Ukraine has one of the hottest tech scenes in Europe

Massive enterprise companies, promising startups, and tens of thousands of IT pros are turning Ukraine into a tech goldmine.

Kiev, Ukraine hosts one of Europe’s hottest startup cultures. Although the country is on the front lines of a cyber-war between Russia and western democracies, technology now powers 3-5% of the country’s GDP, said Seedstars director of business development Igor Ovcharenko. The number of IT-powered jobs in the country is likely to increase dramatically in the next five years.

“The economy of our country has been shaken heavily in the past couple of years,” Ovcharenko said, “but IT has always been one of the most stable industries, which makes it super attractive for [technology companies]. The salaries are way higher than average [jobs] in the market, which drives more interest to the industry.”

In spite of instability wrought by attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure, Ukraine hosts tens of thousands of workers outsourced from Silicon Valley firms like Google and Oracle. “We have 100 thousand developers and IT-related people officially working for outsourcing companies in Ukraine,” Ovcharenko explained, “but you can easily triple that amount with freelancers and those who are not officially registered.”

Outsourced jobs in Ukraine are “good jobs,” he said, and come with a high salary relative to the market. The bulk of outsourced Ukrainian tech employees work as quality-control and customer service for US and European social media companies. Most of these entry-level jobs are filled by employees from other industries. The number of “switchers,” as they’re known locally, has increased fivefold since 2014. Tech companies even offer educational courses and retain career consultants to “help you to switch first and then grow from junior positions to top ones,” Ovcharenko said.

Enterprise firms play a large role in the country’s economy as well. “Startups are hot right now, but enterprise technology is now one of the largest industries in the country,” said a Ukrainian-based IT manager for Oracle. “Some of the outsourced jobs [at startups] are essential but perhaps entry-level. However, you can grow and learn and move up from outsource to a job like mine in a few years. That’s so important to developing our economy.”

Ovcharenko expressed a similar sentiment. “Luckily a lot of companies are now switching from pure outsourcing to product companies, meaning that they develop their own products and market them globally.”

PwC ranked Ukraine fifth among top 25 global service countries. One of the reasons enterprise companies are attracted to Ukraine is the price to cost ratio, Ovcharenko said. “No wonder why such companies as Samsung, Netcracker, War Gaming, Sitecore, SimCorp, Magento, ABBYY, Aricent, and SysIQ have been running their R&D centers in Ukraine.”

Home-grown Ukrainian startups are flourishing as well. Lookersy, a mobile imaging and AR company, was sold in 2015 to Snapchat for $150 million, and analytics startup Viewdle went to Google for $30 million.

The country has a strong technology pedigree. WhatsApp founder Jan Koum is Ukrainian, as are PayPal co-founder Max Levchin and Alexander Galitsky, serial entrepreneur and the co-inventor of Wi-Fi. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak takes great pride in his Ukrainian heritage. “In spite of the ongoing conflicts, Ukrainians are optimistic and innovation is in our blood,” Ovcharenko said.

Author: 

Source: techrepublic.com

Ukraine tech companies in Toronto to talk business

More than 15 ICT companies from Ukraine available for b2b meetings, looking to forge potential partnerships with Canadian companies

OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada / KYIV, Ukraine – May 18, 2017–Branham Group, together with the Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support (CUTIS) Project, is bringing more than 15 Ukrainian ICT companies to Toronto and setting up introductory one-on-one meetings with Canadian companies interested in doing business with them.

Ukraine’s goal is to tell the world that it is open for business and has a lot offer, according to Wayne Gudbranson, Branham Group CEO.

“I have personally seen this in the tech area. In fact, we are very excited about connecting the Branham300 ecosystem of leading companies with a very talented group of Ukrainian ICT companies visiting Canada,” Gudbranson said.

“Canada and Ukraine already have a close relationship. The final signing of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which is imminent, will accelerate a lot of business opportunities between our respective countries.”

The event will provide a unique chance for Canadian companies interesting in off-shoring and finding partnering opportunities to have one-on-one B2B meetings and speak with many ICT executives from Ukraine who are here because they are interested and ready to work more closely with Canada, said Gail Balfour, Senior Research Analyst at Branham Group.

