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Podcast Host at Relevant Software

Tech Founders Unite. Standing Shoulder to Shoulder with Ukraine and its Tech Community

Interview

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Since the start of the war, needless to say, much of life has literallybeen turned upside down for all Ukrainians. In one way or the other, Ukrainians have been affected by the brutal and unjust invasion. However, not all Ukrainians were forced to grab a bag and leave, many of those living in the West of Ukraine have stayed put, but still, everyday life isn’t what it once was. As many in Ukraine have already noted, mornings don’t start with coffee, but with the alarming wake up to the sirens, or to a jolt reaching over for your phone to read all the latest news, to check whether your loved ones are safe. But this doesn’t mean life doesn’t go on for them. Actually, quite the opposite, Ukrainians and IT specialists are more motivated than ever to show the world they are committed to their tasks and the war will not stop them from being some of the most reliable and highly qualified IT specialists out there.

Western Ukraine, moreover, Lviv, has since become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Ukraine. Tech companies from every corner of the country have relocated to here or beyond the border in order to ensure they can continue carrying out all obligations, continue to grow, seek out new projects and continue to pay taxes, which in turn, supports Ukraine in this crucial time, keeping the economy afloat.

I caught up with tech leaders from around the world, the USA, Ireland, The Netherlands, and Switzerland, so they could share their thoughts on the war the future of Ukraine, its IT industry, and how different countries and companies continue to support Ukraine and its tech specialists.

Guests speakers:

  • Graypes Founder and chairman, Federico Carrasco, an obvious humanitarian, who passionately shared how he believes the West did not do enough, early enough, to support Ukraine but strongly believes in the Ukrainian people and how IT specialists’, despite the war, commitment to the job remains unchanged.
  • Koya Innovations CCO and Co-founder, Caryn Werner, once an international humanitarian photographer turned tech founder, joined the call in supporting Ukraine during this time as opposed to distancing them from the startup/IT sector. “Ukraine needs us now more than ever, and I think we have a duty to support Ukrainian businesses”.
  • Arnout Lansberg, PR consultant at MCS in the Netherlands, spoke about the consequences he envisions for the Ukrainian market but also the opportunities it can open up. Highlighting the West’s slow to take action on what many already believed was an inevitable war.
  • Matteo Grassi, CEO of Popup, shared how Ukraine isn’t just a source of IT specialists for him, but a place where he can see his business growing and Ukraine’s future booming.

One thing all founders had in common, was the love and support they had for the Ukrainian people and the wish to support them through this time. They were all aware of the challenges and how the sphere is a little shaky at the moment, but each and everyone believes in Ukrainian IT specialists and they don’t see a reason to abandon the Ukrainian IT community. Actually, quite the opposite.

Did your company prepare for the war in any way?

Caryn Werner:

It has been in conversations but I haven’t seen ‘prepare’. It is spoken about but no preparations are in place as a result of the war. Try assess the situation and try to figure out the next steps. I am thinking from a tech echo sphere, the focus has been on how we can support remote team members and friends that live there.

Arnout Lansberg:

I have to admit, it is somewhat surprising to see governments being blindsided. The signs were pretty clear and Russia played straight out of the standard playbook for these operations, literally copying how Germany acted towards other countries at the start of the war. There is great concern about the possible escalations of the war, but here in the Netherlands, the support has been huge. We have seen lots of events organised in order to help Ukrainian refugees, driving and picking up refugees, and providing aid. We had a huge event which collected over 100 million euros for Ukraine. 

In terms of preparation for the war, companies in The Netherlands perhaps didn’t want to see this unfolding and so didn’t take steps to prepare for the difficulties which may come their way. The build-up was there, but like many, people were reluctant to prepare. Perhaps some businesses are better prepared than others, but in general,  people underestimated the threat, believing that we are no longer in ‘that age’.

Will you continue to work with Ukrainian specialists throughout the war or will you begin to look elsewhere when outsourcing tech talent?

“I am confident that they will rise up to the challenge and they will produce what is expected”

Federico Carrasco:

In the past, I have always had excellent relationships with Ukrainians and I have always had only positive experiences in working with them. I understand they are going through an incredibly challenging time, but I trust them and if they have a secure environment, then I am confident that they will rise up to the challenge and they will produce what is expected. Perhaps they are even more dedicated right now than ever before because they know the importance of their roles, but if these specialists are located somewhere close to the border of Russia, in the danger zones, then cooperation with these specialists are significantly riskier. Not due to the fault of the specialist, but the unforeseen circumstances.Their safety needs to be the priority here.

