🇺🇦 🚀 Ukraine’s Tech Ecosystem

      🇺🇦 🚀 Ukraine’s Tech Ecosystem

      🇺🇦 🚀 Ukraine’s Tech Ecosystem: Living Through The Full-Scale Invasion, Startup Response, Investors & Key Trends

      👋 Hi - my name is Lucas Kuziv. I am passionate about the power of technology and entrepreneurship to transform societies and I write about venture capital and startups. I have experienced the challenges of being an entrepreneur first-hand having co-founded an NGO “Enkidu” to provide humanitarian relief for Ukraine during the russian invasion. Based in London, my mission is to connect the best startups from Ukraine and the CEE region with top European VCs to help founders succeed against all odds.

      This is the first of a series of Deep Dives I will be writing on the Ukrainian ecosystem. In this piece, I will take you on a whistle-stop tour of the Ukrainian ecosystem- founders & investors, the key players, trends to watch out for, challenges faced by the ecosystem and how the ecosystem has responded to the russian invasion.

      💫 You will also find sprinkled throughout your read, insights from Ukrainian founders and investors — their experiences and the lens through which they view the landscape.

      🔍 👀 The Ukrainian Startup Ecosystem At A Glance

      The below infographic gives a quick snapshot of what the Ukrainian ecosystem currently looks like, feel free to download/ bookmark it for future referenc

      🔑 The Ukrainian Tech Ecosystem — Key Findings

      … And here are some key findings…

      🌪 The Perfect Storm For The Ukrainian Tech Ecosystem

      If full-scale russian invasion in Feb 2022 wasn’t enough, it also coincided with beginning of the global slowdown and a “startup winter”: plummeting VC funding (61% VC funding decline in Europe in 2023), decreasing deal activity and much tougher fundraising environment for startups and VC funds alike.

      ✊ Defying The Odds, The Ecosystem Demonstrated Incredible Resilience

      Startup mortality remained surprisingly low — only 4 out 393 startups (1%) in portfolios of the 18 most active VC funds closed, according to Ukrainian Forbes. If we zoom out, 12% of startups closed across the ecosystem, according to the Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge’s survey.

      💶 More Funding For Ukrainian Startups Underway

      The war has catalysed efforts to support Ukrainian startups. Various grant funding opportunities (e.g., EIC’s “Seeds of Bravery”, Google for Startups’ Ukraine support fund) already implemented and underway and recently announced Ukraine-focused VC funds: $300m Horizon Capital’s Ukraine-focused Fund IV (Apr’23), $50m ff Blue & Yellow Heritage Fund (Sept’22), €50m Ukrainian Phoenix Fund (Jan’23).

      🎶 “If You Can Make It There, You Can Make It Anywhere” — Frank Sinatra

      Having faced hardships, Ukrainian founders re-define and give new meaning to a “resilient” and “persevering” founder.

      It’s incredibly hard to be a founder, especially in Ukraine: deals getting pulled at the last moment, promised funding withheld due to war risks, blackouts due to russian missiles targeting the power grid, escaping to bomb shelters amidst air-raid sirens, psychological pressures about the health and well-being of family and friends, the need to motivate the team despite circumstances — and in the midst of it all, founders keep (over-) delivering on projects and launching new products and updates.

      🍇 Struggling Vine Theory

      Sommeliers and connoisseurs recognise the importance of terroir and know that best wines (for VCs — unicorns) are produced when the vines have to search for water (VCs capital) to sink deeper (obsess about the customer) into earth (look for opportunities globally). They plant themselves more firmly in the hopes of finding what they can rather than accepting what they’re given. The most complex, most interesting bouquet and layers is made from a grape that has struggled most. This is a perfect metaphor for Ukrainian startup founders today: they have a monomaniacal focus, exceptional perseverance and the more frugal mindset ever — each $1 invested in Ukrainian startups will provide more runway than elsewhere. Their “Why now?” has gained an additional motivation — it’s their way to resist and commit to their families, the teams and help Ukraine prevail in the war.

