The new initiative looking to help Ukraine’s start-ups grow

Supporting growth-stage start-ups can pave the way for more jobs, business opportunities, and investments in the ecosystem, thus strengthening the economic environment in Ukraine.

The resilience of Ukraine’s IT sector has been a key factor in the country’s ongoing struggle to keep its economy on an even keel, even as it fights to liberate territories occupied by Russia.

Indeed, since Russia launched its full scale invasion in February 2022, the Ukrainian tech sector has not just survived but thrived. By the end of 2022, Ukraine’s IT exports had grown nearly seven per cent, even as the wider economy shrunk by almost a third.

In Emerging Europe’s latest IT Competitiveness Index, published in April, the country took 12th place (out of the region’s 23 countries), an improvement on 14th in 2022.

In a further boost to the sector, the European start-up accelerator Startup Wise Guys this week announced the launch of Growth Ukraine, a programme designed to empower innovative private sector companies and entrepreneurs active in Ukraine. The first cohort of startups will begin the programme on October 30. 

With Taiwan Business-European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Technical Cooperation Fund as a donor, the programme targets B2B SaaS start-ups with at least one founder with a Ukrainian passport, and is part of the EBRD’s work in supporting the recovery in Ukraine.

The Growth Ukraine programme will provide existing Ukrainian companies equity-free support, tailored scaling strategies, and European exposure. It is one of the first no-fee programmes to offer extensive in-kind support to later-stage start-ups.

“Ukraine’s IT sector has demonstrated remarkable resilience in wartime. Supporting Ukrainian start-ups is important at this difficult time and will be crucial to the post-war recovery and reconstruction of the Ukrainian economy,” says Alex Pivovarsky, director of capital and financial markets development at the EBRD.  

The programme is delivered online and managed by Mariia Tintul, the ambassador of Women in Tech Ukraine and head of business development at Startup Wise Guys, the most active early-stage investor in Ukraine.

Growth Ukraine will run in two parts, dividing the start-ups into two cohorts of six to offer personalised support to each participant. Applications are checked on a first come first serve basis and potential candidates are evaluated by an experienced team.

Growth Ukraine will take the selected start-ups through an elaborate four-month programme, focusing on the four main points of growth: strategy assessment; sales and marketing; people strategy; finance and fundraising.

Boosting reach

The programme focuses in particular on providing support for sales and fundraising activities to help start-ups reach investors and customers in European countries of interest.

The participants will work closely with Startup Wise Guys’ network of international mentors, investors, industry experts, and first-rate founders.

The programme’s promoters and implementers aim to initiate the active growth of start-ups currently struggling to reach a point of active growth. This will be achieved through intensive mentoring and targeted European exposure, amplified by online matchmaking and an on-site event in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“Ukraine has received much appreciated humanitarian aid and a lot of support for military tech. What we want to focus on with this programme is non-military help to existing businesses who are now struggling to break the glass ceiling caused by the war that prevents them from taking the crucial step into the European start-up ecosystem,” says Cristobal Alonso, Global CEO at Startup Wise Guys.

“We believe that supporting growth-stage start-ups will pave the way for more jobs, business opportunities, and investments in the ecosystem, thus strengthening the economic environment in Ukraine.”

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