Last weekend, global IT players started to play information catchup, joining 2,000 Ukrainian digital creators in Kyiv for a brainstorming and bridge building kermesse, appropriately called “Connect Ukraine.”
“Ukraine could be the next Silicon Valley -- people just have not figured that out yet,” said John Uke, the San Francisco Bay area founder of GameTree, a social networking app centered around gaming. Uke built an app for Connect Ukraine that allowed participants to message each other.
Although the visiting American was giving the kind of flattery every host likes to hear, his comments have a ring of truth.
Ukraine’s software development and IT services industry has grown by double digits in the 2010s, hitting $3 billion in exports last year. Over 100 global companies have located R&D facilities in Ukraine. The number of women in Ukrainian IT companies has doubled in the past five years.
Uke, a Connect Ukraine speaker, said Ukraine is an ideal place for startups because rent and labor costs are low, but the work force is highly qualified. He hopes that Connect Ukraine will raise awareness of the potential of Ukraine’s underutilized reserves of talented IT workers.
Funded by Raiffeisen Bank Aval, the innovation fair took place at Art Zavod Platform on Kyiv’s Left Bank. It featured a wide variety of panels and networking events covering technology, education, art, fashion, lifestyles, and social impact.
“They want to connect Ukraine to the world – and we are all for that,” Ruslan Spivak, Raiffeisen’s head of Corporate Products, said of the organizers.
Sophia Yuschenko, co-founder of the event, said foreign businessmen and women used the fair to discuss new ideas with Ukrainian innovators.
Yushchenko said she and the other organizer, Jørgen Eide Bø, met last May at the Oslo Freedom Forum and connected over their love of Ukraine.
“The entire event came together in the six weeks since the Freedom Forum,” she said. “We are hoping that this event, and those in the future, help bring investors to the country and help convince young, successful Ukrainians to stay here.”
Ukrainian speakers included: Dmytro Borisov, owner of one of Ukraine’s most successful restaurant chains, and Daria Shapovalova, creative director for the Mercedes Benz Kyiv Fashion Days, Ukraine’s first international fashion week. They discussed their success in Ukrainian business. They were joined by international business innovators: Couchsurfing founder Casey Fenton and Bitcoin expert Toni Lane Casserly.
“I hope this shows more people that Ukraine is a good place for start-ups,” said one speaker, Yuriy Petruk, chairman of AgTech Ukraine, a company specializing in integrating technology and agriculture. “One day Ukraine may be able to export technology to the rest of the world.”
For comments and story ideas, please contact UBJ Correspondent Mark Satter at firstname.lastname@example.org
Slider Photo: John Uke (left) founder of GameTree, enjoys some rays between showers at Art Zavod on Friday afternoon -- weather similar to his native San Francisco (Mark Satter)
Posted Aug. 31,, 2017