How a Canadian academic brought his people-profiling smarts to Manchester

How to, Manchester, Tech Nation Visa

Martin BryantMartin Bryant, September 7, 2017

This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.

This article is part of a 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.


Andrew Ko moved from Canada to study in Manchester. He then found himself becoming one of the city’s growing number of tech startup entrepreneurs with the company now known as Personalyze.

Personalyze was one of our 2016 Northern Stars winners.

What’s your background?

I was an engineer working in the aerospace industry, then did my MBA at the University of Toronto before coming to Manchester to do my PhD at the University of Manchester.

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

I applied to the UK because I wanted to work with my PhD supervisor (Peter Kawalek) who was based in Manchester. He was someone that I knew could mentor me through both academic life, as well as get me started on my entrepreneurial journey.

What are you working on?

My company is called Personalyze, and we are an award-winning, A.I.-driven people analytics company that has created the world’s most powerful profiling technology on individuals across social and mobile, enabling us to understand people better than anyone else.

I’ve also spoken at numerous conferences about big data and its impact on social experiences, as well as mentoring various startups around the UK.

Read more: How an Australian lawyer became a UK wearable tech startup founder

How did the Tech Nation Visa process unfold for you?

I was initially on a Tier 5 student visa, but then changed to a Tier 1 Entrepreneur visa when starting my company. However, the Tech Nation Visa was geared more towards tech entrepreneurs like myself, so I switched into it.

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

Not many people know the difference, but for entrepreneurs that haven’t started a company yet but want to, there is an option called ‘Exceptional Promise,’ whereby you can demonstrate that you have the potential to become a world leader in digital technology.

This may help applicants who have an amazing idea and want to start it here in the UK.

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

I think the biggest help entrepreneurs need here in the UK would be access to funding, especially in the North. I know that there are various angel networks starting up in Manchester, which is a great start, but we need better infrastructure to help connect startups to the right investors.

Finding investors who actually understand your vision and product is the key to unlocking the full potential of your business.

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