      Investing now is NOT a charity. I’d argue it’s a well-calculated risk: you can lose only 1.0x our money, but the return potential is uncapped. VC is all about Power Law, hitting the home runs, and generating exceptional returns for the LPs while supporting exceptional founders.

      The Ukrainian ecosystem is a proven birthplace of unicorns within a blue ocean, needs smart money from the world-class VCs now more than ever, and can pay off exceptionally well. In my mind, this bodes well with the contrarian approach: having a differing opinion from the herd and being right.

      ✨ VCs Investing In Ukrainian Startups NOW Are Betting On “Crème De La Crème” Of The Founders

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      Having stocked up on power banks, Starlink, power generators and fitted out their bomb shelters, this crop of Ukrainian founders are not only surviving the war but also growing their businesses and successfully competing internationally.

      🛡 The Rapidly Developing DefenceTech Industry

      400 teams are working on a range of products and more than 300 DefenceTech startups were established in 2022–23.

      The foundation has been laid out to catalyse the industry: Brave1 DefenceTech cluster was created to “fast-track” the approval process for newly developed products to be deployed on the frontline for quick feedback loops and improvements.

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      Eric Schmidt, Google Ex-CEO — now backer of D3

      D3, a new accelerator counting Eric Schmidt (ex-CEO of Google) among its backers, has $30m earmarked for DefenceTech startups.

      3 dedicated VC funds are being set up to help the most successful startups scale. In 2023, the Ukrainian Government dedicated $1 Bn for drones, The Economist reported, and is launching initiatives to develop robotics and radio-electronic warfare solutions.

      📊 Setting The Scene: Key Facts & Figures About The Ukrainian Ecosystem

      With a total value of €23.3 Bn in 2022, Ukraine’s tech ecosystem ranks #4 in CEE after Estonia, Poland and Czech Republic.

      Despite the full-scale russian invasion, the value of Ukraine’s tech ecosystem increased by >€0.5Bn in 2022 and 9.3x since 2017.

      Ukraine’s tech companies have historically been tapping foreign markets for scaling and growth, with an astonishing 96% of startups born in Ukraine moving HQ abroad (predominantly the US), in contrast to other large CEE tech powerhouses like Poland, Czech Republic or Estonia.

      Source: Dealroom CEE startups report, 2022

      Despite the fact that the Ukrainian ecosystem is still in the first innings of its development, the country boasts 1 Decacorn and 4 Unicorns, of which 1 (AirSlate) was minted in 2022.

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      (source: AVentures)

      … 🐣 Ukraine is in the top-10 countries of not US-born unicorn founders with 12 Ukrainian-born founders of the US unicorns…

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      Source: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Venture Capital Initiative

      … 💰💸 Ukrainian-born founders and engineers have built products and technologies used by billions of people in the world…

      👉 Notable C-Level Execs & Founders from Ukraine

      … Ukraine currently counts 1,628 product companies, 544 service companies and 90 R&D centres, including those of blue-chip names like Boeing, Cisco, Oracle, Dell, SAP, Bosch, Ericsson, Samsung, Snapchat, etc. with significant (250+ employees) in Ukraine…

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      Source: Techosystem

      Acrop of high-potential startups is developing with ambitions to become unicorns…

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      Source: Crunchbase, AVentures, Dealroom

      🤔 Impact Of The russian War On Ukraine’s Ecosystem

      The Ukrainian startup ecosystem has demonstrated incredible resilience during the 1.5 years of the full-scale russian invasion.

      As of July 2023, only 4 out of 343 startups in the portfolios of the 18 most active VC funds have closed /are inactive, according to Ukrainian Forbes.

      The overall impact on the ecosystem was worse: 12% of Ukrainian startups shut down, according to the survey conducted by Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge.

      Most Ukrainian startups have shown commendable resilience despite tough circumstances, have adjusted and fitted out the bomb shelters, procured power banks, Starlink, generators and keep innovating, completing projects, launching products and shipping updates through blackouts and from bomb shelters.

