Lisbon. At the Web Summit in Lisbon, one of the most important European events in terms of new innovative companies, Ukraine has been present in strength for years. This time, however, the participation of Olena Zelenska, the first lady, who until the last minute the organizers hoped would also be accompanied by her husband as it seemed to be possible until a few hours before the start of the event. Arrived for the opening night, with a large deployment of Portuguese special forces to protect her, Zelenska also participated in the following days in the company of Mykhailo Fedorovdeputy prime minister and minister of digital transformation of the Ukrainian government.
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On the stands of the Altice Arena, the main stage of the Web Summit, yellow and blue often appeared in the audience in the form of a flag worn as a cape. And many of the guests, starting with the president of Microsoft Brad Smithsported a pin with the same colors on the jacket.
“Despite such a large-scale war, our tech sector has shown incredible resilience and remains the only one that still shows growth,” he comments. Denys Smyrnov of Sigma Software, one of the most important companies in Kiev. Now at home at the Web Summit, he explains that “the volume of exports of IT services for the first half of 2022 reached 3.74 billion dollars, an increase of 23 percent more than in the same period of 2021. That’s why this year we have one of the largest stands ever ”.
It is not a trivial matter. Growth rates were record high before the Russian invasion. The Ukrainian hi-tech sector was rocketing six times higher than the global average with over five thousand new and old digital-related companies. Kiev, it was said in 2021, was the new Lisbon for startups. And right in Lisbon during the WebSummit, Ukrainian professionals often met at the center of the little miracle.
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In the moment of greatest difficulty, during the first weeks of the invasion, the Business Continuity Plans (BCP) developed starting in 2014, when in the country the street riots pushed the pro-Russian president Viktor Janukovy to flee. The BCP is a business continuity plan, a set of procedures that guide organizations in responding, recovering, resuming and restoring activities following an outage. Sigma Software has had its own for eight years: the company’s infrastructure and servers are located in the European Union and 95 percent of employees work on laptops. It means you can connect from anywhere without having to go to the office. Result: the Russian invasion had relative consequences on the functioning of society.
Today Ukrainian startups and technology companies have raised almost 350 million dollars in investments in the first six months of 2022. And they can count on almost 300 thousand developers in the country, the same ones who until 2021 had transformed Kiev into a new attractive center for the ‘innovation. “The digital infrastructure has shown remarkable resilience during the war”, Mykhailo Fedorov reiterated. “The digital economy still works, keeps pace and develops”.
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At the Web Summit of Ukrainian young companies in different stages of development we counted about sixty engaged in various fields: artificial intelligence, fintech, education, software development for companies, sustainability, meditech and pharmaceuticals, gaming, hardware and Internet of things ( Iot), obviously cybersecurity. From this point of view, the panorama in and around Kiev is similar to that of any other European country. The investments raised, those 350 million dollars, are not stellar but nonetheless a sign of vitality. Of course, we are far from the perspective that seemed to have opened up before the pandemic and obviously the Russian invasion. Yet, as Denys Smyrnov himself recalls, just a few months ago just imagining an official presence in Lisbon seemed objectively a mirage.