The losses that Ukraine and its people have suffered during the ongoing Russian invasion have been tremendous to say the least. However, after six months, the country is slowly starting its road to recovering its territories recovery and its tech startups and their innovations play a big part in strengthening the Ukraine resistance.
According to data from the Ukrainian Startup Fund, 24 percent of Ukrainian tech startups have continued to work after the start of the war, while almost half of all of these startups – or 47 percent, are partially working.
For Ukrainian entrepreneurs themselves it’s now or never when it comes to the revival of its economy.
“Despite the war, Ukrainian startups — like the country’s IT sector — have demonstrated resilience, and entrepreneurs continue to run their businesses. I believe that we will rebuild our country very quickly and we will do it now, and not after our victory,” Viktoriya Tigipko, co-founder of Wtech, a community of Ukrainian women in tech, tells The Recursive.
And Ukrainian tech companies and startups are also doing their part in the country’s resilience. Kyiv-based software company MacPaw is one of the examples, especially since it was already coming up with such projects during the first weeks of the war.
The company, which has a team of more than 150 software engineers, was crucial in beefing up the country’s cybersecurity. One of its trademark products is SpyBuster, a tool which immediately detects and blocks applications, services, and sites connected to Russia or Belarus.
The application also allows users to determine which sites or media connect to Russian servers and informs them about it, since many media outlets in the country are unaware that their sites are connected to Russian servers.
“During the first weeks of the war, MacPaw engineers came up with new helpful programs, such as SpyBuster, which helps users secure their data from Russian cyber threats. All this time, the company’s CTO Vira Tkachenko has been staying in Ukraine and discussing MacPaw’s experience of international events, while also shed light on the events and people’s needs in Ukraine,” MacPaw’s head of PR Julia Petryk tells The Recursive.
Many tech companies such as MacPaw have stayed and continued working in Ukraine, trying at the same time to deliver their products and provide their services, while their teams volunteer, raise funds, and do the impossible to support the Ukraine resistance and help the country win this war, Petryk adds.
“In the future, Ukrainian tech companies, investors, and entrepreneurs should take an active part in rebuilding the country and its economy. We should create job opportunities for talented specialists, invest in innovative and ambitious startups and education, and proudly represent Ukraine through products and services of the finest quality. I think this is a way the Ukrainian tech industry will take in the future,” Petryk points out.
So while the Ukrainian Armed Forces are perfectly capable of dealing with Russian aggression on the real battlefield, one software company decided to confront the enemy the way they know best: with Web3 initiatives.
WeSoftYou product development company from Ukraine created CryptoCossacks Club – Ukrainian Metaverse, consisting of MMO, comics, and NFT to promote the Ukrainian spirit and culture globally and support the country in a wartime. 50% of the funding are addressing to Ukrainian charitable foundations: Come Back Alive fund and Charity foundation of Serhiy Prytula.
“Our long-term Web3 project — CryptoCossacks Club consists of the game, a collection of NFT avatars, and comics. We believe, Crypto Cossacks Club — it’s a new black. We will create the “Ukrainian Marvel” based on our unique cultural code. Our goal is to make CryptoCossacks Club a brand of Ukraine in the Web3 world. Who is Crypto Cossack? Crypto Cossack is the main character of Ukrainian Metaverse. He’s a free, fearless warrior. Cossack is a Ukrainian spirit converted into a piece of digital art. He represents freedom, peace and resistance against dictatorship,” WeSoftYou CEO Maksym Petruk told The Recursive.
As the tech sector is one of the least affected in the war, it also gives tech startups the opportunity to create jobs and keep the country’s economy ticking, Anna Kozlova, CEO of video game-dev holding company Room 8 Group says.
“Our people showed enormous dedication – we keep working from day one of the invasion and showing clients that we are reliable partners. This is our way as a big outsourcing company in game development, working with major global game publishers. Any Ukrainian right now has a huge hole inside, even those who were lucky and have their families safe. But we know that we need to work, create workplaces, do our best, and support the Ukraine resistance. This idea is our major driving force in our professional and personal lives,” Kozlova tells The Recursive.
Making sure that foreign aid reaches those in need
At the moment, foreign aid is also of significant importance for the Ukraine resistance, as many countries and global organizations have been contributing it in the form of humanitarian and medical goods, military supplies or monetary aid. However, such huge amounts of aid also also need to be carefully managed so that they can get to those that need it the most, and one Ukrainian NGO came up with a solution for how to ease the whole process.