      ⭐️ 💬 Ukrainian Founder Insights

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Alex Serdiuk, CEO & Founder @ Respeecher

      “We sent the deliverable for one of major games on Feb 24th, 2022, the day russians invaded. During the war, project management is key — we always over-delivered and kept focused communication with investors and clients — mostly Hollywood studios. We sent daily updates and now switched to weekly.” —Alex Serdiuk, CEO and Founder, Respeecher (AI-powered voice cloning, 6 Emmie awards)

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      Alex Serdiuk, CEO and Founder, Respeecher

      Despite the war, Respeecher posted 2.4x revenue increase in 2022 and expects 3–4x revenue growth in 2023.

      The company is preparing to raise Series A in 2024. Out of a team of 50 (+18 employees hired in Ukraine in 2022–23), 42 are based in Ukraine (part of team relocated inside Ukraine, e.g., from Kherson to Lviv).

      Alex proudly tells about launching two new products in 2022–23: a health tech solution helping people with injured vocal cords to convert their voice in real time and make it sound natural, and a voice marketplace for small game developers (“Product of the day” on Product Hunt), both showing very good traction.

      However, the war had a significant impact on fundraising activity, which decreased by c. 75% to $218m in 2022 from the record $832m in 2021 exacerbated by the global slowdown in VC activity by 20–30% both in the US and Europe.

      However, late stage funding, which typically accounts for the most funding volume, was particularly hit with 3 large rounds being postponed / cancelled in 2022.

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      Source: AVentures’ Dealbook of Ukraine 2022

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Natalie Marina, Founder @ Noty.ai — An AI-Powered Workplace Assistant

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      Natalie Marina, Founder @ Noty.ai

      “Fundraising is very hard, many startups are running out of money and take a leap of faith by relocating to other countries.

      Some investors try to take advantage of the situation and get preferential terms while others start pitying me during the calls. I want people to invest in Noty.ai because of great product and Team, not because I’m a female founder or from Ukraine.

      I have always understood the importance of self-reliance. My biggest regret is that I listened when investors told us to “grow at all cost”. I could have done much more with money. Now we are very lean and focus on how we grow — revenue, margins, preserving cash”.

      - Natalie Marina, Founder, Noty.ai

      💶 During 2022–2023, Notable Fundraising Rounds Were…

      👉 $51.5m Series B for Airslate (no-code business process automation and document management platform) at $1.25Bn valuation by G Squared and UiPath Ventures in July’22

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      👉 $42m Series C for Preply (EdTech) with Horizon Capital, Reach Capital and Hoxton Ventures investing in July’23

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      👉 $22m Series B for FinTech Farm (neobank) by Nordstar and Chrome Capital in Apr’23

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      👉 $16m Series A for Spin.ai (cybersecurity) by Blueprint Equity, Blu Ventures & Santa Barbara Venture Partners in Aug’22

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      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Vitalii Romanchenko, CEO & Co-Founder @ Elai.io — High-Quality AI Videos From Text With Human Avatars

      “Elai.io are champions in bootstrapping. We survived and developed the company mostly on grants and a bit of pre-seed funding from StartupWiseGuys and SID Venture Partners.

      We are constantly looking for creative ways to attract paying customers at low cost and are already profitable.

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      Vitalii Romanchenko, CEO & Co-Founder @ Elai.io

      Currently, we have achieved product-market fit and need the money to scale. Our founders are based in Canada and Spain with development team in Ukraine. Despite the war, we have a very strong traction and have been growing 7% per week attracting paying customers, both SMBs and Enterprise.”

      - Vitalii Romanchenko, CEO & co-Founder, Elai.io

      Despite the war, early stage funding remained higher than in 2014–19. This trend continued during 2023: early stage (pre-seed — Series A) investments (excl. grants) amounted to c. $77m across 29 deals with disclosed amounts.

