How we built New Ukraine in Davos
2 years ago, Ukraine was excluded from the official program of the World Economic Forum in Davos. 2 years ago the world was tired of hearing about our war and corruption. But then I realized that we cannot lose our voice in Davos and it was time to act. I have been in Davos since 2008, when I was recognized by the Forum as the YGL (Young global leader) from Ukraine. That’s why I saw how other countries are representing themselves, what kind of events are carried out by them, including in an unofficial program. By my initiative, we in the UVCA (Ukrainian Ventures Capital & Private Equity Association) began to act — to prepare the Ukrainian House. But a year ago not everyone believed in our idea. At that time we were supported by the Western NIS Enterprise Fund, and special thanks to Jaroslawa Z. Johnson for being one of the first who believed in the idea of the Ukrainian House. Later Ciklum, Dmytro Shymkiv with the National Reforms Council and the Victor Pinchuk Foundation joined in.
This was not enough for a full-fledged Ukrainian House, but we held two events of Ukraine Davos nights. We focused only on inviting investors and technology entrepreneurs from around the world. And we achieved success, more than expected — more than 400 guests came to us. So there was a “prototype” of the Ukrainian House, we and our sponsors felt the specifics of Davos and understood in what direction to move on. But the main thing is that joint projects were held, and investments were raised. Then we saw the result and understood exactly — the Ukrainian House would exist.
From idea to realization
The time has come for realization. The first thing we decided from the first day was not to ask the State for help. Otherwise, we would risk drowning in bureaucratic procedures, etc. We relied only on our forces and the money of sponsors. The second thing: our goals and program. The more our politicians talked about the problems in the country and the war, the less investments came to the country. Our task was to postpone the policy and present Ukraine in a pragmatic manner: from the point of view of investment opportunities and as a global technology partner. According to the experience of the last year, we knew that there is an interest in the technological sector and it is necessary to develop it. I vividly remember when we were travelling to Lviv by train with Olga Afanasyeva (UVCA Director) and Marina Vyshegorodskikh (Ciklum) and discussed the content for 5 hours. It was necessary to talk not about Ukraine, but about the world’s themes and trends. And first of all about investments and technological sector.
We formed the content part — 10 panels, which in one form or another were included in the final program of the Ukrainian House. Davos is always a competition for the attention of world leaders, for speakers, for knowledge, for guests. Covering the most interesting topics: blockchain, investment, crypto currency, agrotech and energy, Kyiv as a HighTech Hub, we eventually managed to gather speakers from 10 countries and about 5000 guests.
In Lviv, we presented our content ideas to organizing committee that was formed, in which in addition to me were 5 women: Olga and Marina, which I have mentioned earlier, Lenna Koszarny (Horizon Capital), Jaroslawa Johnson (WNISEF) and in the autumn, Alexa Chopivsky joined us as the director of the Ukrainian House and Svitlana Gritsenko (Victor Pinchuk Foundation) as a member of Organizing Committee. Many thanks to each of the Board for great influence. Together we make Ukraine House project comes true.
Later Natalia Piddubenko (UVCA), Tatiana Bega (Horizon Capital) and Ulyana Khromyak (UkraineInvest) became a part of the “expanded” team. And as such an “gender-blind equal” team, we moved to victory :-)
However, the main task was finding a location. We started immediately to solve this issue, after the first Ukrainian Davos Nights. While staying in Davos, we liked Timberland store with its transparent windows (additional visibility) and location in the heart of the city — on the main Promenade Street. Nevertheless, we were assured for four months that the chosen premises have never been rented out and will not be rented out. We had to use some “administrative resource” — our network, and we managed to get this location. Our team was able to reverse the situation and just in 48 hours to sign the contract. When people say that the 2-floor House was too compact, I would like to remind you that Davos is the only city in the world where millionaires live in hostels.
We knew that last year the “Russian House” was located 70 meters to the left from our current location. But we did not know that this year they will be located opposite us. About this we learned just a couple of weeks before the opening. Moreover, this created an additional positive effect of interest — in the first days of the Forum, the New York Times, Global Mail Toronto and Bloomberg wrote about us. On the contrast we won, first of all in terms of content and guests. And the main difference was that our House was formed only by business and investor`s community, while Russian one is by Government.
Our Guests and Speakers
As I said earlier, in total about 5000 people visited us: politicians, entrepreneurs, investors and journalists. We were focused on the world guests, not Ukrainians — why go to Davos to meet with someone you can meet in Kiev? Therefore, many people were even denied to visit the events that were already filled. By the way, this is another difference between us and Russian House, where even the panels were in Russian and it’s not difficult to guess who was in the audience.
It is said that this year more world leaders gathered at the Forum than at the G20 Summit. Within a week, all political, economic and business decisions are taken for the next year in Davos. But politicians are not gathered there to talk to each other, but first of all for a dialogue with business. We were given only a week, and the task was not only to move away from the old history, but also to present Ukraine to the world as a subject, and not as an object of economic relations. For this it is necessary to show why and what makes Ukraine interesting to the world.