“Whenever I speak with Canadian ICT companies, both start-ups and ones that have been around for years, one thing that often comes up is their desire to find opportunities to do more business internationally. This event will provide a lot of potential for doing just that because we can introduce these Canadian company leaders to several like-minded executives from Ukraine, all in one room, and all with similar business goals and objectives.”

The Ukraine B2B meetings with Canadian companies will take place between May 29 and May 31, 2017 at the Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce building in Toronto. Shortly after, the Branham300 launch event takes place May 31, also in Toronto, where the Top 250 ICT companies in Canada will be announced. Key speakers at the invitation-only Branham300 event will include Nataliya Mykolska, Deputy Minister – Trade Representative of Ukraine.

Follow the hashtags #TeamUkraineICT and #2017Branham300 for social media updates. The Branham300 ranking of Canadian technology companies and multinationals operating in Canada will be posted at branham300.com on May 31, 2017.

Branham Group Inc. (www.branhamgroup.com), is a Canadian based, globally directed Industry Analyst and Strategic Advisory for the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector. Branham provides Planning – Marketing – Partnering service for established and new technology brands in the global market. With its Branham300 database, Branham has expansive data on the Canadian ICT industry. The Branham300 is a unique community in the Canadian ICT sector that includes privately held and publicly traded tech companies in Canada.

For more information, please contact:

Gail Balfour, Senior Research Analyst, Branham Group

613-745-2282, ext. 118

gbalfour@branhamgroup.com

About CUTIS (cutisproject.org/en/)

The Canada-Ukraine Trade and Investment Support (CUTIS) Project is a 5-year (2016-2021) Canadian development assistance initiative designed to lower poverty in Ukraine through increasing exports from Ukraine to Canada and investment from Canada to Ukraine.

About the Branham300

The Branham300, now in its 24th year, is a unique ranking of technology companies in Canada because it tracks both publicly held and privately owned companies. It is the only comprehensive list to do so. The Branham300 also delivers insight into Canada’s start-up community through the Top 25 Up and Comers and measures the contributions made by multinationals operating in Canada.

The Branham300 consists of three major listings, ranked by revenue (except where noted):

Top 250 Canadian ICT Companies

Top 25 ICT Multinational Companies operating in Canada

Top 25 Up and Coming ICT Companies (ranked on innovation and long-term promise, not revenue)

Sub-listings that are generated from the Top 250 listing include:

Top 25 Canadian Software Companies

Top 25 Canadian ICT Professional Services Companies

Top 25 Canadian ICT Hardware and Infrastructure Companies

Top 10 Canadian xService Providers (xSP) – (includes ASP, ISP, Wireless SP, MSP, etc.)

Top 10 Canadian ICT Security Companies

Top 10 Canadian Wireless Solutions Companies

Top 5 Pure-play Healthcare ICT Companies

Top 10 ICT Staffing Companies

Top 10 Software as a Service (SaaS) Companies

Top 10 Mobile Technology Companies

Top 5 Digital Media and Entertainment Companies

Top 25 Movers and Shakers

Top 15 Growth Companies

Source: branhamgroup.com

Яким буде ІТ Парк у Львові: оголосили перших резидентів

У Львові збудують Innovation District IT Park – район, який стане місцем для навчання, роботи та відпочинку. Як інформувало Tvoemisto.tv раніше, Innovation District IT Park буде розташований у квадраті, який утворюють вулиці Стрийська, Луганська, Козельницька та Чмоли (поряд із Українським католицьким університетом).

СЕО ІТ Кластеру Степан Веселовський розповів, що земельна ділянка є приватною власністю. Її загальна площа – приблизно 10 гектарів. Старт будівництва заплановано на кінець 2017-го – початок 2018-го року. Забудову розраховано на наступні 10 років (максимальний термін реалізації проекту).

Як додав Степан Веселовський на своїй сторінці у Facebook, у Парку буде університет повного циклу навчання, сучасні лабораторії, до яких матимуть доступ студенти всіх львівських вишів, а також стартапи, коворкінги, акселератор, готель, дитячий садочок, конференц-зал, паркінги та зелені зони для роботи й відпочинку.

«Резидентами проекту вже є SoftServe, N-iX, GlobalLogic Ukraine та Perfectial. Це більше 50% завантаженості парку. Йдуть перемовини з іншими компаніями», – повідомив він.