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      Source: www.ain.ua,AVentures

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Luba Guk, Founder and Managing Partner @ Blue Lake VC

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      Luba Guk, Founder and Managing Partner @ Blue Lake VC

      “Ecosystem is active, new startups are launched and investments are needed now. Many Ukrainian startups have the core team / founders located outside of the country (in the US or Europe) while R&D / development team stays in Ukraine. Startups have all learned to successfully work under missile strikes, blackouts and air sirens — they have all adjusted already”. - Luba Guk, Founder and Managing Partner @ Blue Lake VC

      Since the beginning of the invasion, some 60k IT professionals (ca 15–20% of total employees) and c. 30% startups have relocated (part of) their team abroad[11], making the Ukrainian tech community dispersed beyond its borders, but the vast majority is keeping close ties to the country.

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Elena Malitskaya, Founder & CEO @ ISE Corporate Accelerator

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      Elena Malitskaya, Founder & CEO @ ISE Corporate Accelerator

      “Some Ukrainian startups relocated to Europe, but a more traditional route is going to the US as our ecosystem is more connected to the US ecosystem. War has added an impetus for Ukraine startups to scale: they are nimble, travel Europe 5x faster than European ones, and have a different mentality — Ukrainian startups hustle more, entering new markets and scaling faster. Having changed locations several times, they are all out of their comfort zone”.- Lena Malitska, Founder & CEO @ ISE Corporate Accelerator

      Most Ukrainian startups are targeting large international markets with global and scalable products. Coming from scarcity of capital and the need for self-reliance, the startups are capital efficient and frugal.

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Sviat Sviatnenko, CEO & Co-Founder @ Cyber/Innov8 (Cybersecurity Accelerator)

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      Sviat Sviatnenko, CEO & Co-Founder @ Cyber/Innov8

      “Due to scarcity of capital, especially at pre-seed stage, Ukrainian startups are frugal: $1m in Ukraine can buy 2x the runway than in Europe. Competition among VCs is low and no more than 20% of startups get the needed funding”.

      - Sviat Sviatnenko, CEO and co-Founder @ Cyber/nnov8 (cybersecurity accelerator)

      📈 The Ukrainian Ecosystem Trends & Pain Points

      ⛑ #1: MilitaryTech

      (see more details below) spearheaded by the Government’s funding and support has a chance to become a springboard for the Ukrainian startup ecosystem.

      Certain niches will get a lot of internal demand due to the war: prosthetics, mental health solutions, de-mining, etc. Post war and during reconstruction, there will be a strong demand for AgTech and construction tech products. Ukraine has plenty of talent in robotics & AI (e.g., InStock, Let’s Enhance, Respeecher and many others).

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      Screenshot Source: Let’s Ehance Website

      🌊 #2: Changing Tax Regime

      for self-entrepreneurs working in Ukraine’s vast IT services industry, changes in the tax regime is likely to create an environment to spark a wave of new startups and founders

      The IT service industry is well established in Ukraine and tech talent is high quality and abundant: c. 360k IT professionals in Ukraine ranking 5th globally in development talent by SkillValue, with deep pools of expertise across major industries (healthcare, automotive, retail, financial services, media, cybersecurity, supply chain, AR/VR, gaming) and competencies in Big data analytics, data science, AI & ML, cloud solutions, embedded software, DevOps, IoT, application & cloud management, digital platform engineering, etc.

      Ukraine is also home to 90 R&D centres for major tech companies, including Google, Samsung, Snap, Oracle, Nvidia, Lyft and Ring.

      80% of employees are aged 18–32 and salaries in IT service companies are stagnating.

      A very favourable tax regime is likely to change as the industry moves away from gig contracts in the next 1.5–2 yrs. Hence, expect to see many more founders coming from IT service businesses and launching their own startups.

      🙅‍♂️ 🙅‍♀️#3: Martial Law In Ukraine

      made it very hard for founders and key personnel to attend conferences or clients and investors meetings due to travel restrictions.

