A year on from Russia's invasion, Ukrainian startups show astounding resilience
Today marks exactly one year since Russia's illegal, unprovoked and brutal invasion of Ukraine. This week, a majority of the members of the United Nations reiterated its demand that Russia “immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine and called for a cessation of hostilities.”
It would be fair to say that TechCrunch can only concur with this sentiment. So, in keeping with our mission, we present to you today a list of Ukrainian tech companies and initiatives you can support, the products you can use and the startups which you -- if you’re an investor -- can look at funding.
Ukraine’s startup ecosystem was thriving before the war and making great progress, with Ukrainian startups raising $832 million in VC funding in 2021. VC Funding was steadily growing before the war and there are more than 50 VC firms continuing to operating in the country.
According to research by the Ukrainian tech industry itself, there are about 228,000 members of the tech industry in Ukraine today, with the main tech hubs being located in Kyiv, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and Odesa. During the last year, as many as 57,000 were forced to relocate abroad, while around 7,000 joined the ranks of the Armed Forces or Territorial Defense, and today fight on the front lines against the aggressor.
As a mark of the Ukrainian's astounding resilience both on and off the battlefield, in the first 10 months of 2022, Ukraine’s export of IT services grew by 9.9% from a year earlier, and brought in more than $6 billion in revenue, more than $542 million the revenue generated in 2021.
TechUkraine and Emerging Europe also published the results of a survey looking at the country’s startup ecosystem. It found that despite the ongoing war, Ukrainian start-ups had demonstrated enormous fortitude. While some Ukrainian startups have relocated, the vast majority have kept at least a part of their operations or team in Ukraine. And more than half continue their operations exclusively from Ukraine.
But over 90% of Ukrainian startups say they need financial support to survive the war.
Thankfully, the wider tech industry has rallied around Ukraine in the last year.
Google presented 25 startups with a grant to help them continue operating and growing.
For the first time, as part of the Horizon Europe, the EU will include targeted support for Ukraine out of the €13.5 billion in research and innovation it has to spend this year.
Around 7,000 tech workers have joined the ranks of the Armed Forces or Territorial Defense
Only last month, OneUkraine sprang up from a host of major European tech founders and investors, who plan to provide sustainable humanitarian relief for the Ukrainian people.
The Ukrainian government also has a range of non-repayable grants and other support for its tech sector, despite also having to fund the war.
And two new unicorns with Ukrainian roots were born in the last year. Ukraine can now lay claim to at least six startups with more then $1 billion valuation: GitLab, Grammarly, Genesis, Bitfury, People.ai and Firefly Aerospace.
Below, we present a list of Ukrainian startups and tech companies (roughly in A-Z order) that you can check out.
Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. But the list attempts to highly organizations which retain staff inside Ukraine or remain domiciled there, supporting the war effort. If you have a tech company or initiative you think we should include, you can apply to be listed on this post here. Any questions about this listing can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org
A retail tech startup behind the virtual fitting room YourFit. As the war began, the company relocated the team of 70 to safer regions in western Ukraine and EU. It has now moved to Poland and set up the office there. Despite such conditions, they rolled out a new product in March. It has raised $14.7 million, with the latest Series A round closed in November 2021. Main investors include TMT Investments, TLF Ventures, Flyer One and others.
Ajax Systems makes professional security systems in Europe. Employees: 877 new people (2,620 in total). Markets: 39 new countries (169 in total).
“Ahrefs is an SEO software company that helps optimize websites of any scale — from giants like Netflix, Facebook, Uber, and Forbes to small businesses looking to build their presence on Google’s top page.” The company continued hiring developers and marketers and raised the team by around 10%. Ahrefs claims to have become a $100 million company in annual revenue without venture capital.
An online tool for digital advertising campaigns to help increase clients’ revenue.
