How the Ukrainian Startup Ecosystem Handles War Time: Kostiantyn Tupikov Speaks at an MI Podcast

  • ITKeyMedia’s journalist Kostiantyn Tupikov spoke at an MI podcast about the Ukrainian startup ecosystem’s persistence in the war time
  • He mentioned a few examples of how global trends like AI or NFTs find their realization in Ukraine
  • The journalist also pointed out several problems that remain to be fixed: such as the gaps in the Ukrainian startup-related legislation, and the lack of global awareness of the Ukrainian tech
  • The optimistic conclusion is that the Ukrainian startup ecosystem not only persists but continues to grow in this turbulent time 

On April 6th, I was honored to be among the first guests of the revamped MI: Ukrainian Pitch Podcast. The podcast’s regular host Dominique Piotet inquired about how the Ukrainian startup ecosystem is getting along through war time.

MI stands for Mayak Innovatsiy / Маяк Інновацій (ukr. Beacon of Innovations). Broadcasting since 2022, it has become one of Ukraine’s most prominent podcasts about technology and innovation. The host – Dominique Piotet – is a firm supporter of Ukraine and its tech ecosystem – among other things, he runs the Team4UA initiative and the Ukrainian Phoenix Fund.

In March 2022, the military turmoil forced the Ukraine-based MI team to go on an indefinite hiatus. Fortunately, it lasted only one year, and already this April, the podcast finally resumed its broadcasts. Seeing how I have been covering startups in Ukraine and CEE for the past 2+ years, Dominique’s team decided to reach out to me for a recap of what’s been going on in the Ukrainian startup ecosystem through the time that they ‘missed,’ – as much as we could staff into 20 minutes of runtime.

The Recession and Other Global Trends in Ukraine

Dominique Piotet, Host At MI Ukrainian Pitch Podcast, Board Member at Team4UA, Co-Founder at Ukrainian Phoenix Fund

The first thing we talked about was the global recession and how it affected our region. Citing SeedBlink’s annual report, I noted that CEE has actually shown some growth, contrary to the global trend. To generalize and simplify, the reason is that the CEE ecosystem didn’t have such a high peak to fall from, like Silicon Valley, for example. That’s why the widely discussed recession isn’t felt as acutely in our region.

The trend where CEE and Ukraine align with the rest of the world is the AI frenzy. Specifically in Ukraine, the most exemplary uses of AI are war-related: drone surveillance, coordination of chatbots, etc. We had to give an honorable shoutout to last year’s biggest trend – NFTs, and the NFT charity fundraisers for Ukrainian war relief, including those by Crypto Cossacks Club, ZibraAI, and Tribuna.

Accelerated International Integration of Ukraine

Further, I expressed my opinion that, like any crisis accelerates the processes that are already in place, the war accelerated Ukraine’s integration in the CEE space in terms of startups and VC investments. I had to note the Tallinn-based accelerator Startup Wise Guys which remains the biggest international investor in Ukrainian startups. One of Startup Wise Guys’ Ukrainian portfolio companies is the famous cash flow management platform Finmap (whose co-founder Ivan Kaunov is serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine).

That said, I mentioned one persistent negative aspect: the Ukrainian legislation isn’t startup-friendly – and that’s why companies seek to incorporate elsewhere. Even when they work in Ukraine, they are often ‘Delaware corporations,’ Obviously, the Ukrainian politicians have more pressing matters to attend to at the moment, but it doesn’t mean that the problem has to be ignored.

The First Code and the Phoenix

This is part of the reason why many people and businesses around the world use the products and services of Ukrainian-born companies without even knowing that those household names come from Ukraine: the mentioned Finmap, as well as Grammarly, Unstoppable Domains, and a number of others. One of the notable efforts in fixing this is the feature-length documentary called ‘The First Code.’ It covers the whole evolution of Ukrainian IT – from first zeroes up until now – and is due to be released on streaming platforms this Spring.

My wrap-up words were: ‘Ukraine will rise from the ashes sooner rather than later. That’s what I wanted to say originally, but it’s already happening. If you look at the tech ecosystem, you don’t see the ashes. You see the phoenix.’

Listen to the podcast in full:


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