The most surprising rating: popular startups with Ukrainian roots
You never thought of them as Ukrainian, right?
The term “start-up nation”, which was popularized by Dan Senor and Saul Singer in 2009 in regard to Israel, now is used to describe any country with a strong potential in the IT industry. “Startup” itself has become the word for a new religion. It is now synonymous with progress, innovation, growth, and scalability. You can see the term everywhere: in the news, magazines, in statuses and hashtags all over the social media, and even in your email box. Everyone is talking about startups and startup nations. So how does a formation of a startup nation occur and how did Ukraine become one?
If we go back to the previous decade, we’ll see that most successful software corporations have been born and matured in the Silicon Valley. Thanks to the technological progress, a young company’s geographical location does not matter much anymore. Skilled and motivated employees, combined with innovation-driven approach in business are much more important. Thus, Ukraine takes a prominent place among the present-day startup nations, due to its huge base of human and organizational resources.
The statistics are encouraging too. According to the information provided by Aventures Capital, by the end of the year 2015, Ukraine’s IT industry comprised more than 2,000 startups and over 500 outsourcing companies. What’s more, the IT sector, including R&D centers and outsourcing companies, is bringing more than $5 billion to the country’s economy. And even despite the war and a lack of economic stability, Ukraine is rapidly evolving in this area. By 2020, it is projected that there will be over 200,000 IT professionals in Ukraine.
So what is the reason for such great numbers? What has made Ukraine suddenly bloom on the world’s tech scene? For sure, this is due to a combination of three potent factors — great educational basis in technical disciplines, broad opportunities for practice and self-education, and innovative thinking of Ukrainian entrepreneurs and engineers who have all the skills and vigour to compete with geeks from the Silicon Valley.
To back this up with real-life examples, let’s take a look at the well-known startups which originated from Ukraine and reached mind-blowing success on the international IT scene.
A great example of a Ukrainian success story in the IT sphere. A photo bank which provides high-quality content with the huge number of tools for millions of people monthly, DepositPhotos now makes the top 5 photo banks in the world. In 2015, they raised $5 million from TMT Investments and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Nearly 7 years ago, the founder of DepositPhotos, Dmitry Sergeev couldn’t even imagine that his startup would gain such support from investors. But today, it is a big company with more than 200 employees and over 10 million monthly visitors. Its global Alexa rank is 1,549 as of March 2016. Mr Sergeev strongly believes in Ukraine’s potential and says that “everything in [Ukraine] leans toward common sense and a modern way of doing things.
Once a startup, the Grammarly project was founded in 2009 by Max Lytvyn and Alex Shevchenko. Thanks to them, 3 million people can check their grammar today in mere seconds. This innovative web-based service checks your text with the help of more than 250 punctuation, grammar, and spelling rules.
Over the course of time, the number of employees with Grammarly has grown from 15 to 150, some of whom work from California. The company is now considered a leader in the grammar niche. It constantly expands the range of its solutions and improves their services. Most of the prominent companies use Grammarly daily in its content departments.
PetCube is a super popular Ukrainian startup which offers a digital solution for pets and their owners to communicate from the distance. On the one end, there is a Petcube Camera which lets people watch their furry friends while away. On the other, there is an iPhone/Android app through which the owner interacts with the pet.
PetCube has been acclaimed for innovation and also for helping build the society where people care for their animal companions. The project had extreme success from the start when it raised $250,000 on Kickstarter, after which it received $1.1 million in 2015 for innovativeness. In February 2016, the company acquired further investments of $2.6 million more.
Looksery is known to the Ukrainian IT community for the biggest deal in the country’s startup history. It was acquired by Snapchat for $150 million. Their key product is software which allows scanning people’s faces in real time and also modify them later.
The company’s app for facial detection and modification, Lenses, had 3 million downloads before the acquisition. Then, Lenses was removed from the AppStore and became the part of Snapchat. Although Looksery itself was formed in San Francisco in 2013, it has offices in Ukraine, Russia, and the US.
Smartling is another cloud-based platform that revolutionizes the process of delivering, creating, and editing multilingual content. Last year, it was named one of the top 10 B2B companies in the New York Startup Index. The company’s tech teams are based in Dnepropetrovsk and Kiev.
The company’s products (Global Fluency Platform, TSM, GDN, different connectors) are widely used by such major clients as British Airways, Foursquare, Uber, Vimeo,Spotify, Atlassian, Tesla. Between 2010 and 2014, the company received over $60 million in investments. It is continuing to develop and improve its products.
Jelastic is a cloud hosting platform for PHP, Ruby, Java, Python, and a number of other applications. In the niche the company has taken, it can compete with such well-known services as Heroku, Cloud Foundry, and Google App Engine. The company was founded in 2011 by Constantin Alexandrov, Ruslan Synytsky, and Alexey Skutin under the name Hivext Technologies, which was later changed to Jelastic. Now, the company’s headquarters are located in Palo Alto, California. Jelastic is cooperating with 21 hosting providers, which is more than most of the existing cloud platforms.
The company’s main product is extremely popular and user-friendly. One can set up an environment in a few clicks and easily deploy the app. The product obtained a total of over $8 million in fundings in the early years, which has allowed the company to improve its services further.
- SHAPE (IM+ and Sicher apps)
Despite the fact that SHAPE GmbH is based in Germany, its CEO is a Ukrainian guy from Odessa. Igor Berezovsky founded his business in 2002, and after 14 years, the company can boast 20 million users. Moreover, games and apps developed by SHAPE were downloaded over 100 million times.
The first successful product of Shape was a mobile messenger IM+. Currently, the company’s main product a free instant messenger Sicher, whose launch was in 2014. This app, which comes free for Android, iOS, and Windows mobile devices, is intended for exchanging encrypted messages, documents, media files, and even geo-location data. One of its best features, apart from security, is that the messenger can send files without size restrictions.
Today, the German-Ukrainian company owns many useful mobile applications intended for a wide audience. The reason why SHAPE became successful is because it was one of the pioneers in the mobile multiplatform messengers market.
It is not a secret that creation and maintenance of a global software company requires not only great technical specialists and engineers, but also a strong executive team. Thanks to our mentality, Ukrainian people are really hardworking and have a passion for teaching and sharing their knowledge. We have one of the strongest tech basis in our country. Although our IT industry is only developing, we still have so much to offer to foreign investors. Take a deep breath and get ready for new innovations coming from Ukraine.