Sunflower Relief is a grassroots not-for-profit social organization that matches foreign aid to verified NGO receivers on the ground. The organization does this in a way that it starts from the end of the process and works backwards: they source, identify, and verify high integrity organizations and recipients in Ukraine then match them – and their precise needs – with foreign aid looking for a way in.
Founded by Irra Ariella Khi, a London-based entrepreneur with Ukrainian roots, Sunflower focuses on helping civilians in Ukraine, who are either displaced or unable to leave areas of violence.
For Ariella Khi, setting up this organization was the only way that she could be sure that she was using her skills to contribute to Ukraine’s resistance in the best way possible.
“My personal role was to set up Sunflower Relief thanks to initial funding from Phoenix Court Works, and my role as CEO is to channel and find and raise funds (all of the Sunflower cases have been funded 100% through my personal network and the funds that I’ve single-handedly sourced). This is my MO because it is only with significant funding can we meaningfully support the volunteers relentlessly working both in the UK and in Ukraine,” she tells The Recursive.
And now, completing Sunflower Relief’s mission has also become an obsession for her, as it also showcases the power of helping those that are in need.
“From day three of the war it wasn’t a choice for me but an obsession and an inevitability that I had to put my hand up, set up an organization, and help create a focused environment and a direction for all of the goodwill and volunteering that I saw happening around me – especially here in the UK. That is what allows me to feel like I’m contributing against this senseless aggression and allows me to also feel that we’re not entirely powerless; and we can “be the resistance” together – as part of coping with this very difficult period in our lives.” Ariella Khi explains.
UK-based cryptocurrency exchange EXMO, which has an Ukrainian CEO, is also a part of the companies that have set up a “Save Ukraine” Relief fund at the beginning of March.
After six months, the fund has managed to collect more than $2M to help the victims of the war, while also organizing various other logistical activities for the Ukraine resistance.
“Our girls organized evacuation of people from the then-occupied Kyiv region to the safer western part of Ukraine, and we transported 350 people. We also organized shelters for IDPs and targeted financial and humanitarian assistance to those affected by the war. We brought fire engines and ambulances to Ukraine, provided free food points at the borders, and purchased hospital equipment and medicines,” EXMO’s marketer and volunteer Eleonora Zolotarova tells The Recursive.
Kyrrex is another foreign-based cryptocurrency exchange that has many Ukrainian employees and has launched a similar fund for the country as a part of its charitable foundation. The goal of the initiative is to gather donations from clients that are ready to help the Ukrainian people.
“We transfer these funds to the official organizations or city administrations to solve the most important and relevant problems on site. Thus, they know about the most common requests from flashpoints and can provide aid as soon as possible. This is the best way to make sure that money is being spent properly. The Kyrrex community has already gathered more than $300K dollars since the Russian full-scale invasion in Ukraine,” Mariia Semenova, Head of Marketing and Communications at Kyrrex, explains.
Keeping businesses alive from the battlefield
While most Ukrainian tech entrepreneurs are doing the best they can to keep their companies alive, there are also those who are putting their life on the line on the battleground.
Angel investor and Kyiv-based entrepreneur Dmitry Tomchuk is one of them. For the time being, Tomchuk is trying to defend his country on the ground, while also managing his businesses. And it is “hell of a work”, as he describes it.
“There are a certain number of people among us who are fighting, and at the same time trying to keep their business afloat. I am one of them, and this is hell. Mostly because these two things are incompatible. But, surprisingly, there are people at the front who fight and continue to manage their business in the rear,” Tomchuk, who is the founder of Kyiv-based investment fund Fison, wrote in a Facebook post..
During the past six months of the war, Tomchuk has been constantly putting efforts in keeping his businesses operational. While he managed to do this with some of them, he failed with others. But he doesn’t plan on giving up – nor on the battlefield, or on the business scene. Keeping businesses operational is crucial for the Ukraine resistance.
“I am clearly aware that if I postpone everything for the happy years after the victory, I will lose everything I had and will not recover anything. Therefore, enterprises should work even if the founder is at the front. Yes, not many people succeed, but the owner should at least try to somehow manage his businesses from the front line, and I try my best,” Tomchuk concludes.