Ukraine’s first pavilion at Web Summit: 15,000 attendees in 3 days

The first-ever Ukrainian stand at the world’s biggest tech conference turned out to be a huge success. Almost 40 percent of the Web Summit’s participants visited Ukraine’s pavilion. The presentation of the local tech ecosystem was also overcrowded, which included people from over 20 countries. 

In total more than 60 Ukrainian startups took part in the first offline Web Summit in two years. Among those who were represented at the booth were 14 startups that won travel grants from Ukrainian Startup Fund, Ukrainian Hub and CRDF Global.

Last but not least the Ukrainian party “Dreamland”, a side event organized by UNIT.City, Kyivstar, Softserve, and JKR Investment Group, blew the minds of over 200 people.

All of this was possible thanks to the co-organizers Ukrainian Startup Fund, Ministry of Digital Transformation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Embassy of Ukraine in Portugal, Sigma Software Group, Ukrainian Hub, Еuropean Business Association, iplace digital agency — and partners Digital Future, Kyivstar, Parimatch Tech, Rocket, Fondy, Avenga, ISSP, Concord Fintech Solutions, UNIT.City, Softserve, JKR Investment Group, and IT EDUCATION DEVELOPMENT. Information partners: Emerging Europe, TechUkraine, IТ Ukraine Association

It all started with an idea

Ukrainians are well-known participants at such events. They’ve been organising side events in Lisbon since 2017 and for the past two years Ukrainians have been among Top-20 most represented nations. However, the country itself has never had its own national booth a hotspot where everyone could meet, talk and get familiar with the domestic IT industry.

In 2021 everything changed. A group of like-minded enthusiasts, tech businesses, and public authorities from Ukraine united their efforts in order to set up the very-first national booth at an event of such scale.

This was done to meet several challenges:

  • To unveil Ukraine as a hidden gem on the global tech ecosystem map
  • To get acquainted with the top-achievers and game changers
  • To learn how talented people in the Ukrainian tech and business sectors can help grow international businesses
  • To reveal a new destination for business, investments and partnerships

Oleksandr Bornyakov, Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation for IT Development, is convinced that Ukrainians need to tell the world more about the achievements of his country as they already have something to be proud of. “We have the unique Diia ecosystem, the special legal regime for IT development called Diia City, e-Residency and other digital projects being developed and implemented in Ukraine. Ukraine’s first pavilion at Web Summit was extremely popular among the visitors, and there were no empty seats at events organized by the Ukrainian delegation. This confirms and shows that Ukraine can be trusted and should be here to start and develop business.”

Oleksii Vitchenko, Founder of Digital Future, said that this year his organization visited the Web Summit carrying two roles at once as an investor and as a startup. “We therefore have a unique understanding of the importance of creating the first Ukrainian pavilion in terms of such a large-scale technological event.”

Olena Bakalo, Co-founder & CEO at iplace digital agency Portugal visited the Web Summit for the fourth time. This year in a new role as the one of the co-organizers. “I was thrilled to answer the hundreds of questions from visitors about the Ukrainian tech ecosystem. Our country is building a strong digital presence, not only in the business environment but in governmental services as well. Along with the ability to present our achievements at events of such scale, I undoubtedly believe the world will keep discovering more about Ukraine in the years to come!”

The main event

Probably the most important event for the whole delegation was the presentation of the Ukrainian tech ecosystem and its achievements. Over ninety minutes, 13 speakers gave the audience a comprehensive overview of the local IT market and their organizations.

The participants had the opportunity to find out about the special legal framework Diia City, a brief overview of such sectors as cybersecurity, gaming, and fintech, and also why Ukraine should be considered an appealing destination for international businesses and investors.

You can check the full presentation via this link.

Here’s what Andrew Wrobel, founding partner at Emerging Europe, the leader of Tech Emerging Europe Advocates and also the moderator of this event had to say: “I’ve been following the development and growth of Ukraine’s tech scene very closely for the last decade and must admit that I’m constantly impressed, particularly recently with the strong focus on digital transformation, and also by the numerous startups and unicorns. All members of the tech community support each other, support entrepreneurship, and this has led to continuous growth. Several challenges remain, especially on the political and macroeconomic front, but the people make up for it with their open-mindedness, creativity and skills.”

Dominique Piotet, CEO at UNIT.City said that at this Web Summit Ukraine and its tech ecosystem were represented at the highest level. “During the entire event, the Ukrainian pavilion was one of the most desirable places to attend. It’s so cool to see the Ukrainian community really coming together, empowering each other, and attracting reliable partners and talented people from all over the world”.

First Ukrainian startup on the centre stage

Besides these activities something else remarkable happened during the conference. Effa, the first world’s 100% renewable and recyclable toothbrush made of paper, became the first Ukrainian startup to take to the Web Summit’s main stage to tell the world about itself and Ukraine.

Another famous Ukrainian project Reface also had its moments of glory. Its CEO Dima Shvets gave a speech on how AI is changing the face of fashion, entertainment and music and Oles Petriv, CTO at Reface talked about how we will live in a synthetic future.

According to Valery Krasovsky, CEO & Co-founder of Sigma Software Group, Ukraine has an enormous amount of potential when it comes to future unicorns and this summit was a great opportunity for startups to find new clients, partners and investors. “By co-organising Ukraine’s tech pavilion at Web Summit we have contributed to the startup ecosystem development. We are a unique service company that has also been helping young Ukrainian and also western companies grow and get new clients since 2005 with our tech and business expertise and network in many business verticals and more than 11 countries. During the past 5 years we have initiated 5 product companies and invested more than $6 mln into Ukrainian and international startups”

At the Ukrainian stand 14 startups had a chance to present their products and solutions to the international audience. 10 of these were selected and sponsored by the Ukrainian Startup Fund and another 4 startups were chosen and backed by the Ukrainian Hub (with the support of CRDF Global). Among them were such young companies as SPOKK, Organization.GG, Carbominer, Finmap, GIOS, Wantent, Algazeal,, Skyworker, AutoBI, Clasee, Djooky, Format4Life, and FlyAgData.

Results, takeaways and plans for the next year

For many Ukrainian companies, the resumed in-person Web Summit went very well. Thus, the Fondy team took away 300+ contacts of potential clients and partners. “In Lisbon we had a real team-building event for the first time we met our colleagues from Fondy UK”, says Valeria Vahorovska, Co-Founder & CEO of Fondy.

Cash flow management service Finmap also gained more than 300 contacts, among which were 20+ potential investors., a tool to perform semantical analysis of raw data, engaged 25 new partners.

Olesya Malevanaya, co-founder of Ukrainian Hub, as a co-organizer of the stand and other activities, noted among the follow-ups from startups that there were really great leads and contacts with investors and clients, which will help startups develop further and scale. “As an organization, we have received requests from partners from different countries (Portugal, Italy, Poland, Estonia) about potential cooperation efforts and are confident that we can turn them into joint ecosystem projects.”

Yuliya Melnyk, European Business Association Deputy Director highlighted that the EBA is proud to be a part of this development. “We have an IT Committee that was founded 12 years ago and our mission is to make Ukraine one of the best places to do business. During this time exports of IT services have increased almost 114 times. However, we have many more perspectives to develop. So welcome to Ukraine.”

As to the future, the org committee is thinking to continue this initiative and already making plans for the Web Summit 2022.

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