On the weekend of October 6-8, GTEC was in Kiev for the second time this year. The first time, in August, we held our trusted G-Force meetup, which by now has 2,500 members all over the world. Our first contact with the Ukrainian startup scene was very promising, with over 50 founders joining on a warm Kiev summer night. So promising, in fact, that our MD Education Christoph decided to go back again – but this time, bringing some influential friends from the Berlin startup entrepreneurship scene.
Accordingly, we prepared a whole program full of activities, and the team of iHub – Ukraine’s leading startup ecosystem enabler and coworking network – kindly offered their space in central Kiev. After reaching out to our network of mentors, on Friday, October 6, Christoph took off to Kiev in the best company possible. With him were Stephan Schambach, the first German Internet billionaire and pioneer of e-commerce, Oliver Clasen, Owner & Director of HVC Management Ltd., and Oliver Skopec, Co-Founder & CEO at Tupomoja Holding AG; all ready to join the adventure.
Again in Kiev, our group of visitors was blown away by the beauty of such an underrated city, by the energy and openness of the local tech crowd, and the work and idealism iHub’s Dimitri Podoliev and Stas Petriv are putting in. With their work, they are fostering the entrepreneurial spirit and helping the people who make the startup scene in Kiev come together. And that’s why we couldn’t but embrace them as natural allies in our mission to bring our knowledge to the startup world, academia, corporations and beyond.
To start the weekend’s work, on Saturday morning GTEC hosted a roundtable with important Kiev ecosystem enablers to get an understanding of status and challenges of the Ukrainian founder scene. In the afternoon the programme continued with a workshop for six startups and founders based in Kiev, with tons of input on achieving product-market fit and reaching out to investors.
On Day 2, iHUB opened the meetup to everyone in the Kiev startup community for a day of talks and networking, that included a panel with the 4 guests. This was the perfect opportunity for everyone attending to pose their burning questions to the startup experts about their projects and international projection. And with that last Q&A session, the official activity programme in Kiev was completed!
In Ukraine, we found a country and a city that, despite every obstacle, is determined to start from scratch. Which won’t be easy: after this second expedition, it was clear to us that the country is still in deep crisis. In 2012, Ukraine kind of dropped out of the startup world, with the fancy conferences happening elsewhere and local founders being routinely forced to pitch their ideas on other cities’ stages. The average income has hit rock bottom, which pushes most of developers and entrepreneurs to take safe jobs at outsourcing companies. Unless a founder finds external financing, it’s almost impossible to bootstrap his or her company.
As Oliver Skopec, one of our mentors, put it, only the developers who relocate somewhere else to work seem to get the motivation, resources and enthusiasm to start their own company. You can check his very documented and strong opinion about this trip below (in German):
Oliver Clasen was surprised to see that for business development and financing, Ukrainian founders don’t set their eyes towards Europe, but directly towards the US – partly because a lot of the outsourcing business comes from there. And while they boast an amazing technical know-how, in his opinion there’s still a lot of room for exploration in Product Development, Sales and Marketing.
All in all, our time in Kiev combining work and pleasure resulted in an absolute blast for the Kiev startup community and the mentors who joined us for the trip. We are looking forward to keeping the collaboration going and you should expect to see more initiatives and ideas coming from the bridge we are building between Berlin and Kiev.
We truly believe Ukraine is a development powerhouse that with international support has the potential to rise again, and we want to be part of it. For that, it’s a key component that the authorities in Ukraine see entrepreneurs as their opportunity to bounce back, with new ideas and external international investment finding interesting opportunities. Which in turn will offer chances to exceptional developers to have the network and support needed to become founders and not sell their skills to the highest bidder.
While we see the size of the endeavour for everyone rooting for Ukraine, we are ready to take on the challenge. So stay tuned for what’s to come from Ukraine and Kiev!