      A case in point is Noty.ai, which was selected to participate in GoogleAI program in the camp in Europe. Noty.ai’s CTO is in Ukraine and may not be able to attend Google’s camp.

      Many startups are calling for the Government to adopt a mechanism to allow travel from Ukraine to allow attending meetings, conferences and educational camps.

      💸 #4: Dry Powder

      Since the start of the war, c. $350m of additional dry powder has been dedicated for Ukrainian startups.

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      $250m Horizon Capital’s Ukraine-focused Fund IV (Apr’23), the largest ever Ukraine-dedicated tech fund focusing on Series B and C, $50m ffVC’s Blue & Yellow Heritage Fund (Sept’22), €50m Ukrainian Phoenix Fund (managed by LA French Tech Kyiv, Jan’23), a newly established French-US VC fund, which plans to invest in c. 150 Ukrainian startups at pre-seed and seed stages starting from late 2023.

      🇺🇸 🇬🇧 🇪🇺 #5: Due to capital controls…

      Ukrainian VC Funds couldn’t invest into Ukrainian startups incorporated in other jurisdictions. Ukrainian startups typically target global market and are incorporated in the US, UK or EU, which makes them fundable by international funds.

      💰 The Role Of Grant Funding In The Ukrainian Ecosystem

      Grant funding availability was scarce with the Ukrainian Startup Fund (USF) performing the main role in supporting early stage startups by distributing $8.2m during 2019–22.

      Since the beginning of russian invasion, grant funding has more than tripled with c. $28m committed from the newly launched dedicated grant programs providing the much needed support for the ecosystem.

      Other grant support available since invasion include :

      💥 AWS supporting startups with $100k free cloud services

      💥 USAID aiming to support 50 startups with total grants of c. $1.5m

      💥 7Wings, an UCU Business School-affiliated new startups support fund established in Apr 2023 providing grants up to $50k for Ukrainian startups

      💥 Demium Central Europe Talent Fund I earmarking €2.5m to support 25 Ukrainian startups with €100k per company; the Ukrainian Government’s

      💥 “eRobota” initiative with a dedicated grant funding for startups and SMEs up to $30k per company

      💥 Greencubator offering up to €50k grants for ClimateTech and green innovation startups.

      🚀 The Ukrainian Startup Fund

      Prior to the full-scale russian invasion, the Government-funded Ukrainian Startup Fund (“USF”) was the main catalyst for early stage startups.

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      Since its inception in 2018, USF received >3,000 applications, supported 352 startups with $8.2m equity-free grant funding, acceleration programs in accredited Ukrainian and international accelerators, and funded attendance of international startup events for 119 Ukrainian startups.

      USF is now focused on supporting DefenceTech (we’ll share more about the Brave1 accelerator soon) and deep tech projects.

      🚀 Google For Startups: Ukraine Support Fund

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      In 2022, Google for Startups launched a dedicated $5m Ukraine Support Fund.

      By Sept’23, it has provided up to $100k equity-free cash awards to 58 Ukrainian startups together with custom mentorship, leadership training, access to Google’s founders network and Google Cloud credits and support.

      🚀 European Innovation Council: Seeds Of Bravery

      In May 2023, European Innovation Council (“EIC”) announced “Seeds of Bravery”, a dedicated €20m program to support the Ukrainian deeptech community.

      It will provide direct financial support to at least 200 Ukrainian deep tech startups with grants of up to €60,000. EIC will also offer business advisory services and networking opportunities. The project will be implemented until 2025 and the first start-ups are expected to have already received funding in 2023.

      EIC’s Seeds of Bravery will focus on innovative solutions for rebuilding Ukraine and deep tech projects with female founders.

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      Source: EIC Website

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Olena Skyrta, Co-Founder @ InScience

      “I am working on understanding the way to increase efficiency in cooperation between startups and scientists. Since the war started, there were funding cuts and national research support fund has been without money for 1.5 years.

