Last week more than 50 of Ukraine’s most renowned tech entrepreneurs and investors launched UA50, a non-profit initiative to help Ukrainian startups enter the US and global markets.
By providing mentorship programs, networking opportunities and other guidance, the network aims to “cultivate a new generation of successful Ukrainian companies,” strengthen “Ukraine’s presence in the global tech innovation community,” and “bring prosperity and security to its citizens.”
The Ukrainian high tech and startup market is still growing in spite of the current political and economic turmoil in the country. Nevertheless, “many Ukrainian startups feel they need to come to the Valley to build up a closer link to partners, clients, distributors etc. They hire sales, marketing, business development teams in the US while generally keep R&D and operations in Ukraine,” explains Yevgen Sysoyev, a prominent Ukrainian VC who is among the founders of the UA50 project.
“When arriving in the Valley, Ukrainian tech entrepreneurs usually speak English and understand local work ethics and approaches since they are already used to working with companies outside Ukraine,” notes Andrey Akselrod. “However, the lack of network — which is typically acquired over time starting with school and university years — is harder to overcome, and here is where UA50 is actually helping,” Akselrod adds.
A Ukrainian entrepreneur who moved to the US more than a decade ago, Akselrod founded translation management platform Smartling.
UA50 mentors will also have to moderate young entrepreneurs’ expectations: “Some of them expect to raise venture money in 2-3 months after renting a place to live in San Francisco and believe that things will start happening in magical way,” says Yaroslav Yazhnyuk, who founded Petcube and is also supporting UA50.
“Business rules are mostly the same everywhere. Understanding them requires lots of reading plus trials and errors — but great entrepreneurs find shortcuts. Those may be suggested be people who like you for some reason and help you navigate in the Valley,” he adds.
Among UA50’s founders and mentors are — along with Akselrod, Sysoyev and Yazhnyuk — Eveline Buchatskiy, Director at Techstars Boston, Oleg Rogynskyy, Founder of Semantria, Viktoriya Tigipko, Director of TA Venture; Eugene Vyborov, Founder of WebiNerds, Vlad Voskresensky, co-founder of InvisibleCRM, Steven Kuyan of the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering, Nick Bilogorskiy, co-founder of Cyphort, and other businessmen.