Джерело: tvoemisto.tv

Four worthy tech companies from Ukraine and how they did It

This month online service Grammarly has raised 110 million dollars. It is the biggest record level of investment for the Ukrainian company and a sign that Ukrainian projects continue to conquer the global tech world. According to the recent report “Ukraine Dealbook,“ the total venture investments in Ukrainian startups increased 237% year-over-year from 2014-2015, after having declined 56% between 2013-2014.

Besides Grammarly, Ukraine is also a homeland for other well-known projects that now boost the image of the country. Among them DepositPhotos, Looksery, MacPaw, Paymentwall, Readdle, InvisibleCRM, iBlazr and many others. 

Grammarly is a web-based service that uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to scan the text for errors within a matter of seconds. «Built by linguists and language lovers» the service helps to improve the quality of the writing, starting from eliminating most common grammar and spelling mistakes and ending with much more complex check-up such as enhancing the tone of the written text and its effectiveness in the context of specific communication. According to company representatives, only in April of this year, Grammarly offered more than 14 billion improvements to users. And it is constantly evolving. In future, the service should be able even to determine if a particular joke is appropriate in a particular letter.

Grammarly was created in 2009 by Kyiv natives Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko. At that point, the service was developed only for academic purposes, but later its co-founders changed their minds and decided to make it useful to anyone on the Internet who aims to make their writing flawless.
Two years ago Grammarly switched to a freemium model, since then its business is growing rapidly. Today the audience Grammarly’s reaches active 6,9 million users per day, and its application was downloaded more than 10 million times from the Chrome Web Store. Now Grammarly intends to use 110 million to accelerate its growth even more.

Despite the fact that the Headquarters of the Grammarly is now based San Francisco, most of its developers still work in Ukraine’s capital. Two years ago the co-founder of the project said in a comment to the Kyivpost that they have managed to develop such a service because they “started in Ukraine and found talented specialists” there.

Depositphotos is a Ukrainian company aimed to make a revolution in the global photobank industry. This online service works as an intermediary platform between sellers and buyers with a stock library of more than 60 million high-quality photos, videos, and vector images.
In 2009 a well-known entrepreneur Dmitry Sergeev sold his project DepositFiles and almost immediately founded a new company Depositphotos. In the beginning, it was a tiny project with two employees working in a small rented office area of 20 sqm. Today DepositFiles is one of the top-5 content platforms in the world with more than 47 million unique files and customers from 192 countries.

Several times Depositphotos was supported by investors. In 2011 it received 3 million dollars from the venture capital company TMT Investments. This round also brought the company another 4 million dollars from EBRD, that was a first investment of the international financial institution in the Ukraine’s IT sector. In 2016 TMT Investments sold a 7,1% stake in Depositphotos for 5,85 million dollars, that implies that the overall valuation of the Ukrainian company last year was approximately 82 million dollars.

Now Depositphotos calls itself a competitor of such giants of the industry as Shutterstock and Getty Images and Virgin Media, Macy’s, Job News USA, Yandex, TemplateMonster and United Printing among its clients.

Depositphotos is headquartered in New York, but its employees work all over the world. The development team and the largest number of specialists of the project are located in Kyiv. Once its founder Dmitry Sergeev told Kyivpost «Our heart is in Ukraine because it’s awesome here and there are so many talented people». Later he matched his words with action when he decided not to leave Ukraine after the proposal from Canada to move his business there.

Petcube is also successful start-up from Ukraine; it creates gadgets and mobile applications for pet owners. The first products of the technology company are an interactive camera Petcube Camera and mobile apps for iOS and Android. These products have brought pets and their owners closer with the help of built-in laser pointer and real-time video. Petcube allows pet owners to watch their pets, play with their pets remotely and even let their friends play with them.

The Petcube’s story started in 2013 with a small team of three people. That year Petcube got the largest amount of money ever collected by a Ukrainian startup at Kickstarter – 251 thousand dollars. This sum was 2,5 times higher than the initially planned 100 thousand dollars, which the startup managed to collect only in a week.

According to the Petcube’s co-founder and CEO Yaroslav Azhnyuk, the team achieved a lot just in a few years. «We have created a new category in the market – interactive camera for pets. Our sales have increased 5,5 times in 2016 – growth rates are not seen by Fitbit or GoPro in their first year», – he wrote in the post on his Facebook page.