      International grants exist but hard to find. Deep tech startups problems in Ukraine are lack of access to funding, including grants, lack of awareness and confidence among scientists that they can actually launch startups, access to infrastructure (labs) and disposables to do scientific experiments”.

      - Olena Skyrta, Co-Founder @ InScience

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      Olena Skyrta, Co-Founder @ InScience

      Olena launched a project “InScience”, a TedX-like format to popularise science.

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      Source: InScience Website

      It was the largest popular science event and deeptech startups’ exhibition in Ukraine attracting 2,000 attendees and 45 scientists-speakers, including 20 international ones

      😇 Angel Syndicates In The Ukrainian Ecosystem

      Angel funding is at a very early stage with a handful of active investors.

      In addition to 5 angel syndicates, there are c. 70–80 individual angels investing in Ukrainian startups, although investment activity has been subdued immediately after the russian invasion.

      In 2023, angels activity picked up and more people, who built their own IT service companies, or exited, are looking to invest and add value to founders.

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      Source: Crunchbase, www.forbes.uawww.ain.capital

      🚀 Ukrainian Accelerators & Incubators

      There are more than 20 venture studios, incubators and accelerators in Ukraine, including 6 international accelerators with a couple of newcomers since the invasion (e.g. Startup Wise Guys, Baltic Sandbox, Blue Lake Accelerator, D3).

      Market Map Of Existing Accelerators & Incubators In Ukraine

      Ukrainian startups are also actively applying to international accelerators, especially now that 30% of startups relocated due to the war. Above, is a map of existing accelerators and incubators in Ukraine.

      🌅 VC Investors Landscape

      Irrespective of the stage, investors expect to see traction, so most Ukrainian startups bootstrap until they can demonstrate revenues to get their first check.

      🦄 Pre-seed stage in Ukraine is typically covered by grants and funding from accelerators, which have increased in quantum and numbers after the russian full-scale invasion.

      🦄 Early stage (🌱 Seed and Series A) comes from a mix of local and international VC funds dominated by those focused on Seed stage (c. 80% of VC funds).

      🦄 Series B and later stage funding has historically been provided by international funds (mostly US-based), which would help startups scale but advise the founders and management to relocate to the US while keeping a product development / R&D team in Ukraine.

      Ukrainian investors most actively participate in early-stage rounds (up to $1m in Seed and up to $7m in Series A). With more dry powder to deploy, foreign investors remain active in Series A and later rounds.

      Below is a market map of active investors in Ukrainian startups…

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      Please reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter if your fund is missing from this map (Raw Source:Source: AVentures)

      Local VC funds mostly support Ukrainian startups through early stages in the capital raise.

      In 2022–2023, the most active Ukrainian seed funds were SID Venture Partners, SMRK, Flyer One Ventures, Geek Ventures, Netsolid Investments, hypra and Burner with new early-stage VCs emerging.

      Below, is a dozen of most active early stage VC funds, which invested in 40 Ukrainian startups during the war:

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      Source: Crunchbase, Dealroom, www.ain.ua

      🛡 A Spotlight On DefenceTech In Ukraine

      Due to a significant depth and breadth of tech talent (c. 300k of IT professionals), Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation has tapped into tech expertise and is running Ukraine’s war like a startup, according to Wired.

      In addition to c. 7k tech professionals, who joined the ranks of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, many signed up to work on MilitaryTech projects.

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      Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine Mykhailo Fedorov

      Respeecher is the case in point: in addition to full-time work on the core business, some team members are working on two defence-related projects: Zvook (missiles location based on tracing the sound👂) and Vidar (locating position of grenade launchers using sensors on the frontline 🎯).

      The full-scale invasion has sharpened the focus on DefenceTech, which has been slowly developing since 2014 annexation of Crimea and the Russian-induced war in the east of Ukraine.

      The Ukrainian Government and especially the Ministry of Digital Transformation is playing a major role in developing the industry and cutting the red tape.