Ukrainians, throughout their history, haven’t had it as easy as many in the West, and so when they are faced with difficulty, they always find a way around it. I am confident they can find a solution to solve the client’s needs and continue their cooperation.

Caryn Werner:

We should be talking about relevant things in the world and the war deserves our attention. I am thankful it is top of mind for everyone, no matter where you are. Personally, I can speak about the war from a startup sphere leader’s position and in this world, so many people outsource from Ukraine. Workers have become part of the team, to even friends. Remote teams from Ukraine work in the team, involved in the process of working together and so many are devasted. We are hoping for peace and resolve as soon as possible.

Matteo Grassi:

The only issue I see now is that some Ukrainian developers may not be available in the immediate future due to the uncertainty of the war. They may not have internet and so I don’t expect them to work to deadlines, they work when they want and I don’t need to throw additional pressure on them. As a business owner, targets, KPIs, and fulfilling the tasks are important and so this is the issue I foresee when hiring a Ukrainian developer in the immediate future as it is hard to manage.

What support is being provided to help Ukrainians in this time of need from the tech/startup industries?

Federico Carrasco:

The west has so far yet to show up. European countries were hypocrites, saying how they supported Ukraine, but perhaps never supported them enough, before the war happened. Now, one can say it has changed and they are providing support through economic support and the necessary arms. We at Graypes, want to support the victims subjected to the war, support Ukrainian products and Ukrainian services. We will continue to fight in favour of Ukraine and support innocent civilians.

Caryn Werner:

Apart from keeping up to date with all the events and providing my friends with a list of institutions where they can donate aid or support somehow. But what I think the support which has been given speaks volumes and also how cryptocurrency has played a positive role in this situation and further shows us the value that it can provide even in a crisis.

When one door closes, another opens. What opportunities will this provide the IT sector with? How do you see the future of Tech in Ukraine?

“These will be the moments which will change Ukraine forever. For the better. It will be the place where you will want to hire and where to invest your money.”

Matteo Grassi:

What is happening in Ukraine right now is terrible but these will be the moments that will change Ukraine forever. For the better. It will be the place where you will want to hire and where to invest your money.

I feel the last 8 years have come to this moment, arrived at a boiling point, and it had to be stopped. I think this war was inevitable. Putin was never going to stop and Ukraine’s progress was stopped by the war in the East. When this finishes, Ukraine will never be the same place again but it’ll be better. It is what has united the country in a way that never has been seen before. The world knows Ukraine and what Ukrainians represent. It is evident to us now just how strong they are. 

It leads me to believe that if you are a company, you are going to hire and favour Ukrainian developers because you know they are strong, smart, their values, and are kind. The media Ukraine has got in the last week has really impressed me. It has ended up being, either be with Russia or lose your customers from all other the world. You are either with or against this war and this is the power of social media.

Russian propaganda is not going to prevail. How can it? It is in a crisis and they are trying to put the fire out with a small-cap of water.

“If the Ukrainian specialist is excellent, we will continue working with them and try to support them now more than any other time”

Federico Carrasco:

Regardless of the military outcome, Ukraine will be stronger as it is obvious to everyone that this is a nation. Let’s say Ukraine keeps its borders. Sooner or later, The EU would like to onboard Ukraine and I think they will become a part of the community, thus helping Ukrainian businesses to become stronger and have a higher reliability level. There will be disturbances but I think the long-term future of Ukraine will be stronger and it has to be a strong independent nation. Companies that have contracts with Ukraine mustn’t be afraid because Ukrainians are very professional and will try to carry out and sustain the business at all costs. 

From Grapyes side, the war in this matter isn’t what we are focusing on, we are concentrated on the fact that there is a conflict, and so we must care about the individual, the member of our team, if the Ukrainian specialist is excellent, we will continue working with them and try to support them now more than any other time.

Arnout Lansberg:

We are witnessing very clear resolve which shows people pulling their businesses and their people back. Whether this is happening for small and medium businesses, it is hard to say, as it is much harder for them to pull out completely, especially if their main income as a business comes from these regions. 

The Netherlands is an economy based on S and Bs and some of these may have tight links to Ukraine and Russia, how it affects them and what their steps will be is a lot more challenging to the business compared to multinational companies from the USA. However, the overall resolve which we are hearing here is that this is not acceptable and this has to stop.

Written by
Podcast Host at Relevant Software
I am tasked with engaging with tech experts from all across the globe. I aim to provide an open, comfortable and informative space for our guests to open up and share their trials and tribulations of creating their product. We at Relevant provide our audience with the knowledge they need to better develop their product.

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