Ukrainian Entrepreneurs Innovate in Service to Country
- May 25, 2023
- Global Programs and Innovation
- Ellen Stader, Alex Briseño, Kayla Johnson
"You don't know what will be in the future. It's about communication. It's about relation. It's about opportunities. It's about openness, about courage as well — to know people, to connect with people, to be open to making new connections, and to be open to providing the connections you have.”
—Kseniia Savchenko, participant in the 2023 cohort of
Ukrainian Business Leaders: Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurship
In March 2023, Texas Global welcomed 17 entrepreneurs and innovators from Ukraine to The University of Texas at Austin as part of Ukrainian Business Leaders: Promoting Innovation and Entrepreneurship (UBL-PIE). Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and implemented by American Councils for International Education, the program empowers businesspersons from across Ukraine to develop innovative economic, policy and business solutions.
A full-time, hands-on fellowship in the United States helps Ukrainian entrepreneurs work closely with Americans in their respective fields to build upon their work at home in areas of civic engagement, innovation, regional economic development, agribusiness and technology. Participants gain knowledge of sound practices and leadership skills, plus networking opportunities that position them to effect change in their businesses and communities.
To augment the workplace experience, Texas Global provides a four-day immersive and experiential professional study tour designed to strengthen participants’ skill sets, expand their professional networks and expose them to cultural experiences in the U.S.
During their time on the Forty Acres, several UBL-PIE participants agreed to speak with Texas Global about their experiences at home and in the U.S., including hopes and plans for their businesses and country after the war. Collectively and individually, they expressed a steadfast commitment to using their innovations in service to the victory and recovery of Ukraine.
Meet Some of the 2023 Ukrainian Business Leaders
Yevhen Popov is a social innovator from Odesa, Ukraine, with a Ph.D. in political science. The founder and CEO of iVote.com.ua, he served as head of the International Renaissance Foundation regional office in Southern Ukraine 2014-2022 and as a consultant for European Endowment for Democracy 2018-present. His Politscanner mobile app helps voters obtain high-quality information about any politician — including biography, platform and tax statements — by pointing their cameras at the politician’s image. This allows them to engage in the election process while sidestepping disinformation.
“It is a huge challenge to travel anywhere from Ukraine. Since February 2022, the airports haven’t worked, which is why everybody travels to other countries by bus or train. We appreciate the support provided by all the organizations that made this program possible. Everybody understands that there are a lot of challenges for the world and democracy right now, and that is why Ukraine needs more support. But we are so grateful for the support that the U.S. provides to our country and our citizens.”
Oryna Starkina is from Kropyvnytskyi, Ukraine. She has a master’s degree in computer engineering. In undergrad, she worked as an Android software developer for a local outsourcing company and interned with the Robert Bosch firm in Renningen, Germany. Oryna is currently building a software development agency called StarkSoft, operating via the online platform Upwork with clients from the U.S. and Europe. She also founded an educational startup to develop an app that helps English learners boost their vocabulary with automatic captioning for any audio on their smartphones.
“The program is super diverse. We have visited many different types of companies. But to my mind, the most valuable output is networking; we’ve connected with many different people, from talented students to investors.”
Taras Tymchuk is an entrepreneur from Kyiv, Ukraine, co-founder of World Communities LLC, and a founder of Open Space Works Cooperative. After earning a Master of Public Relations from the National University of Ostroh Academy, he found a passion in creating game solutions for education and business development. Upon discovering that no educational tools existed for mayors, deputies or people who want to serve their communities, his company created a game that helps players understand the complex issues of how a community and local economy work.
“Though my team mostly operates in Ukraine, we try to understand the world globally. That’s why I decided to participate in the Ukrainian Business Leaders program, to understand how business works in the U.S. and find some partners to further develop.”
Kateryna Doroshevska, from Dnipro, Ukraine, studied journalism and worked at regional and national TV stations before starting a public relations agency.Built for businesses, the agency provides strategic consulting, media outreach, reputation management and business communications for small and medium-sized businesses with ambitions for growth, globalization and expansion. Recognizing a growing Ukrainian focus on international markets, Kateryna also founded the nonprofit UA Business Global, which provides training, mentorship and networking opportunities to entrepreneurs aiming to globalize their businesses.
“The program curriculum included dozens of inspiring lectures and workshops and even more valuable networking opportunities. For me, it was important to learn new information about the Texas business context, hear stories from local entrepreneurs and absorb the experience of mentors who generously shared their insights with us.”
Kseniia Savchenko has an MBA in public administration from the International Management Institute and a Master of Finance from the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. As a private entrepreneur working in financial literacy and director of the Foundation SaveUA, she is building a marketplace to connect Ukrainians with jobs and services. Keeping in mind the 5 million Ukrainians currently displaced abroad during the war, her company is developing a platform where a Ukrainian may register which services they provide, and also find somebody who provides the services they need.
“We’ve had great support from the university staff. We really felt like students of the university … This is crucially important now for Ukraine, not only from the side of entrepreneurship, but also … for the life of veterans. We now have many veterans — and we will have many more — who will return from the war after the victory of Ukraine. They will need to start their lives over, and they’ll need to run their businesses. They need to integrate in the society.”
After an opening event in Washington, D.C., program activities in Austin and a closing event in San Diego, the fellows enjoy opportunities for further professional development workshops and networking events to launch their entry into the UBL-PIE alumni community. These Ukrainian business leaders become part of a diverse international network of engaged professionals prepared to contribute to the development of a strong and stable economy in their home country.