Also, Petcube has already managed to attract 4 million USD of investments and get into the program of one of the world’s most powerful start-up incubator Y Combinator.
The Petcube sells their products in more than 2,500 stores in the US and Canada, and the company is entering the markets of Japan, Australia, and the European Union. Now Petcube is headquartered in San Francisco, California with offices in China and of course in Ukraine.

One of the most successful Ukrainian IT startups, MacPaw, was founded in 2008 by 27-old Kyiv native Оlexander Kosovan. The company develops software to improve the productivity of Apple’s computers. MacPaw’s app CleanMyMac takes first place in the list of best-selling applications for cleaning up MacBooks.
According to Kosovan, MacPaw wasn’t aimed to become a real business. It started with a team of three people and 3000 dollars of savings and inspiration in the «simplicity and beauty of Apple’s products».

Today MacPaw can justly be called the leader in its niche. Ukrainian developer offers ten products that are commanded by American and European experts. Its software products are used by millions of people in the U.S., Western Europe, and Asia, Apple recognizes it, and the biggest social network Facebook is among the clients of MacPaw.

Kosovan created and developed his project without any help from investors. Moreover, he launched his fund SMRK to support IT-startups. For example, in 2015 the fund invested 1 million dollars in the development of startup Ajax Systems.

MacPaw is registered in the U.S., but the central office with more than 80 employees, most of whom are Ukrainians, is based in Kyiv. It does not matter where the employee comes from, writes MacPaw’s founder in his article for Ukrainian media ain.ua, the most important criteria, are professionalism and ability to think outside the box.

UKRAINE – NEW TECHNOLOGY HUB?

Notably, that even after developing into world-known businesses Ukrainian startups don’t leave the country. Also, Ukrainian research and development centers are often the key innovators for many global companies such as Samsung, Boeing, Ericsson, ABBYY, UpWork, Siemens, Oracle, Wargaming, NetCracker, Ericsson, Huawei and many others. According to the IT Ukraine industry report that covers Ukrainian IT outsourcing and software R&D capacity, there are more than 100 R&D-centers of tech companies in Ukraine representing different sectors from telecom to e-commerce, from software to gaming.

Despite the conflict with Russia and political turbulence, Ukraine is already a thriving technology center with a #3 share of IT-services in its exports – about $2,5 – 3 billion yearly. Software R&D sector and IT service grow every year by double-digit figures. But what is the explanation of the popularity of Ukraine?

According to the freelance site Upwork (former Elance), Ukraine is the third best spot in the world to find specialists with advanced skills capable of undertaking complex projects. Ukraine, one of the best-educated countries in Europe, graduates about 15 thousand of IT professionals per year, says recent IT Ukraine industry report, released by Ukraine Digital News and AVentures Capital. For now, Ukraine has the highest number of IT specialists in Central Europe and the number of IT-companies in the country exceeds 1 000. Also, about 30 000 of Ukrainian IT professionals have international Brainbench Certificates that makes Ukraine the third country in the Top-50 countries with the largest number of certified IT-specialists.

Another advantage of Ukraine for businesses is the ability to utilize resources more efficiently. The average wage rate of the US-based developers is 50-250 dollars per hour comparing 30-100 dollars that charge developers from Eastern Europe. Moreover, these affordable prices are combined with a high-quality service.

The ease of communication can also be mentioned among the benefits of conducting research and development activities in Ukrainian cities as all of Ukrainian developers and PMs, have intermediate and higher level of English. Ukrainian IT-workers also demonstrate serious business approach and ensure smooth business operations, including punctuality, transparent project management, and fundamental task performance.

CAN UKRAINE BECOME THE NEXT SILICON VALLEY? 

It is hard to tell. But this question has already been asked by Dailymail. Meanwhile, Forbes characterizes Ukraine as a new Tech Mecca, underlining the country’s base of talent and technology infrastructure and Huffingtonpost warns not to undervalue Ukraine’s technological advances and its impact on the global tech scene. Can they be right? You shouldn’t bet against it.

