into account:

  • Value Proposition (problem/solution, TAM, competition)
  • Traction to date (revenue or customer acquisition, key metrics, clients)
  • Potential to scale (international or national expansion)
  • Programme fit (desire from the team to learn & contribute)

As guidance, Upscale typically works with companies experiencing rapid growth approx 10% month-on-month. With COVID, we understand that some companies may have experienced variances over the last 6 months. With that in mind, typical Upscale companies are:

  • Looking to significantly increase team size
  • Thinking about expanding its customer base or market share
  • Aspirations for substantial national or international growth

How will the programme accelerate my growth?

Hearing from those who’ve been through the scaling journey before, and from peers, Upscale will help determine if you’re on-track, going too fast/slow or whether you need to pivot certain business areas. In the last five years of Upscale, many businesses have had in-session ‘Ah-ha!’ moments, or taken a change in direction. This is all thanks to conversations they’ve had or witnessed. These ‘lightbulb’ moments can be transformational to a company as you approach such an inflection point in your growth.

Can a company from any sector apply to Upscale?

Yes! Upscale is a sector agnostic programme. This means we support digital companies from every and any sector. In the past sectors have included:

  • Fintech
  • E-commerce
  • Proptech
  • Spacetech
  • Agtech
  • Edtech
  • Health & biotech
  • Saas & more

We support B2B, B2C and B2B2C companies. 

Future Fifty applicants

What makes a great application?

A great application for Future Fifty provides clear evidence and articulates what the company does, why it is unique, and why it would be a good fit for the programme. Areas that judges will consider favourably might be:

  • Tech leadership: clear demonstration of leadership in your tech sector. What are you doing that gives you a unique proposition and positioning as a tech leader?
  • Evidence of growth: a track record showing your growth through revenues, raises, headcount and key metrics.
  • Growth potential: In terms of market size, international expansion and acquisition or IPO.
  • Leadership team: a C-suite of experienced individuals both commercially and in the tech space, either having growth with the company or with prior specialist or industry experience.

What are the top 3 tips for applications to Future Fifty?

  • Be clear in your track record and growth potential. Our judges are entrepreneurs and leaders in the technology & investment space evaluating the best of UK tech, so showcase your achievements. 
  • Articulate your value proposition and market positioning in layman’s terms. We’re sector agnostic and the applications will be judged by experts in a variety of technology subsectors, they won’t be experts in all of them. 
  • Showcase your team. At this stage growth potential is often down to your core team and leadership, you’ve no doubt gone to great pains to assemble your C-suite, so highlight them and their track records.

How can you make your application really stand out?

  • Rely on evidence and data: At this stage your company has a track record and product market fit, use this clarify why you’re a UK tech leader.
  • Detail your growth plans: Detailing your growth plans in your current markets and internationally, raising further funding rounds, acquisitions, IPO, head count increases and revenue projections. 
  • Focus on your team and leadership as much as your product: You’ve achieved product market fit, further growth and product iteration will be delivered off the back of a stellar team. Tell us about yours.
  • Be honest about the challenges you see on the horizon: As you continue to grow you’ll tackle challenge after challenge. Be forthcoming about these. Future Fifty is founded on peer-to-peer learning and we leverage a powerful network of over 150 companies to solve problems. So tell us how we can help you.

What common pitfalls to look out for when applying?

  • Missing information or vague answers: Make it easy for judges to evaluate your application against other companies. Be concise, answer in layman’s terms backed up by clear data.
  • Let your ambition and purpose come through: At this stage you’re usually a large team, ensure the original purpose and drive to be a leader in your space comes across.