      🤖 Army Of Drones

      “Army of Drones” project was launched in July 2022, which involved procurement and maintenance of thousands of drones as well as training courses for c. 20,000 pilots.

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      Source: BBC Website

      The Government invested $1 Bn over the last 12 month and committed another $1 Bn in 2024 earmarked for funding domestic drone manufacturers. This will allow the startups to scale production to industrial levels.

      The Ukrainian Ministry of Defence announced it deployed 28 types of domestic drones. Capitalising on “Army of Drones” success, Mr. Fedorov, Minister of Digital Transformation, has recently announced two new initiatives — “Army of Robots” and “Army of Radio-Electronic Warfare”.

      In addition, three defence-focused VC funds will start investing in Ukraine, according to Mr. Fedorov.

      There are 37 active DefenceTech startups gaining traction with technologies spanning across AI and Big Data, cybersecurity, electronic warfare, developers of various types of drones and systems, aerospace, robotics, etc. Two new defence / MilitaryTech-dedicated accelerators were founded in 2023:

      🔥 Brave1 MilitaryTech Accelerator

      A USF-affiliated coordination platform for defence tech launched in April 2023.

      The key advantage is streamlined feedback loop and opportunity to fast-track approvals to enable testing the product with military users on the frontline — a procedure normally taking years is cut to a few months only.

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      Screenshot From Brave1 Website

      As of June’23, Brave1 received 320 applications, of which 138 passed military expertise and provided grant funding to 7 defence startups.

      🔥 D3 (Dare to Defend Democracy) DefenceTech Accelerator

      D3 is a DefenceTech accelerator counting Eric Schmidt, ex-Google CEO, among its backers.

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      Eric Schmidt, ex-CEO of Google with Minister of Defense of Ukraine, Oleksiy Reznikov, & Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak in September 2022

      D3 has $30m to deploy with $125k ticket size. D3 will invest in AI solutions for intelligence, cybersecurity, and military tech (UAVs, electronic warfare, communications, navigation, and precision munitions technologies).

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      Screenshot From D3’s Website

      🔥🔊 Founder Insights: Yulia Sychikova, Director @ AVentures Capital, Co-Founder & COO @ DataRoot Labs, Inc

      “There are 400 teams currently working on various DefenceTech products. It ranges from AI reconnaissance (target identification, tracking, locking, etc.) to various types of UAVs (air, naval, ground delivery), munitions dropping drones, anti-drone solutions, secure communication equipment, anti-radio electronic warfare, cybersecurity, de-mining, navigation in GPS-denied environment, etc”.- Yulia Sychikova, Director @AVentures Capital, Co-Founder & COO @ DataRoot Labs, Inc. Source: DOU, AVentures

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      Yulia Sychikova, Director @ AVentures Capital, Co-Founder & COO at DataRoot Labs, Inc

      🎯🛡DefenseTech: An Overview Of Selected Players

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      🚀 AeroDrone

      AeroDrone, for example, started out as a crop-spraying system, pivoted the business to carry heavy loads of up to 300 kilograms for the Ukrainian military.

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      Source: AeroDrone Facebook Page

      The company is collecting up to 3,000 parameters on each flight, even while being jammed, or in different weather conditions[14]. The company sees potential to repurpose its product for use in other industries.

      Ukraine has been actively using AI since the beginning of the full-scale invasion.

      🚀 Griselda

      The case in point is Griselda, a recently developed AI-based system for analysing, filtering and monitoring incoming information about the enemy and automatically collecting data on enemies’ positions and movements.

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      Source: Griselda Website

      Griselda is capable of high-speed and high-quality processing of large data streams, their safe storage, and automation of input and transfer processes. Automatic analysis modules and neural networks are used for processing the information passed on to military command centres and intelligence units.

      Griselda was developed by a team of volunteers, demobilized military personnel, veterans, military personnel, sociologists, programmers and military experts.