Source: edgica.com

8 Striking IoT Smart Devices Made In Ukraine

Petcube and Branto aren’t the only Ukrainian gadgets. This article will tell you more about a window blind with solar batteries, a key to all lockers, a voice mask that allows to speak in private, lucid dreams generator and a lot of other amazing inventions waiting in the wings.

Cardiomo

Roman Bielkin invented a device capable of monitoring health state on real time basis. One needs to stick the patch with adhesive electrodes to a chest (under heart), and it will record the main biometric data – pulse, electrocardiogram, respiratory rate, and body temperature. The collected information is sent to Watsons Bluemix cloud service via user’s smartphone, and then the data goes to relatives’ phones as instant messages and weekly reports. The patch also has an alarm button to urgently inform about health issues. Cardiomo can also be used as a fitness tracker because the device provides its user with information about the quantity of steps, body position, sleep quality and activity data.

CloviTek

The startup founded by Vitaliy Makhidov helps to keep silence but at the same time makes watching videos comfortable. Their invention, CloviFi works in the following way: you need to connect it to Wi-Fi, download and install a smartphone app, choose a device from a menu (a TV in this case), connect headphones to a smartphone and listen to a film/TV program/ music via headphones. You won’t disturb home folks or colleagues. CloviFi plays a role of a sound transmitter sending sound from a TV to a smartphone, while the app allows to control it.

Ecoisme

This smart system monitors the level of energy consuming in a house and sends the data to smartphone via a mobile app. The gadget is integrated into electrical grid to collect the needed information about appliance. As a result, its user gets a detailed analysis on consumed electricity and recommendations how to save more. Also, Ecoisme can synchronize with other smart devices. Currently the device costs around $300.

Hushme

Hushme by ARTKB is a personal acoustic device that protects speech privacy in open space environment. Then headset resembles ordinary headphones but when you put it to your mouth nobody hears what you’re chatting about on the phone. It masks your voice with different sounds. A mobile app installed beforehand gives you an opportunity to choose among a range of options, be it sound of wind, ocean, rain, singing birds or even Darth Vader breath. Not only can you choose these ones but also upload your own sounds as well as control volume etc. Currently Hushme is being tested, so it isn’t on sale.

Hideez Key 2

In the beginning of 2017 Ukrainian company Hideez Technology presented the second version of its gadget called Hideez Key on CES exhibition. The device has 4 form-factors – a keychain fob, a wristband, a pendant and a clip. It deals with saving user’s passwords and can be used instead of a key to house and office locks. Hideez Key 2 is smaller, it has silicone caps and waterproof case on the contrary to its first version launched the previous year.

SolarGaps

Eugeniy Erik engineered a window blinds capable of accumulating solar power. The blinds slats contain modules converting sunlight into electricity. In this way SolarGapscan make any building independent from state power supply. They are able to generate up to 150 watt-hours for every square meter when mounted outside, and up to 100 watt-hours per square meter when mounted inside. This device is controlled by a mobile app, and it automatically сhanges its position to get maximum sunlight. The converter stores energy and provides it to appliances when needed. You can also store and accumulate excess electricity with it.

Luciding

Want to find out what lucid dream is? This device is made for you. It detects rapid eye movement sleep (REM), the state when a human is able to see lucid dreams, and sends a sleeping person corresponding stimulating signals. You can select new plots for dream travels and share the achievements with your friends due to a mobile app. Pretests haven’t proved the results promised by its developers but a person testing Luciding device at least succeeded to sleep well.

Technovator XE

Ukrainian team Technovator XE is creating a set of gadgets consisting of a charge base, several smartphone cases and an application allowing to control the whole kit. A basic power transmitter can charge up to four devices simultaneously within a radius of 5 metres, and the office one charges eight devices within a radius of up to 10 metres. Charging phones has never been easier: all you need is to connect a charge base to Wi-Fi, wear a case, start the app. The office kit is under development now but a home set is a working prototype synchronizing with iPhone 6, iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus which will cost $200.

Source: qubit-labs.com

Ukrainian startup Grammarly attracts $110 mln of investment

IT company with Ukrainian roots Grammarly as part of the funding round conducted by venture investors General Catalyst jointly with IVP and Spark Capital has raised $110 million of investment, the company has said in a press release.

Jointly with the investors the company will work on speeding up the company’s growth, expansion of the team and business development.