Aspichi is working on an audio/visual teleportation platform allowing people to capture experiences and let others be immersed into it. After 2 months in an underground shelter they have also used their technology to register evidence of war crimes and provide the ability to immerse oneself into Ukraine to experience it, it’s now developing applications for psychological trauma treatment, VR medical training, combat surveillance systems and making the de-mining process safer. Incorporated in Delaware, USA. Secured seed finding from SMRK VC.
Blocksport builds web3-ready platform solutions for the professional sports and entertainment industry to enable tokenization use cases for their fan community. It developed a SaaS-based white-label web3 platform that opens revenue streams and strengthens community engagement.
An apartment rental app to search for the best offers in a user’s favorite neighborhoods.
A library service for corporations to provide employees access to books and reading material.
“The modern, frictionless way to set up a renovation with a pre-designed kitchen entirely online.”
Ukrainian startup Deus Robotics secured a $1.5 million seed round funding for its warehouse robotics solutions, led by SMRK VC, a Ukrainian venture fund. Deus Robotics specializes in full-cycle projects, including hardware engineering, software development and integration, focusing on automating warehouse and logistics operations. Its robots are capable of sorting by direction and moving shelves, which are used in pre-sorting tasks, consolidation, and order picking. Deus Robots returned to Kyiv in May last year after the military defeated the Russians near the capital. Despite the ongoing war, it increased the peak speed of parcel processing by 200%, compared to manual warehouse operations.
A platform enabling musicians to sell songs’ royalty rights to generate funds for their career.
A cost-effective software for automated medical literature monitoring.
Provides full-cycle software engineering outsourcing services, from ideation to finished products. Its 2,000 staff work on software and product design for corporate giants including BNY Mellon and Havas, and moved its offices in the western part of Ukraine.
An online learning company offering professional courses in the U.S. As the war began, part of the team decided to relocate to the EU, while the rest kept hustling from bomb shelters. Despite not having electricity or internet access half of the time, the company keeps working and growing, saying it has sustainable 50% quarter-over-quarter growth.
A cash flow management service for businesses. Recently closed a new funding round of €1 million from SMOK Ventures, a U.S.-Polish venture capital fund. In April 2022, Ivan Kaunov, the company's co-founder and head of Growth, was mobilized into the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a reserve officer.
Their pitch: “We do your spreadsheets, graphs, and automation. You get P&L, CF, Financial Projections, Plan/Actual , Unit Economics, and finally, peace of mind”. It raised $1 million in seed funding and investors include Bolt’s Markus Villig, and SendBird’s John S. Kim, as well as San Francisco-based Stratmind and Eastern Europe-focused Bad Ideas funds. FuelFinance has created a “first aid” resource kit for Ukrainian entrepreneurs with information on how to reorganize and keep working during the war. The company has created a platform to aggregate donations for small businesses that are fighting back.
An online platform for sales specialists to build their professional skills.
An AI-based platform to improve clients’ email performance.
Listed as one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2022, this makes a prosthesis that “improves and gains abilities over time.”
“The IOT navigation field assistant for agricultural work that allows you to save resources and work more accurately.”
“The innovative security device equipped with a number of unique technological solutions that can physically stop or disorient an intruder.”
Matches employees with purpose-driven organizations.
Hacken, the blockchain cybersecurity firm, has also been working on tools to help Ukraine cyber warfare efforts and combat Russian propaganda. The company says it donated around $350,000 in aid and Budorin, its CEO, said he gave his own Tesla to a local Territorial Defense unit.
"You choose a category where you need professional advice and type your question in the chat form. On Howly, you gain 24/7 access to thousands of experts in various areas -- from finance to household appliances repair."
Headway is a Ukrainian edtech startup that claims 15-plus million users from 140+ countries and 170 employees.
“The complete solution for Smart Home projects and business’s automation, which consists of controllers mounted on a DIN-rail, software and mobile application.”
Jooble is a job search site that operates in 69 countries and says it is one of the top 10 most popular employment resources in terms of traffic in the Jobs and Employment segment, according to SimilarWeb. Jooble Venture Lab has also invested in JayJay, a startup in the field of online education.
“The advanced nurse call system for patient care automation on hospital beds.”
