Carolyn Dawson, CEO, Tech Nation and Founders Forum


October 16, 2023

Tech Nation to run visa programme until “at least” the end of 2024, says CEO

As Tech Nation announces its relaunch, Sifted speaks to Founders Forum’s Carolyn Dawson, who’s running the new look organisation

When UK non-profit Tech Nation announced it was shutting up shop at the start of 2023, one of the startup scene’s biggest concerns was around what would happen to the organisation’s visa programme. 

The scheme, launched in 2014, was seen as a major source of tech talent for UK companies, and endorsed more than 2,500 visas up to 2022. 

But tech talent can rest easy: the organisation will continue to run the programme for the UK’s Home Office until “at least the end of 2024”, in its new home as part of Founders Forum, says Founders Forum CEO Carolyn Dawson. 


Founders Forum, a global startup founder community, acquired Tech Nation in April, and has officially relaunched the organisation today. 

“[Over the past few months] we’ve been getting our heads around what we take forward [from Tech Nation], and we are more certain that the visa programme is totally integral and fits very well,” says Dawson.

While the Home Office will review Tech Nation’s suitability to run the scheme over the next year, the organisation is “very keen” to remain the custodian of the visa programme long term, the executive says. 

Finding funds

Tech Nation was forced to find a new home after the UK government awarded a key £12m grant to Barclays’ tech incubator Eagle Labs last year.  

In its new guise, the vast majority of Tech Nation’s funding will come from commercial partnerships with organisations like startup suppliers, banks, law firms, consultancies and VCs, says Dawson. Tech Nation will look to have those companies sponsor startup programmes and reports, she adds.  

“I’ve had conversations with all the past supporters and there’s overwhelming support to continue,” Dawson tells Sifted. Past partners include the likes of banks BNP Paribas and HSBC, and law firms Cooley and Wilson Sonsini, according to Tech Nation’s website. 

Tech Nation has secured some partnerships already, and will begin announcing them between November and January, says Dawson. 

It could also end up getting its hands on a slice of that £12m in government funds, with a key pillar of Barclays’ grant bid being to deliver programmes via partner organisations across the regional hubs.

“We're not in direct talks about applying to be one of the delivery partners, but we are discussing how we might work together and one of those options is for us to apply to be a delivery partner — which Barclays is very open to — but no decision or application has been made,” says Dawson.

New look Tech Nation

Today Tech Nation is starting to accept applications for three programmes — one for underrepresented founders, another for climate tech startups and the final for late-stage founders scaling. Each will include 30 startups and will run over a course of six months, from January. 


Rising Stars, a pitch competition for early-stage founders, will begin accepting applications in January. 

Tech Nation has dropped its fintech, healthtech and deeptech programmes as it looks to streamline operations in light of its more limited resources. 

“Our understanding was that although someone might identify as a fintech or deeptech founder, the benefits were meeting other founders in other verticals to connect around scaling issues,” says Dawson. “Our focus was on the programmes that were growing.”

Climate tech was a special case, however, adds Dawson. While climate tech has a number of verticals like software and infrastructure in and of itself, it also has “synergies” to other Founders Forum initiatives, she says. 

“We had the climate tech programme that sits as part of London Tech Week, and we have a Climate Fund, so it made sense for that to be the first vertical we continued.”

Dawson doesn’t rule out launching programmes in other verticals in the future, but for now the focus is on quality over quantity, she says — “because we don’t have £12m to boil the ocean”.

Kai Nicol-Schwarz

Kai Nicol-Schwarz is a reporter at Sifted. He covers UK tech and healthtech, and can be found on X and LinkedIn