On February 24, residents of a number of Ukrainian cities woke up to the sounds of explosions. Russia openly attacked Ukraine. A few hours later, one could see huge lines next to the military recruiting offices across the country with those wishing to join the territorial defense – a newly established military reserve component of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
Executives of Ukraine’s tech industry are not simply watching from the sidelines while running their businesses. Many have also taken up arms to defend their country’s independence. Volodymyr Shevchyk, CEO of Indeema Software, is one of them. His company is focused on providing R&D services, development of complex IoT solutions, DevOps and AI (artificial intelligence) services. Instead, he grabbed a gun and joined a territorial defense battalion in Lviv. Volodymyr shares why he joined the defense forces, what it is like to be simultaneously a soldier and an entrepreneur, and more.
Life before and during the war
It was early morning of February 24, my son woke me up at 5 a.m. with the worst toothache, five minutes later huge explosions were reported near multiple cities in Ukraine. It was then that I decided I had to join the territorial defense forces, the country’s volunteer force that was organized to resist the Russian invasion.
It was hard to get into the military since I do not have a professional military education and training, instead I’d been studying programming until the age of 27, which is the current age cutoff for the army. However, I regularly went to a shooting club to practice my basic weapons skills.
We were trained in combat tactics by professional military servicemen. The style, environments and fluidity of combat is very much like art. Just as it takes years to learn programming, so it takes a long time to become a professional soldier.
Military service expands one’s worldview and mind, and brings you a better understanding of the world and people. Our team cooperates with effective law enforcement leadership, this helps you to understand their principle of work, in particular, communication with people.
Within days of the war unfolding, our world had changed – and we had to pivot. The decision was quickly made to embrace the continuity plan, install Starlink terminals purchased by Lviv IT Cluster, provide financial assistance to employees with children who relocate abroad, and step up measures to support employees who choose to stay in the country. Three of our employees joined the territorial defense forces. We also have team members who’re in the military reserve. We’re planning to continue to pay them salaries once they are mobilised.
Indeema has been supporting the army since Ukraine’s 2014 Maidan Revolution. We donated to Serhiy Prytula who introduced us to Taras Topola through whom we gained access to a producer of bulletproof vests, and since then we have been donating these vests to snipers in the armed forces.
A month before the full-scale war began, we started supplying one special unit with cameras, tablets, drones, and more. It is probably impossible to put an estimate on the financial value of Indeema’s assistance over the last eight years, but just in this ongoing February-March war alone we have contributed over 1 million Ukrainian hryvnia to the cause.
Indeema’s position is as follows: if we do not help the Armed Forces of Ukraine, soon we will all become refugees. Therefore, our priority is first to help the army, and secondarily to support humanitarian initiatives such as providing temporarily displaced people with bed linen, pillows and fresh food.
We are fortunate, we have continued as a company as much as possible considering the war and so far it has not affected our financial performance. We are in very close cooperation with customers, because we sell development entirely from the initial concept: we do the research, write specifications, make designs, develop architectures, and make plans.
War is not eternal. First, if the business stops operating now, it won’t survive so easily. Second, people need to work. The state will not be able to provide for everyone. Third, foreign partners will not support us forever if we do not generate income ourselves.
Finally, the war will end, we will win and the economy will have to be rebuilt. In addition, war also needs money. Lots of money. So you need to work.
I think after the victory we will all become more educated. We all used to live in our own little worlds, and now these worlds are very mixed. Therefore, our worldview will definitely expand.
I am also sure that the world has seen the reality and no one will confuse Ukraine with Russia anymore, and I expect that after the war we will have an economic boom. It will be another country.
Tech industry is unique. Every crisis is an additional impetus to grow. The tech industry grew stronger in 2008, and also in 2014. Every global or local crisis gives a boost to the IT sphere.
Of course, now our sphere is going through war. There are difficulties, in particular, due to mental fatigue of the people. But in general, companies are working, new customers are coming. Moreover, there are those who are ready to support Ukraine precisely because we have a war here.
Our war has been going on for eight years, and this is enough time for you to learn how to adapt to it. Many people deceive themselves that there is no war. I was honest with myself, I understood what was going on, and went to a shooting club to study basic weapon skills.
Nowadays, I allow myself to dream about going to the studio to play music instead of patrolling, and I’m waiting for that day to return.