Ukrainian tech, VC community flocks to Web Summit to show 'progress prevails – not war'
Ukraine has hosted one of the largest pavilions at this year's Web Summit, an annual tech conference in Portugal that gathers decision-makers, journalists, and techies from 160 countries.
Startups, VC funds, IT companies, and members of Ukraine's government flock together to Lisbon on Nov. 1-4 to represent the Ukrainian tech industry.
As a result, at least 30,000 people visited Ukraine's national pavilion there, including First Lady Olena Zelenska, Lisbon Mayor Carlos Moedas, U.S. Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Marisa Lago, and heavyweight boxing champion Oleksandr Usyk.
"We showed the world that we aren't a country that can be silenced by terror and everyday shellings," said Elena Mazhuha, Investment Director at Flyer One Ventures.
"Everyone saw that there are thousands of us and we are united. We did it to assert that life prevails, technology prevails, and progress prevails — not war, totalitarian regimes, or fear," she said.
Ukrainian national pavilion
Called Ukraine is the Capital of Freedom, the pavilion was jam-packed for all three days of the summit. It had several zones that worked non-stop.
One of the zones was the Ukrainian startup alley. For it to be there, the Ukrainian Startup Fund and GIST organized the largest delegation of Ukrainian startups in the summit's history, bringing 24 startups to Lisbon. The young companies had a chance to showcase their products and pitch ideas to hundreds of people.
About 70 Ukrainian startups and tech companies attended the conference this year.
At another zone, members of Ukraine's government, as well as the country's tech and venture capital community, held press conferences and workshops. Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov and his deputy Alex Bornyakov (a former serial entrepreneur) were among the key speakers.
Flyer One Ventures, Bitcoin Magazine Ukraine, SID Venture Partners, Ukrainian Hub, NEAR UA, Roosh, and other companies held investment meetings and presentations. The UNIT.City innovation park presented an overview of the Ukrainian tech industry. Sigma Software Labs arranged interactive games and quizzes.
The Ukrainian startup community talked about how, despite the wartime challenges, the country keeps inspiring the world with its innovations.
UNIT.City was the general partner of the pavilion, while Flyer One Ventures, Ukrainian Startup Fund, SID Venture Partners, Ukrainian Hub, the EBA, UFuture, Sigma Software Labs, Bitcoin Magazine Ukraine, Iplace.agency, and WhiteRocks were among its partners.
The Economy Ministry, the Foreign Affairs Ministry, and the Embassy of Ukraine in Portugal were also the partners of the pavilion.
The organizers of the pavilion have also held a party in central Lisbon, gathering 500 people — including startup founders and investors. The visitors could help Ukraine by bidding for some unique items and NFTs at a silent auction for the United24 fundraiser.
'Technologies that save — not destroy'
The Ukrainian IT sector has shown resilience, remaining the only industry in Ukraine that still grows during Russia's war.
According to Ukraine's National Bank, the export volume of computer services for the first half of 2022 has reached $3.74 billion, which is 23% more year over year.
Ukrainian startups, meanwhile, raised about $350 million in the first half of 2022. The country's tech talent pool has nearly 300,000 developers.
Many tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, and SpaceX have shown their support to Ukraine. Microsoft President Brad Smith, for example, announced the extension of his aid for Ukraine by up to $100 million in Microsoft services.
"I believe in technologies that save — not destroy," said Zelenska during her speech that opened this year's Web Summit. "The potential and technology that can help, not destroy, are in your hands. And it is with Ukraine and right now that you can move the world in the right direction."
Reporting by Den Smyrnov from Sigma Software Labs.