How Ukrainian crypto and tech entrepreneurs are helping to defend the home front
by Denys Andrushchenko
When Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in earnest, after months of military build-up on Ukraine’s border and endless lies that war was not coming, Vladimir Putin thought his war would be over in days.
As the world has seen since, Putin couldn’t have been more wrong, with Ukrainian civilians, soldiers, politicians, entrepreneurs and global allies fighting back with a united ferocity that has stunned the world, and given pause to dictatorial autocrats the world over.
The heroic acts of Ukrainian soldiers is well known, but less so is that of Ukrainian entrepreneurs big and small, who are also bravely working together to bring much needed supplies to the front lines and to refugees seeking safe haven, food, clean water, medical supplies and more.
Ukranians have transformed their lives at light speed, with everyone trying to prioritise human life in line with the fight or flight instinct. So many have chosen to fight in any way they can, with entrepreneurs fighting into the information, logistics and fund raising spaces.
So, what efforts have Ukrainian entrepreneurs made to help those in their homeland – and to open eyes among the Russian people, whose government has tried willfully blinding from the facts?
Ukraine’s version of Amazon is called Rozetka, and it mobilised its resources to organise the supply of humanitarian aid from abroad. It partnered with Nova Poshta, the biggest private delivery company with almost 10,000 branches across the country, and other companies by opening two logistic hubs. Today, it continues to serve Ukrainian customers, and volunteers rely on its services to deliver vital supplies, too.
Many businesses also offer their property, including cars, offices and warehouses to volunteers. For example, trucks and buses go on shuttle runs to the border, carrying refugees, and return with desperately needed humanitarian aid.
2) Info wars
Unfortunately, with Russians blind to what their government does through being cut off from alternative media sources or being brainwashed by Russia’s state media, Ukrainian IT specialists, media creators and everyday citizens have been forced to take action. They have joined a powerful counter-propaganda movement to:
- Protect critical online infrastructure, including the national digital portal Diia and banks;
- Spot and debunk fakes;
- Enact DDoS attacks on Russian government sites;
- Contact Russian soldiers’ families and random citizens of the Federation to tell the truth about the war;
- Saturate social media with the evidence of Putin’s war crimes.
This has resulted in a second (information) front in the war, with the IT army being the most inclusive and diverse army the world has yet seen.
Crypto fundraising has been a significant new way for Ukraine to receive support. As far back as March 24, almost $100 million in cryptocurrency, including NFTs had already been raised, and since then, tens/hundreds of millions more has arrived to help support Ukraine. Additionally, many entrepreneurs offered to donate 10 to 50% from their purchases to the army. A Ukrainian Smart Table maker started showing information about donations to Ukraine along the menu to visitors in restaurants across the world with great success, as global citizens rallied to support their Ukrainian brothers and sisters.
Another example are the Rotarians, who are mostly business people and who focus on coordinating humanitarian aid in times of crisis. The Cherkasy Center Rotary Club has been in touch with clubs from Germany, Poland, Romania, Italy, and the US to receive vital medicines and, where possible, to accept donations to purchase these items locally. The club’s members have shifted their companies to producing critical supplies, like medical kits and foundations for bulletproof vests, and others produced plates for the latter.
Local businesses in relatively safe regions have switched to producing basics for the army and refugees. Volunteers are cooking borscht for dozens of men who serve, baking buns for hundreds of women and kids who flee occupied areas, and are mass-producing energy bars for all. There are fashion entrepreneurs like Andre Tan who sew clothes and masking nets for soldiers; there are electrotechnical goods suppliers who turned into makers of anti-tank traps.
5) Economic blockade
Ukrainian entrepreneurs, investor managers and CEOs of start-ups have been reaching out to the Linkedin accounts of their foreign colleagues, asking them to stop business with Russians. They explain with clarity: that taxes in Russia go towards rockets that kill civilians and destroy cities. Recently, Russian politicians and propagandists allowed themselves to threaten all of Europe with nuclear weapons, which is a terrifying thought.
Those abroad continue organizing protests in front of the HQ of companies that continue hesitating. Entrepreneurs explain: “We save your reputation, and you save lives; it’s that simple.” Entrepreneurs in Ukraine’s IT cluster have also visited websites like Clutch and checked Russian IT firms, and their portfolios, to approach the clients from those lists. The message to those companies was similar – and there have been successes in getting companies to move away from Russia entirely, with McDonalds shutting its operations across Russia, and Renault selling its operations to the Russian government for a symbolic single rouble, and while entrepreneurs are sad to see businesses closing or forcibly sold to the Russian government, those government actors are reaping what they sow, and are seeing a global revolt against their actions.
Before the war, a business colleague was about to start the 10th edition of his entrepreneurship school. Now, he’s running a crash course for entrepreneurs who are actively defending their country, or “defendeneurs”, with the course being rapid and practical. He says that students value it greatly, as they see the mission, they are getting results, and the feedback is immediate.
Many other professional communities are turning into non-profits. Most of them are self-organizing and exchange tasks so they’re doing what they do best where they can to help, even if they are normally sales and marketing managers, copywriters, PPC experts or other web and IT professionals. One example is the Law Army, which consults to refugees free of charge, while product managers united in KOLO have become logistics intermediaries.
After peace is won in Ukraine, this war will be studied closely, especially the emergent cooperation movements – “The EuroMaidan Uprising on steroids”, as somebody pointed out. This article is just the tip – not of an iceberg but a vast hive, where Ukrainians are the bees: peace-loving, hardworking, but stinging when attacked, and boldly cooperative.
Denys Andrushchenko is the owner of a copywriting agency wtfbitgroup.com. His team works with clients in the IT sector, specifically fintech and blockchain/DLT, and helps bridge the current internet and a physical world with web 3.0. Denys also consults start-ups, non-profits, and government officials on SDG targets and impact investment. He’s an investor himself to Promprylad.Renovation.