Ukrainian entrepreneurs implement startups in wartime conditions

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Lubomyr Dykun says that 95% of his employees “went to fight.”

He is the CEO of G-Mak, a Ukrainian home security company.

His idea is similar to Amazon’s Ring home security system, but on steroids.

His company has developed what looks like a small black box with a camera.

If he detects an intruder, he can use tear gas to scare off any would-be burglars.

“Ukrainians know how to protect” is the company’s slogan.

However, the war created a huge problem for him. The manpower he had was destroyed.

“We lost five people,” he says, holding back tears.

Trying to build a successful startup in the best of times is a huge challenge, but doing so during a war is extremely difficult.

Bombings, attacks on infrastructure and blackouts are just some of the difficulties of working in Ukraine right now.

And yet, a delegation of Ukrainian startups made a long trip to Las Vegas, to the world’s largest technological meeting.

For them, CES (The Consumer Electronics Show) is a huge opportunity to meet with Western investors.

Just getting to the show was hard.

Image caption Artem Dudinsky, co-founder of Corner

“It took me three days to get here,” says Artem Didinsky, co-founder of online kitchen designer Corner.

Ukrainian men under the age of 60 are not allowed to leave the country, so he had to get special permission from the Ukrainian authorities to attend.

For him, the countless neon signs of Las Vegas are far from working in Kyiv, where electricity is a luxury.

“Sometimes my working day is limited by my computer’s battery… two weeks ago I didn’t have electricity for three days,” he says.

Although Artem found a unique solution. His local gas station has a reliable generator. Now his office is a gas station. This is the only way a programmer works.

He says that there is no heating in the apartment. “I sleep with my dog ​​in my bed to help keep me warm,” he says.

Maryana Romanyak, Rekava
Image caption, Maryana Romanyak, Rekava

Maryana Romanyak works at Rekava, a company that makes tableware from old coffee beans.

Located near the Russian border, in the city of Sumy (near Kharkiv), her business partner made the difficult decision to move the company across Ukraine – some 800 km (500 miles) – to the city of Lviv.

“It is very difficult now if you are a business in Ukraine,” she says.

In addition to the bombs and power shortages, Mariana also says it’s nearly impossible for new companies to get funding

“All of our big investors and big companies support the military,” she says.

But it’s not all bad news for her company. Maryana says that being in Lviv – near the border with Poland – really helped the business.

“We started to think that maybe it’s better for us to be close to the European Union because we can get results more easily,” she says.

Another company, eFarm, was created to help Ukrainian farmers apply fertilizer to their fields using satellite technology.

Although in the last few months, the company has taken a drastic step – and is testing technology that can detect land mines.

Tatiana Gorzei, eFarm
Image caption, Tatiana Gorzei, eFarm

Tatyana Gorzei from eFarm says that 30% of Ukrainian fields are contaminated. “If fields are millions of acres, it’s really hard to check every inch.”

As for Lubomir, the CEO of G-Mak, he wants to try to make his home security devices in America.

For him, CES is a vital opportunity to meet potential investors.

Many members of the delegation put a brave face on the war and hope they can succeed.

And if they can, after all the challenges the war has thrown at them, they have a good chance of succeeding elsewhere.

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