The company's co-founder was mobilized into the Armed Forces of Ukraine as a reserve officer.
A mobile commerce platform for “slow” fashion brands to help them boost sales.
An online identity verification and compliance management system.
MacPaw is a software company with headquarters in Kyiv, Ukraine, that develops and distributes software for macOS and iOS. MacPaw is the maker behind CleanMyMac X, Setapp, ClearVPN and other products. In 2017, MacPaw acquired The Unarchiver. MacPaw claims its products have more than 30 million users worldwide.
Musemio uses immersive technology and has partnerships with paid customers, such as the Crisis Charity and the Royal Museums of Greenwich. Educators (cultural institutions) and IP owners (publishers and broadcasters) can use it to create immersive games with a drag-and-drop interface that can be deployed in VR and on mobile.
Melt Water Club
“The technical solution for obtaining premium drinking water, thanks to the innovative Freezing Process technology.”
Mama Plant a Tree
A digital service that allows users to plant a tree in one click.
Tailor-made computer science courses for people who want to start a job in tech
An online math school for students from kindergarten to high school.
“The STEM Robotics education solution with a high engineering perspective and a creative learning process for kids and adults.”
An app for adults with ADHD that helps gamify daily tasks and get support. They launched in the midst of the war in Ukraine and claim to be growing 2-3x MoM in revenue and active users. Numo provides a social to-do list that people with ADHD use to complete daily tasks. Other ADHDers can endorse them for added or completed tasks.
A customer relations management system designed for sales teams and integrated with Gmail and LinkedIn.
“The technology of water purification and disinfection in any conditions.”
Taking local businesses from offline to online to improve their competitiveness.
HR software for companies to manage employee performance.
A platform providing brands, distributors and online stores with market analytics.
An AI platform enabling pharma and biotech companies to design new drugs more easily.
Turns fallen tree leaves into paper and sustainable packaging. It claims it can reduce CO2 emissions of shipping bag oproduction by 78%, using 15 times less water and 3 times more energy efficient than wood papermaking. It raised €2.5 million from the European commission. They started during the COVID pandemic and made a move to export sustainable packaging in Europe during the war in Ukraine in 2022. Its main production site is located in Lutsk (Ukraine).
Reply.io is a B2B platform that automates cold messaging by creating sequences that are delivered directly to the recipient's inbox.
“The Ukrainian brand of biodegradable products made from reused coffee grounds. The startup’s products include rekava cups, rekava pots, and rekava candles.“
Respeecher, AI voice generation startup used to create the Darth Vader AI voice in the Star War’s TV series -- Obi-Wan Kenobi -- and during the war! This generative AI voice cloning startup claims to have grown 2.5 times and doubled projects from 65 in 2021 to 98 projects in 2022 despite the war.
Reface applies AI/ML technologies for personalized content creation. The Reface app hit No. 1 in the App Store soon after release and was listed among the best apps of 2020 by Google Play. Celebrities including Elon Musk, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and Miley Cyrus have shared refaced videos. Claims 250 million downloads (+70 million / 38% growth). TQ Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz are the most recent investors.
“The service for upgrading new and already installed conventional solar (PV) panels into hybrid (PVT) ones.”
A full-cycle consulting and software development company. 17+ years in Finance and Media & Entertainment, with a special emphasis on Ticketing.
Sustainable, low-cost and environmentally friendly carbon battery producer.
A tool helping website owners and marketers to track customer behavior.
Signal My Oligarch
“Do you want to help in the war for Ukraine but are frustrated and don’t know how? SMO is a nonprofit, community-driven mobile app to signal the assets of oligarchs in the world. All you need to do is to snap a picture, geolocate the asset, and boom the asset will be sent anonymously to the local authority to be frozen!”
Sigma Software Group includes a VC fund, business incubator, University, and R&D centers. It managed to relocate 2,800 employees to safer places and became fully operational in just two weeks, after the outbreak of war. In 2022 they say they opened 17 new offices in Europe and LATAM and 40+ new clients.
