As influential political, financial and business leaders gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for the 48th annual World Economic Forum (WEF), Ukraine opened its own multi-format space to showcase investment opportunities to the global community.
This was the first time Ukraine hosted this venue at the conference. Ukraine House was organized by the Ukrainian Venture Capital Association (UVCA) in partnership with the Western NIS Enterprise Fund (WNISEF) and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation. (See the complete agenda of the weeklong event.)
Panel discussions took place from January 23-26, 2018. Tech and IT topics included energy, agriculture, cryptocurrency, blockchain, data science, venture capital and civic tech.
There was also an invitation-only investors event and reception. Here are discussion highlights for energy, agriculture and venture capital.
The panel on energy raised several issues. Boris Balan, VP: Europe, Northland Power, emphasized that centralized production of renewable energy is key for Ukraine’s future, but a usable battery storage system is crucial for wind energy. Overall, electricity auctions are essential along with a feed-in tariff for renewable energy.
Carlos Pascual, Senior Vice President, IHS Global Energy, International Affairs, suggested that the role of IT and a Smart Grid is critical to efficiently optimize all sources of electricity.
In agriculture, Ukraine is a major player in global markets. But, the penetration of technology is extremely low at only 10%. Digital farming is key for future growth.
Michael Horsch, a co-founder of Horsch Machines, said that up to now digitalization of Ukrainian farming has been a failure.
However artificial intelligence shows some promise to boost digitalization of farming in the country. Yulia Poroshenko, Founder and CEO of AgroHub, indicated that agro biotech is a key area on the agenda of her organization.
There was some discussion about whether ICOs could potentially lure investors away from traditional venture capitalists. Nathaniel Krasnoff, Associate, Wildcat Venture Partners, said that many ICO’s are attempting to monetize PhD research projects which are not commercially viable. Ukraine’s digital diaspora in Silicon Valley was also discussed. Vitaly Golomb, Investor & Global Startup Evangelist, HP Tech Ventures, was born in Odessa, Ukraine, and now lives in Silicon Valley. He talked about Ukraine’s need to develop “sea turtles” like China. These are entrepreneurs who study abroad and then return to their home country to innovate.
Overall, it was agreed that one of Ukraine’s best assets for tech development is its highly educated workforce. Moderator Andrey Kolodyuk, Chairman of Supervisory Board, UVCA and founder of AVentures Capital, recounted how Silicon Valley venture capitalists are joining the UVCA to gain first-hand knowledge of Ukrainian IT and tech startups.