Grammarly is an intellectual online service based on artificial intelligence. The software improves communications between people using not only grammar check, but providing for stylistic accuracy and increasing effectiveness of messages.

The product daily helps over 6.9 million of users in various spheres of life, making their communication in messengers, documents, e-mail and posts in social networks more clear, the company said.

Grammarly was founded by Kyiv residents in 2009: Maksym Lytvyn, Oleksiy Shevchenko and Dmytro Lider. The offices of the company are located in Kyiv, San Francisco and New York.

The team includes over 100 people.

Source: interfax.com.ua

Huawei among top Chinese investors active in Ukraine

Huawei began as a small opera­tion when it was founded in 1987 by Ren Zhengfei, a former engineer in China’s People’s Liberation Army. It has since then grown into a global multinational headquartered in Shenzhen, in China’s Guangdong Province.

At first manufacturing for industry, it gradually expanded into telecommunications and consumer electronics, releasing its first cellular phone on to the mass market in 2004. Today its products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are “used by one-third of the world’s population,” according to the company’s website.
Huawei began operating in Ukraine in 1998 and since then its business in the country has “grown year on year,” says Vitaliy Matarykin, a public relations manager.

Looking ahead, the tech manufacturer is focusing on 4G technology which will allow users greater access to data-hungry services.

“We believe that in the nearest future cloud services will boom in Ukraine,” says Matarykin. “People will have access to their information anytime and anywhere. The business-to-business market, especially in the small and medium enterprise segment, has very high potential demand in I.T. and new technology solutions in telecoms.”

Last month Huawei announced that it plans to soon open a research and development center in Ukraine. If the center does open, it will join the more than a dozen such institutions which Huawei already operates worldwide

Source: kyivpost.com

UNIT.City: first Ukrainian innovation park

In recent years, Ukraine has been actively developing the innovation sphere, and Ukrainian start-ups and IT companies are known worldwide. According to IT companies, in 2016 the IT market amounted to $3 billion, which is 3.3% of Ukraine’s GDP in 2016. This area grows by 20,000 jobs annually. These growth rates can gradually match traditional Ukrainian industries like metallurgy and agriculture that will increase budget revenues. Ukraine has been discussing the launch of innovation parks for several years. One of the first has recently opened in Kyiv.

The first part of a large-scale project UNIT.City was presented on April 6 in Kyiv. It is expected to become the focus of the country’s creative economy.

The goal of the UNIT.City project is to combine educational, business, cultural, medical, sports and entertainment facilities in order to provide small and medium-sized innovation businesses with access to all infrastructures necessary for rapid development and expertise in one area.

Target audience

For the most part, companies that work in the areas of high technology, creative ideas and innovative business will be based here. That is, small Ukrainian and international food companies, R&D centers, start-ups and IT companies.

UNIT.City will help create up to 15,000 highly paid jobs, and provide talented youth with the opportunity of self-realizing in their country thus stopping “brain drain” in Ukraine.

Infrastructure

The total area of the future innovation park will be 25 hectares. The project resembles the famous campuses of Google, Apple and other Silicon Valley giants.

As of now, 4000 square meters have been used. Business campuses, sports complex and UNIT.Factory (free programming school), which is the main educational element of the park, are located there.

Business campuses will work in the format of club-offices (the company will use a small room, while meeting rooms and other spaces can be used by other companies).

Investors plan to build 31,000 square meters of business campuses, which will help create an entire innovation park. It is planned to invest 200 million dollars in the project within four years.

Sources: ain.ua and uacrisis.org (UCMC publishes an abridged version of AIN.UA article).

Photos: Olga Zakrevska

Ukraine’s booming IT sector is good news despite the war

A plain Soviet-era office block squats on a residential street in the beautiful historic city of Lviv, Ukraine. The lobby is dimly lit and there is no seating, only a stern guard who points to the elevator to access local software engineering firm N-iX.

The doors part and the offices are an orange and white oasis, with lofty ceilings and light and young people working at clusters of desks.

This is Ukraine, a country of stark contrasts. Old Ukraine is stuck with antiquated businesses, methods, and corrupted leaders. New Ukraine is sunny, prosperous, and talented despite war in the east and scandals galore.

