In 2020 non-British nationals made up 16% of the UK’s national workforce. Hiring outside the UK presents huge opportunities for companies to recruit top international talent and fill skills shortages. However, the process is often complicated, admin heavy, and time-consuming. Larisa Budaeva, founder and CEO of Nation.Better, experienced this first-hand. Born in Siberia, Larisa has needed multiple visas to allow her to travel for work and studies. She recognised that this was a massive pain point for citizens and for companies alike.
This is what inspired her to create Nation.Better.Nation.Better uses AI, Machine Learning, and automation to streamline the immigration process. They are currently the first and only company doing this in the UK. Larisa joined the BGV programme in Spring 2020, and has since gone on to onboard 60 companies.
We spoke to Larisa about how Nation.Better has actually encouraged companies to hire more international talent, and what she’s learned about starting a tech for good business.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity. You can watch the full interview here.
Where did the idea for Nation.Better come from, where did it all begin?
In my lifetime I moved around a lot, either for travelling, work or studies. I’m from Siberia, in Russia, and everywhere I went, I needed a visa. Unfortunately, to get into a lot of countries, I experienced a lot of admin heavy processes. It’s a huge pain for a lot of people around the world if they want to emigrate to other countries for work or studies. It’s also especially difficult for companies to hire international talent. That’s how the idea came to life and Nation.Better was born. It’s been quite an exciting journey so far.
What do you hope Nation.Better will change?
We're currently focusing on B2B markets, helping companies to hire international talent. There is a lot of stigma around immigration in general, because of headlines and other bad news associated with immigration. But for companies, hiring outside the UK is a huge opportunity to tap into the world’s best talent. There is so much great talent outside of the UK, but a lot of companies are reluctant about looking there, just because of the immigration process. We want to change this through technology, redefining how industry works by improving and simplifying the process, for companies and candidates coming to the UK.
Who are you hoping Nation.Better will help?
As I mentioned, we're focusing on companies either thinking about sponsoring or using this route to hire talent. This will obviously help the candidates themselves as well, because for a lot of migrants, including myself, it's quite a stressful process where you need support as much as you can get. For me personally, it's really important to make sure that when candidates come to the UK, they’re supported and that they can integrate into society much quicker. To do this, we’re educating them, as well as their employers, to make sure that the whole journey for both parties is smooth, efficient and making sure they are supported and feel safe.
What makes Nation.Better different from anything else out there?
We’re the first startup in the UK doing this. There is competition around the world, but every single market is different. There are other offline service providers in this space in the UK, but our differentiator is the technology we use which provides simplification and optimization. Other law firms typically don’t have the funds or expertise to sponsor or support these kinds of development activities.
Are there any success stories you can share about the impact you have had on your users?
We launched our platform last July, and we’ve already onboarded 60 companies that are using the service. From them we’re seeing a huge shift in mindset, specifically from HR professionals. Prior to using our platform, they were thinking of immigration as a huge undertaking for them, because they were not necessarily equipped to do it. They either didn’t have experience of it, or they had experience but it wasn’t necessarily a good one. However, after using our service they are coming back to tell us that they decided to hire more people because it’s such an easy process. We’re getting amazing feedback about us being a great partner and company that other organisations want to work with. There is such a huge skills shortage in the market at the moment, so companies really have to look outside the UK because they can’t hire internally.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve had to learn in running a startup?
The hardest lesson was that whatever you think is going to happen never happens the way that you planned it to. I think it’s a very important lesson - that you need to be open minded in terms of the opportunities that come your way, and in terms of the challenges that you face as a founder, every single day. There are so many things that go wrong, and so many things that go well. You need to be prepared to be agile in your mindset, to make sure that you are adapting to the situation in the proper manner, and don’t necessarily feel bad about it. You need to look after your mental health, and you can’t foresee and control everything. I think being open to different scenarios is a great quality to have.
What three qualities make a successful founder?
The first one, which I find very helpful for me, is passion. As a founder, you need to have a bigger vision, not just for you and the business, but also for your team. If you’re not passionate about what you do, other people are not going to follow you - it’s as simple as that. Having a bigger vision doesn't mean you have to be excited all the time, but it’s about seeing the direction you’re going in. You can pivot at any time, but the underlying goal that you want to achieve is still going to be the same. The second one, I’ve already spoken about being open minded. Part of this is investing in your growth. Learning as a founder is very important, and I do this on a daily basis. This is because you need to progress in your vision and grow as a founder. The third one would be being compassionate and empathetic towards your team, towards your clients, and towards yourself as well. You never know what people are going through, so having this quality to empathise with people, I think is a must.
Aside from Nation.Better, are there any other tech for good companies you admire?
Definitely. I'm a big fan of Olio. I use it quite often because I think food waste is such a huge problem. I’m really passionate about the environment in general, and this specific problem is a really great cause. They’re also a female led company and it’s great to see women succeed in the tech industry; they’re great role models.
If someone wanted to find out more about immigration process in the UK, where would you signpost them?
Our website! You can book a consultation with our experts and learn more about us and the immigration process. It's really important for us to understand the circumstances of companies or candidates, so we can help you. You're going to be in good hands.
What’s next for you and Nation.Better and how can people help?
We have lots in the works at the moment, a lot of exciting news coming and many developments that we're working on. We're growing as a company in terms of headcount, and what services we're providing to our customers. We are improving our platform and adding new features. With all this work going on, we're hoping to release more good news to our customers and broaden our customer base. In terms of how people can help, word of mouth never hurts! If someone needs any kind of help with immigration related activities, just let us know and we’d be happy to help.
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