The Breakfast is a social app for modern humans that introduces two people to meet and talk over breakfast. It has closed its first round of $300,000 from investors in the U.S. and Ukraine to fully launch The Breakfast in New York and Los Angeles.
A bootstrapped cybersecurity company from Ukraine recognized by Gartner, Clutch and Splunk. Before the war, UnderDefense had a team of 60 in Ukraine, opened offices in Malta and Poland, and increased its presence in the USA to guarantee the continuity of its operations. Since the war began, UnderDefense team has grown x2 and donated $500,000 directly to artillery units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
UA Drone School
UA Drone School offers a four-day training drone courses in Kyiv and the region. Free for the military. You can support the school by purchasing its course for civilians or by donating. It now plans to use Ukrainian military drone veterans on an edtech platform and is fundraising from investors now to develop its own UAV systems, development of software and OSINT intelligence in connection with drone intelligence data.
An AI-powered platform to measure audience engagement and test video content at all stages of production and distribution.
A simple personal website builder designed for private tutors and freelancers.
WEEDAR created a loyalty and distribution platform for cannabis brands. They relocated the team to Europe as the war began, though some have chosen to come back to Ukraine already. Despite the war, WEEDAR recently closed its seed round of $1.5 million, rolled out its new product, partnered with the leaders in the cannabis industry, including The Cure Company and Kushstock Festival, and says it shows sustainable month-over-month growth of 30%.
“The invisible security system that helps cycling enthusiasts to protect their bikes from thefts and enjoy the freedom of everyday cycling. It includes a smart hardware device and a mobile application.”
Online service for compliance, market analysis, business intelligence and investigation of legal entities.
WeDoSolar, launched in February 2022 (the month Russia invaded Ukraine) says it has so far received “thousand of orders” for its “vertical solar power” panels, which are specifically designed to be mounted, with weatherproof straps, onto to balconies by non-tech-savvy users.
Delfast is an electric bike manufacturing company with app integration and security.
nect WORLD Inc.
The ultimate 4g lte modem for fast internet anywhere in the world.
Empowering people with an innovative, fully automated, painless, and affordable toilet-integrated solution for daily health checks and early disease detection.
A solution for wireless charging of EV and LEV electrical transport machines.
An easy way to tell someone about the feelings you are having about them.
Co-creating fantastic lifelike avatar media like games, quests, cinema, shows, webcasts, social and business events in a 3D/AR/VR ecosystem.
Other support initiatives
Invest In Ukrainian Founders
Eamonn Carey, a partner at Tera Ventures, is matching investors with Ukrainian founders.
Spend with Ukraine
The Spend with Ukraine campaign aims to support Ukrainian made products and services in the time of war. For instance, get pet cameras by Petcube, use Grammarly, increase work productivity with Readdle apps, protect your homes with the professional Ajax smart alarm, etc.
Ukrainian Tech Ventures
This is a nonprofit venture fund that will invest in tech startups founded by Ukrainian immigrants in Europe and the U.S. The fund is listed on AngelList.
Free Ukraine Foundation
This NGO was created by Ukrainian and Belgian tech founders.
The European Association of Software Engineering has launched a service for helping Ukrainian tech people get jobs. It lists tech professional CVs.
Send $1,000 to directly sponsor a family from Ukraine.
United Delivery Mission
United Delivery Mission is a nonprofit initiative that supports Ukrainian Military Forces with various supplies.
“Order a UAV to deliver 'morning coffee' to the enemy in the trench. Made according to a special recipe of the Ukraine Armed Forces, it will cheer up the occupiers and give them the strength to flee from Ukrainian land as soon as possible. $5.44 to send an Espresso” (4 Drones).
This iconic Ukrainian online news outlet reporting from Kyiv. It has launched the Tech section where you can track Ukrainian tech industry news. You can support it on Patreon here.
"Voices of Ukraine"
"Voices of Ukraine" presents multilingual readings of Ukrainian poetry and drama by artists and performers affected by the Russian invasion.