N-iX, for instance, employs 200 talented and world-class software developers who are working on projects around the world in offices in Lviv, Stockholm, and Sofia. I met its CEO and founder, Andrew Pavliv, in Silicon Valley two years ago and visited his operation in 2015.

“We are very proud of our company and our projects,” he said.

And he should be. He and the rest of the IT sector in Ukraine have become Europe’s largest software development industry. There are 100,000 Microsoft certified software professionals in the country and aggressive plans to double this number by 2020.

N-iX is rooted in Lviv but its market is global. Its cool offices could be in San Francisco or New York City and its workforce is just as brilliant. Walls are decorated with irreverent cartoon figures, funny quotations, and many flags representing their multinational clients.

There is also a large attractive kitchen and eating area, a gym, and recreation area with foosball and other games to provide a gathering place and break from intensive projects in multiple time zones.

During a tour of the premises, N-iX spokesman Halyna Dumych said that “Ukraine is now fourth in the world in the number of IT professionals after the United States, India, and Russia.”

Sanctions have cost Russia IT business and many have opted for Ukraine instead. In other words, Ukraine is winning the IT “war.”

Three recent and significant deals have turned the tech world’s attention toward Ukraine. In September, Snapchat paid $150 million to buy a two-year-old Ukrainian startup in Odesa called Looksery. The previous record was $45 million paid by a Google mobile division for Viewdle.

In November, financier George Soros made a big bet when his Ukrainian Redevelopment Fund acquired a stake in Ciklum Holding Limited in Kyiv, a successful IT firm with 2,500 professionals. “It is a very dynamic company in an industry that represents the future of Ukraine,” said Soros.

Analysts estimate that there are more than 2,000 startups in the country’s major cities. And some have already made their mark. Ukrainians are behind global success stories such as Grammarly, an online writing enhancement software, and Paymentwall, an online platform dedicated to selling digital goods and services.

Both those companies, like 100 other multinationals, have huge research and development operations in Ukraine such as Siemens, Samsung, Oracle, Cisco, SoftServe, Procter & Gamble, and Bioclinica.

Ukraine’s IT sector is proactive and is determined to transform the country from the world’s bread basket to the world’s “brain basket,” says Yevgen Sysoyev, managing partner of AVentures Capital in Kyiv.

In February, he published “IT Ukraine” that listed the sector’s growing achievements and impressive client base. To reach its goal of 100,000 more IT professionals with proficiency in English by 2020, the sector is signing on universities, local governments, and companies.

For instance, the Lviv IT Cluster, an organization run by Stepan Veselovskyi, has linked three universities, the city council, and thirty-four companies to build incubator facilities, host a large conference annually, and develop IT House, the first of several seventy-two-unit condo buildings on low-cost city land to help IT professionals relocate from war-torn areas or smaller centers. The first building sold out immediately last year.

There is a distinctive Ukraine advantage: A pool of talent well-versed in math and sciences, a desire to get ahead, and a competitive advantage for export of services because salaries are 40 percent to 50 percent lower than in the West. To boot, these companies are paid in foreign currency.

Young people are flocking to the industry because an IT software developer is the “highest paid job in Ukraine,” said Dumych. For instance, she said a railway engineer in Britain makes 1.5 times more than an IT software developer there, but in Ukraine a software developer makes 15 to 20 times more than a railway engineer.

Kyiv and Lviv are the main centers of activity but a robust tech sector exists in most of the country’s cities. But Lviv is growing quickly because of its location, furthest from the violence in the east, as well as just three hours flight from Vienna or Warsaw.

“The headlines look bad, but this is an exciting time for entrepreneurs,” said Lenna Koszarny, CEO of private equity firm Horizon Capital in Kyiv with hundreds of millions invested in the country in many sectors. “We are bullish about Ukraine.”

First published Atlantic Council website Feb. 26, 2016

About author:

Diane M. FrancisSenior Fellow Atlantic Council Eurasia Section, Adjunct Faculty Singularity University in Mountain Vie the National Post in Canada, Professor at Ryerson University, author of 10 books

Source: huffingtonpost.com

Ukraine Is Silently Leading A Digital Currency Revolution

There’s a witticism sometimes used among Ukrainians: “may you be forced to survive only on your official salary.” The quip is both a tongue-in-cheek nod to the endemic corruption that is a daily, often necessary, reality of life in Ukraine and also emblematic of a certain self-effacing, survivalist mentality constituent to the national character. In recent years, the necessity of this “go-it-alone” approach to daily life has led to first-in-the-world technological strides.

