Could Ukraine be the Next Best Place? Yes!
Sten Tamkivi is a tech entrepreneur from Estonia, who was in the Skype executive team for 7 years. Today he is a co-founder and CEO of Teleport, an Estonian/U.S. startup, which collects data about living conditions around the globe to provide recommendations on the best place to live and work for so-called tech-nomads. Sten was very impressed by one of the recent AIN.UA articles about how an IT-company relocated from Donetsk. He started to think about the future of Ukraine and decided that our country can become the Next Best Place to live and do business. We publish his thoughts on Ukraine’s Independence Day without translation to show that Ukraine is supported by our foreign colleagues from all around the world. Слава Україні!
A colleague stumbled upon a thrilling article in AIN.UA about Binary Studio’s flight from war-torn Donetsk. With crossed fingers we read how the CEO Artem Goncharov escaped the city with his car full of computers, fearing for his life.
The story mattered to us more than just an interesting read, because at Teleport we believe that talent holds a more powerful key to future than weapons. That is why we build apps that help talents to move to the best place to live and work. We also help cities to become interesting destinations for talent and we believe that in the long run, where Artem and his colleagues live, will change governments.
So, we brainstormed a little bit around the question: despite the war and related negative news, can Ukraine still be the best place for startup talent in the near future? The short answer is yes. And for 5.3 percent of our users Kiev ends up in top ten cities even as we speak.
Ukraine has relatively lower costs and famously, a lot of talented programmers and engineers. Your PhD programmers are having disproportionately competitive salaries which used to be also the case in my own home country Estonia – a fact that helped to drive our startup scene and might even have contributed to the success story of Skype. This difference does not hold forever, but worth using this for riskier startup experiments, rather than selling hour-by-hour outsourcing while it does.
Ukraine could also use its position closer to EU and have a time zone advantage over some Asian hot spots when it comes to working across borders. You have fast and affordable internet connection and the lack of which, believe it or not, may easily smother someone’s enthusiasm of working remotely from paradise islands like Galapagos.
As a relatively quick win, you could consider improving venture capital availability with some government measures like startup funding or supporting incubators.
Although the war in East Ukraine remains an elephant in the room as long as it is not settled, there are many people looking for values like tolerance and openness and are ready to give the country more support and even consider living around. Therefore the saddest thing that can happen for any country in conflict, and here I am talking not only about war in Ukraine, but also about propaganda wars across the old Cold War frontlines in all Eastern Europe, is giving up on values. Losing trust in each other, losing tolerance, establishing a closed society insecure in its own fears.
But here’s a real secret insight from what we’re seeing from Teleport users: talent moving around the world is not about going from A->B permanently. It is about one’s personal location strategy, having a well-planned and beneficial mix of cities where one spends a share of their time every year.
While it might be naive to think of Ukraine as an immediate next competitive world startup center where people make permanent moves to, it is much more imaginable to lure founders from Europe, US, Israel, to spend, say 2-6 months in a year in town for specific aspects of their business. Which in turn means one strategy for Ukraine could be to think which countries it would complement – these countries could have high costs, low developer availability, political repression, etc.
Of course, talents today like big start-up hubs such as San Francisco, New York, London or Berlin. But isn’t this a bit like looking into a rear-view mirror? Isn’t it more interesting to think ahead and spot the places of the future? To me it looks like Ukraine has real opportunities.
Sten Tamkivi, Teleport, co-founder and CEO