Ukrainian startups show resilience in wartime


Voypost is a small IT company that builds digital products for other startups. The head office is in Berlin, but the founder, Nikita Sviridenko, comes from Ukraine and most of the team is still based there. When the Russian invasion began, the staff was given the opportunity to move abroad.

“The first days were pure chaos. We contacted every team member about the situation in their city: we had workers in frontline locations such as Irpin, Kharkiv and Hlukhiv (in Sumy Oblast). Some of them went to the western part of Ukraine. , some stayed,” Sviridenko tells me.

No one chose to leave the country. On the contrary, many workers decided to donate their education and entertainment budget to the Ukrainian army and continue to carry out their duties despite the situation.

Little by little, management found ways to deal with the emergency. “We have organized a few sessions with psychologists to help our team members cope with the war. We have implemented a paid emergency vacation and made sure that we can replace a large team structure in the event of an emergency and pass obligations to other developers with the same stack and background,” says the founder.

Every employee was transferred to the safe parts of the country; they are now guided every day through ‘check-ins’, which show their status and work ability. Despite all odds, the company managed to survive and grow as the war raged, adding 32 new employees to the workforce.

voy post‘s story is not unique. In early June, Roman Sevast and Stacy Pavlyshyna, the founders of Awesomic, a digital design startup backed by Y Combinator, shared in a blog post their experience in securing their safety and evacuating team members from across Ukraine as they continue to build and scale their business. They even made a video, which was published on YC’s YouTube account.

The company went to great lengths to ensure the team was safe: female employees (two-thirds of Awesomic’s staff) living in Russian-occupied cities were especially at risk.

“Some of them had to hide underground from Russian soldiers for weeks because of the high risk of rape. Despite these horrific conditions, they continued to work on their duties,” the founders recalled.

It took about a month to move all 168 employees before the company could focus not only on survival, but also on growth. Then they started looking for ways to help others. Awesomic donated $35,000 to the “Come Back Alive” charitable fund, which purchased 496 armored vests for the Ukrainian soldiers and $50,000 in design grants to Ukrainian charitable organizations.

There are many similar stories. For example, Lviv-based startup Relevant Software helped all workers from the east and center of the country move to Lviv or other safe locations. The founders provided financial and psychological support to the staff and donated money to the military. Even she purchased one of their designers, who joined the Ukrainian armed forces, a drone and a laptop to help him at the front.

Every case is different and, unlike most employees at Voypost, Awesomic and Relevant Software, many Ukrainian tech workers had no choice but to move abroad to Romania, Poland or other friendly countries. Before the war, the IT industry in Ukraine was thriving and it still seems to hold up, working at about 80% of pre-war capacity. But it’s unclear how long this could last if the conflict continues.

Yet in these difficult circumstances it is an incredible asset to be able to work remotely from anywhere. The same flexibility that helped digital IT companies survive during the pandemic may now enable them to survive and even prosper despite the war. The recent $50 million fundraising by online language learning platform Preply, is a good example of this.

Patriotism and the close team bonds created by hardship also represent powerful forces that will keep many teams going. Armed with their laptops and Wi-Fi connections, Ukrainian startups feel they are doing their part to keep the country’s economy alive.