Inventive and gifted people, great geographical location, numerous natural resources, and, of course, the exceptional quality of work, products, and services. Not many countries match this description. But Ukraine, for sure, does.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Ukraine has always been the homeland of scientists and engineers: people who built first helicopters, the world’s biggest cargo planes, and rockets. Ukraine has historically been known for its high-quality engineering education, which explains why the information technology sector is booming here. But is it just tech? Ukraine’s agriculture industry is famous worldwide, and so is the iron and steel industry. In the last decade, Ukraine has reshaped and redefined itself numerous times, and this won’t be possible without millions of Ukrainians who just happen to have a knack for innovation and creativity.
Hot spot on the talent map
First, let’s talk about Ukraine’s success in the tech industry. Ukraine became the 13th country in the Science and Technology category according to the Good Country Index (In total, 124 countries were taken into account). 16 Ukrainian companies have recently made the cut to Global Outsourcing 100, an annual list of the world’s top outsourcing providers. Experts that work in the tech industry in Ukraine are of high demand in and outside of the country. High-quality work pays off according to the international standards, so most of the employees, even entry-level workers in tech companies are satisfied with working conditions.
Ukrainians are intellectually competitive and inherently innovative. Even the history keeps on proving this fact: Max Levchin and Alexander Galitsky, PayPal co-founders come from Ukraine; the world-known founder of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is Ukrainian as well. Ukraine has had a rather turbulent history but this didn’t prevent Ukrainians to master the ability to be creative under any circumstances. Recent statistics confirm that as of 2018, 160,000 tech specialists are registered in Ukraine. Most of the involved work in software development, design, and QA. The dynamics of Ukrainian tech industry steadily grows. To be more specific, in 2018 the industry grew by 26%; the progress for the last two year would be 60%. The leading directions in information technology industry turn out to be Front-End, QA, PHP, .Net, and Java. Considering the data, the dynamics will improve further and 2020 might show 30% growth. In the last four years, the number of software engineers in Ukraine has doubled. Taras Kytsmey, Co-Founder and Board Member, SoftServe; President, Association “IT Ukraine” is optimistic: “The potential of Ukrainian IT is enormous. Already in 5 years, we plan to have 400 thousand professionals in the industry and generate $10 billion in revenue by 2025. To do this, Ukraine has more than enough talents. What’s missing is people with experience. Every professional in our field can easily find a job. However, talents need to be developed. One of the main tasks of our company is to create such conditions and an environment in which the talent and potential of our employees will manifest itself and find the best application.”
Bright ideas in action
Ukrainians are known for their thinking outside of the box and ability to come up with simple, yet genius solutions for everyday challenges. Critical thinking combined with a creative approach gave the world successful startups and useful products and services. The most successful of them shook the business world to the very core:
When 3 Ukrainians decided to make a home camera for pet owners, such market category just didn’t exist. Seven years later, Petcube has raised over $14 million in funding from world-known accelerators like Y Combinator, Almaz Capital and AVentures and sold over 100,000 devices. Petcube allows owners to watch, play, and feed your pet being miles away. Even Emma Watson has recently stated that she loves using Petcube to play with her pets when she is away on a movie set.
Grammarly is the most effective online grammar checker. It was invented 8 years ago by Ukrainian developers, who aimed to help people improve writing and proofreading skills. Recently Grammarly raised $110 million from General Catalyst, IVP and Spark Capital. Currently, Grammarly has offices both in Kyiv and San Francisco. With more than 6.9 million daily users, the product is now popular as never before.
PassivDom is a fully autonomous 3D-printed house developed in Ukraine. The house is completely mobile and self-powered. Founders assure that PassivDom is the world’s warmest house due to advanced materials and the quality of solar batteries it uses. PassivDom received a lot of attention on Kickstarter, and the waitlist for houses now counts thousands of people.
Ivan Babichuk, VP of Engineering, EduNav; Supervisory Board Chairman, Lviv IT Cluster is confident that Ukraine’s tech success is possible due to its human capital: “I think that a big part of the results we as an industry have achieved was understanding that the focus on talents is the key. We were able to restrain a brain drain in the 2000s, continuously supported the development of world-class professionals and now we’re onboarding a new generation of young engineers. It doesn’t matter if you are a developer working at a big company or a QA engineer at a small or micro-company, you’ll have a prosperous environment around you that will help you grow professionally.” Carsten Hansen adds: “In connection with the World Economic Summit in Davos earlier this year I read an article about a panel discussion between Ukrainian and American venture capitalists, where it was stated that 7 Ukrainian tech unicorns are likely to be seen within the next few years. From my own experience, it is impossible to conclude other when looking at Ukrainian tech companies and the people within this industry, you are definitely looking at smart nation Ukraine.”
After the 2014 revolution and the change of the political regime, the rise of the creative class is visible in Ukraine as never before. The reason behind this might be the fact that the new wave of creative youth doesn’t expect the country to create favorable conditions for work and life, it creates it itself. Ukraine no longer boasts exceptionally smart engineers only, as hundreds and thousands of designers, brand managers, PR experts are now added to this list. For example, a Ukrainian design company Banda has recently been recognized as The Agency of the Year by Red Dot, a prestigious international design award. Among the biggest projects of Banda – Eurovision 2017 brand, Ukraine Now brand, and the most recent one – redesign of National Art Museum of Ukraine. Another example – the number of world-class quality video production agencies based in Ukraine has considerably grown in the past few years. Dozens of international bands and artists have visited Kyiv looking for inspiration for their new music videos. In 2018, a Ukrainian production company Radioactive Film had been named Production Service Company of the Year at Shot Awards. The portfolio of Radioactive Film includes music videos for Coldplay, Tame Impala, Twenty One Pilots, etc., a commercial for Apple Watch 3, and a feature film The Death of Stalin – all shot in Kyiv.
In Lviv, in particular, the creative class is taken very seriously. Recently, a Cluster of Education and Creativity has been launched in the city, and negotiations of how to incorporate the development of creative class in the city’s development vision in the next decade are currently in progress. The easiest way to foster this is through so-called “greenhouse” spaces: coworking hubs, creative quarters and public spaces at the intersection of different industries. While such a concept might have sounded distant just a few years ago, the situation has changed now. Looking for affordable renting space, millennials have learned to accommodate their offices in former factories: in Lviv – a former electronic medical equipment plant turned into a vibrant artistic hub ZAVOD, a former glass factory is now a nightclub and creative space !FESTrepublic, and a former tram depot is now being transformed art space and co-working Lem Station; in Ivano-Frankivsk – an old plant now hosts an innovation center Promprylad; in Kyiv – a former silk factory gave launch to Ukraine’s biggest platform for entrepreneurship, art, education, etc.
Historian Yaroslav Hrytsak cannot overlook the fact that what we see now is the new smart Ukraine: “I have recently realized how much the country has changed in the last 10 years. It’s a different country. The way of thinking, the level of discussion, the environment we created – makes it a completely new country. Books that are being translated now – classics of the world economy, world history couldn’t be translated just 8-10 years ago. It is clear that Ukrainians are looking for answers. And if people are looking for answers, chances are – they will find them. This might sound naive and too optimistic, but I believe that Ukraine is bound to succeed. It is a matter of time. But the later this time comes, the bigger the price we have to pay.”
In the past two decades, Ukraine went all the way from a beginner to pro not just in the tech industry, but as an independent state too. Until this day we have to fight for our democracy, economic and political stability, but our growing talent pool and professional commitment bring nothing but hope. Ukraine remains the most preferred business destination due to its cultural features, great location and infrastructure, excellent products and services combined with fair pricing, and professional, creative and open-minded people.