Ukrainian frustration with the corrupt status quo boiled over in 2014, leading to the Euromaidan revolution and the ousting of Kremlin ally Viktor Yanukovych. But beyond the photo-ready scenes of violent confrontation, ensuing economic instability saw a digital revolution silently take hold in the form of an almost unparalleled adoption of digital “crypto-currencies,” such as bitcoin.

Bitcoin is based on so-called “blockchain” technology, a “centralized but decentralized” concept that helps the currency simultaneously balance security, anonymity and fiscal stability. The blockchain is “centralized” in that it serves as a ledger by which digital transactions—say, sending a single bitcoin to an online vendor—are tracked to ensure that, for example, the bitcoin is actually yours and not a digital copy. But the ledger is also “decentralized,” in that it’s distributed widely and open to the public, allowing no single party or group to game the system. The result is an ostensibly open, transparent system of currency.

Ukraine has been nothing short of passionate in its embrace of bitcoin, with many citizens using the currency as a hedge against extreme inflation and an unstable hryvnia that has lost 80% of its value amid ongoing turmoil. In 2014, nearly 5,000 BNK-24 ATM terminals nationwide began offering the option to buy bitcoins for cash as effortlessly as one would conduct any other automated banking transaction. Last year saw one Ukrainian bitcoin-selling service report a five-fold increase in demand, and the country also became the first regulated market in the world to begin offering futures on bitcoin contracts.

But perhaps most notably, the Ukrainian government has sought to apply the promising technology’s tell-tale transparency to its process of auctioning state property. In 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed, Ukraine underwent a sort-of “revolution without a revolution.” The same basic, established power structures remained in place, despite an ostensibly more democratic government that had, in reality, done little more than change the titles on its business cards.

As Ukrainian historian Dr. Serhy Yekelchyk writes in Ukraine: Birth of a Modern Nation: “The new elites were essentially the old Soviet bureaucrats in Ukraine who came to power as a result of imperial collapse rather than revolution and thus felt no need to develop either democratic institutions or a market economy.”

With former party elites maintaining their positions of power under a different banner, the process of auctioning off state assets to the private sector became a lucrative target for the unethical. With a small group of elites controlling the auction process, access could be used to curry favor and to line the pockets of the country’s entrenched oligarchs. Both ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko—nicknamed the “gas princess” for the fortune she amassed in the natural gas industry—are among the high-ranking officials alleged by court documents to have benefited from such practices.

Last July, at a blockchain-related conference in Odessa—one of two Ukrainian bitcoin conferences held in 2016, both of which drew sellout crowds—Minister of Finance Oleksandr Danylyuk laid out plans to move the auction process from a paper-based system to the new blockchain-based “Auction 3.0” system, thereby ensuring transactions would be public and fully transparent. The efficiency of the system—which represents one component of a “Cashless Economy Project” undertaken by the National Bank of Ukraine slated to run through 2020—promises a number of additional benefits, including significant cost savings and a dramatic decrease in the bureaucracy needed to run the system.

The timing of this dramatic rush toward digital currencies is not without a certain sad irony. Ukraine is perhaps the nation most singularly affected by the foreign policy shifts following the election of President Donald Trump. Trump’s unabashed willingness to cozy up to Russia, whose ongoing military presence in Ukraine underlies many of the nation’s economic woes, represents a waning opportunity for Ukrainians who had hoped for a more hard-line stance from the United States. With a long history of Westward-reaching diplomacy, even under Soviet rule, the country became the third-largest recipient of American foreign aid by the end of the 1990s, despite only achieving independence in 1991.

Thus even as the idealized ally upon which Ukraine modeled its very constitution finds itself rushing headlong into that which Ukraine has long sought to flee, Ukraine’s commitment to blazing new trails in the name of transparency represents a commendable example for an American political sphere increasingly marked by intentional obfuscation and “alternative facts.”

Author: Ben Carnes

Mr. Carnes is communications director and policy analyst for the R Street Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C. Mr. Carnes previously served as communications director for Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA-49).

Source: forbes.com