How I failed to find a job in London 2023.

Hi! My name is Dan and I'm a 27 old ex-founder/CTO who failed to find a job in London this year. Here is my story.

Quick Overview of My Career Path

Back when I was a student at MIPT, I stumbled into the world of data science in 2015, thanks to my high rankings on platforms like Kaggle and open source contributions. In 2016, I got involved in writing whitepapers during the ICO mania just before the Bitcoin crashed from $20k to $4k.

Then I became a Head of Data at Sweatcoin, a B2C Health & Fitness app with over 5M DAU in 2018, and Data Lead at Runa Capital, a VC fund with $0.5B AUM. A few years ago, I co-founded Via Protocol, but in early 2023 we burned through all the funds we had raised from great supporters like Naval Ravikant, Shima Capital, and angel investors, right before the crypto bear market hit in late 2021.

My Journey from Russia to London, Legally

In February 2022, I had to make a quick exit from Russia due to the ongoing war. Within a month, my banks were hit with sanctions and stopped working internationally. Fortunately, our startup investments were in a US bank, which allowed me to have a usable income. However, my nationality caused issues when Mercury bank blocked our account.

Finally, in January 2023, I made it to London with a Global Talent Visa. If you're looking to live and work in the UK without tying yourself to a specific employer, I highly recommend it. It's quite easy to get once you have a professional public presence.

My goals

London can be quite expensive, especially if you're coming from a country like Russia with much lower prices and taxes. So my goal was to secure a full-time job for the next couple of years, establish myself, and then explore new opportunities. I also wanted to immerse myself in a foreign environment and become an expert in a specific field, moving beyond my current status as an indie hacker and a startup guy.

Where I Applied

Given my background mainly in small startups, I thought I'd be a great fit for pre-seed to series A startups. I also tried my luck with larger corporations like banks and hedge funds. But they mostly don't need ex-startupers.

The Roles I Chased

With skills in building data pipelines, training ML models, managing small teams, coding in Python, handling big data cloud infrastructure, and doing DevOps, I found it challenging to narrow down my job search. So, I applied for roles in Data Engineering, Data Science, Product Analysis and Engineering Manager (given my experience managing small teams for the past 5 years).

How I got interviews

LinkedIn, Otta, and other job listing platforms didn't deliver the results I was hoping for: I faced rejections either before or after initial screening interviews. My most successful interviews came through my network: I made an effort to create viral posts on LinkedIn, which drew the attention of most interviewers. Additionally, several HR firms approached me with potential job opportunities.

Each time someone invited me to an interview, my chances to get to the final stages became mush higher.

My CV Strategy

When I started my job hunt, I didn't want to omit any part of my professional experience, including my roles as a founder. However, after facing rejection for this reason, I created a separate CV where I replaced "co-founder/CTO" and "Head of Data" with simple "Engineering Manager." This change increased my chances to pass the initial screening with Series B+ companies like banks, fintechs or big funds.

Dealing with Rejections

Rejections in the early stages of interviews often came without meaningful feedback. Over several months of job hunting, I reached the final interview stage 8 times, only to be turned down for various reasons, such as the company finding a more suitable candidate, concerns about my broad skillset, hiring restrictions based on my location, or the assumption that I'd soon leave for another startup adventure. 🤦‍♂️

Short-Term Contracts as a Backup Plan

Recognizing that most interview processes took around two months, I started considering part-time short-term contracts to sustain myself. However, the market proved to be quite challenging and none of these interviews turned into a real offer: people just have less free money now.

What's next?

Since I failed to find a job, I've decided to join Entrepreneur First W23 Core cohort, primarily to network with talented individuals from around the world. I believe it's one of the best places to find a co-founder and build the next big thing. Plus, there's a stipend of £2k, which covers my rent anyway.

Key takeaways

If you're a founder looking to transition to a regular job, consider rebranding your experience when applying to Series A+ companies. Many HRs view founder experience as a red flag.

Broad experience aligns well with early-stage startups, while established companies typically seek professionals who have focused on a specific area for several years, such as Data Engineering or Python backend SWE.

If you was a founder once, I do think you will face huge problems if you decide to return back to "normal live". You have only two options: to start a new project or join a startup at a pre-seed stage as a founding engineer or similar.

Thanks for reading. Please share this post with someone who is also struggling to find a job these days. Feel free to contact me through the following links: