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Colleagues under fire, spooked investors and an Emmy award: Ukrainian founders on a year of war

There’s no one way to run a startup during a war.

When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Alex Bernatska moved to Poland to search for new clients, after losing all her Ukrainian ones; Alex Serdiuk and much of his team stayed in Kyiv to help to rebuild the country’s economy; while Ivan Kaunov temporarily gave up cofounder duties at his fintech and joined the army.

They, like hundreds of other Ukrainian founders, lost clients and investors overnight; took VC calls from bomb shelters; were forced to leave their hometowns; became separated from their families and lost loved ones.

Today, almost a year after Russia invaded Ukraine, we’re sharing the stories of six Ukrainian founders who’ve learned how to run their businesses in previously unimaginable circumstances.

They’ve worked from bomb shelters and metro stations, often without electricity or heating — and, despite it all, Ukraine’s IT sector has actually grown.

Our CEE correspondent Zosia Wanat has spent the past few months speaking to Ukrainian entrepreneurs about how they’ve adapted to life in a war zone.

She meets founders who’ve:

Taken up arms
Moved country
Had investors pull out
Been unable to pay their employees
And even, been awarded an Emmy

There is, we think, no founder as resilient as a Ukrainian founder.

Hear from Dasha Kichuk, cofounder of effa, Kirill Bigai, cofounder and CEO of Preply, Ivan Kaunov, founder of Finmap.online, Alex Bernatska, cofounder of Skyworker, Alex Serdiuk, CEO and cofounder of Respeecher, and Goodex’s Vladyslav Savchenko.

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