      🚀 DefenseTech Notable Mentions

      Other notable DefenseTech innovations include:

      👉 Delta, the Ukrainian combat control and information processing system, which has successfully passed NATO tests, including for interoperability with F-16 fighter jets

      👉 Kropyva, proprietary intelligence mapping software developed for planning, calculations, and orientation

      👉Bronja (Armour) and GisArta, which weaves together disparate targets, sensors, and artillery units into an “Uber for artillery” and uses an algorithm to optimize across variables like target type, position, and range to assign “fire missions” to available artillery units.

      Ukraine is testing AI systems that can locate targets several kilometres away and guide drones to them even if external communications are disrupted by electronic warfare measures, according to Reuters.

      💭 Final Thoughts From Key Players

      “I think Ukraine’s startup ecosystem has the potential to take a similar route to Israel’s, with defence / military focused technologies subsequently transitioning to commercial use cases. Ukraine will be a test bed for new technologies and prone for tech leapfrogging”. — Marianna Bonechi, Managing Partner @ Slava Ventures, Early stage VC fund focused on applied AI startups

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      Marianna Bonechi, Managing Partner, SlavaVentures

      “There are many inbound cases of international startups coming to Ukraine, especially American military ones working on drones and AI-based solutions. They benefit from the US-sponsored programs run by the US Department of State”, says Lena Malitska, CEO of ISE corporate accelerator.

      Everyone wants Ukraine’s battlefield data: a wave of international AI executives are traveling to and from Ukraine to test and train their products, according to Wired. Helsing, German AI company, has staff regularly traveling to the country and Palantir, a data analytics company, has opened an office in Kyiv and is offering its services pro bono. Clearview AI’s facial recognition technology has been used since the beginning of the war, according to Reuters.

      🏁 To Finish Up

      1. Ukrainians have been among the founders and C-level managers of iconic tech companies like WhatsApp, Paypal, Discord and Solana to name a few.

      2. The vibrant Ukrainian startup ecosystem is alive and kicking despite the war. Defying the odds, the russian invasion sparked innovation in MilitaryTech and made the founders focused on cross-border expansion while maintaining a traditionally frugal mindset.

      3. With plenty of high-quality tech talent and a keen interest in entrepreneurship, Ukrainian founders are the living testament to resilience, perseverance and creativity. Expect more unicorns to originate from Ukraine. Now is the time to support the best Ukrainian founders and join their success story.

      Thanks for reading! If you have any thoughts and comments, I’d love to hear from you.

      📱Connect With Me On LinkedIn

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      Sources:

      [1] Dealroom (www.dealroom.co/reports/central-and-eastern-european-startups-2022)

      [2] As above

      [3] Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Venture Capital Initiative

      [4] As above

      [5] Ukraine IT Association report, Sept 2023 (https://itukraine.org.ua/files/ITIGUIT.pdf)

      [6] As above

      [7] As above

      [8] DeepTech and AI ecosystem in Ukraine Report, 2022 (https://analytics.dkv.global/Ukraine/digest-deeptech-and-ai-ecosystem-in-ukraine.pdf)

      [9] https://ain.ua/2023/09/15/military-tech-v-ukrayini-yak-rozvyvayetsya-napryam-ta-yaki-yurydychni-nyuansy-dlya-startapiv/

      [10] Dealroom (www.dealroom.co/reports/central-and-eastern-european-startups-2022)

      [11] https://uadn.net/2022/12/28/survey-12-of-ukrainian-startups-shut-down-30-moved-abroad-at-least-partially-during-the-war/

      [12] https://itukraine.org.ua/files/ITIGUIT.pdf

      [13] https://ain.capital/2023/05/11/d3-military-tech-accelerator-is-to-launch-in-ukraine-ex-google-ceo-eric-schmidt-is-among-the-lps/

      [14] https://www.wired.co.uk/article/ukraine-government-battlefield-data

      Startupş Startup Ecosystem Ukrainian Startup Ukrainian Ecosystem

      Source: Medium