For example, our panel on crypto currency «Where is the next Cryptohaven?» has become the most popular. The reason for this is not only the world trend, but also that Ukraine already exists on the world map of crypto business. Therefore, a week before the Forum, according to a study by Citi-Bank the Ukraine hit the top 5 countries on developing of blockchain business. Therefore, when guests came to our panels, they came not only to listen, but also to talk about joint projects.
Venture Capital panel, moderated by me took the second prize (by the vide views). During the panel investors from Silicon Valley gave their feedback about Ukraine. And by the way, as organizers, we did not pay any speaker. All panels were recorded, and video are vailable now on are available on Faceboook page of Ukraine House.
We did not ask for money, we invited investors to co-invest with us, to build joint companies from Ukraine. For example, the Vladimir Klitschko confirmed readiness to investment in innovative companies jointly with investors — UVCA members.
The last 10 years we are engaged in investing in Ukraine — and there are real cases that need to be shared. We invited guests to make joint technological projects, to open development centers in Ukraine of global IT companies. Probably, for the first time Ukraine have not caused pity, but respect from international partners. That is why people returned to the Ukrainian House, including for more substantive meetings, for discussing the details of cooperation.
During the event for investors with the participation of Petro Poroshenko and the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Sir Suma Chakrabarti, it is noteworthy that the second stated that Ukraine is in the top 3 countries in the priorities of the fund. By the way, the EBRD has already invested more than €12 billion in Ukraine. It was a signal for all participants.
Our country is attracting interest not only from American and European funds, but also from investors of India, Asia, and the Middle East. When they heard that Ukraine in just five years rose 75 positions in the Doing Business ranking and took the 50th place in the Global Innovation Index ranking (having risen from 56th place), they were surprised. And their first reaction was: to come to our country and see it with their own eyes. Well, I can say welcome)
It became obvious that we managed not only to make the Ukrainian House, but also to create and confirm the image of the New Ukraine with its creativity, innovations and opportunities. We showed Ukraine in a new perspective, in a new agenda. We consolidated the IT industry of Ukraine and investors who acted as one team.
As I said, we saw a willingness to come to Ukraine. And this is the first step to partnership. Therefore, we are already working on the Ukraine Discovery Tour, which our association organizes together with Global Shapers Kyiv Hub. This will be the 4th tour. If you are interested in the event, please follow the link and reserve yourself a place.
One of the most popular topics became blockchain and crypto currency. Therefore, we are already working on organizing a tour to Ukraine for specialists in this field, and we began to invite and receive the first responses.
On the 12th of October, as a result of Davos, we organize an investor conference in Odessa. Its guests will be the Asian investors.
We talked with the company that created the Robot Sofia, and representatives of the Singularity NET project. Right there we agreed to meet, and they are already in Kiev from Monday. Moreover, in April the Robot Sofia will come to Kiev, but I still do not disclose the details. I hope this will inspire and motivate our developers to create for Sophia “brother or sister”.
In addition to the preliminary agreements, there were even two proposals for my AVentures Capital fund on co-financing in the companies, which are in America, but with R&D offices in Ukraine. These preliminary agreements were concluded directly during the event. After Davos, I have more than 500 business cards. So the work is in…
Instead of P.S.
Some can be skeptical about Donald Trump, but in his speech in Davos, he talked about the same thing, only with regard to America. Also about the country as the technology partner, also about the attracting investments. And while Trump pronounced this from the stage, we in the Ukrainian House conveyed this idea to our guests.
During the time of Ukraine’s presence in Davos, unfortunately, we were unable to form a stable strategic vision of the future in our country. However, with the efforts of world business and the public we were able to change Davos. Due to this, the last Davos was able to change its attitude towards Ukraine. Unfortunately, the State of Ukraine has not yet been able to present a roadmap for investors, to formulate clear and accepted business rules for the whole world, a strategic economic map of the country and has not even made efforts to turn Ukraine from an object into a subject of world politics and economy. However, thanks to the actions of UVCA, partners and the public, we together were able to demonstrate the potential and prospects of Ukraine, create a platform for dialogue between the Ukrainian and world business.
We realized that thanks to our joint efforts, Ukraine has become more close and understandable for those who have a vision of the future and are ready for partnership. Despite the hard times that Ukraine is going through, we realized that it is our country that can offer new forms of cooperation to the whole world and give new impetus to new markets and the global economy as a whole. A platform for dialogue between Ukraine and the world was created by our efforts. We can and must continue this dialogue and get maximum preferences for ourselves. That is why, I propose the creation of the New Platform to form a new economic model, public relations both within our country and for the world. The work of the Platform in the period between the meetings of the Davos Economic Forum, I am sure, will be able to begin to change our country tomorrow and help all of us to form new alliances and partnerships in the world.
Special thanks for all Ukraine House Davos partners: Western NIS Enterprise Fund, Victor Pinchuk Foundation;
and sponsors: Ciklum, IT Ukraine Association, Horizon Capital, Blockchain Hub, Agro Hub, Unit.City, Hacken. SocialBoost, Northland Power and Bohdan Hawrylyshyn Family Foundation;
as well as Daniel Bilak with UkraineInvest and Julia Kovaliv with National Investment Council.
The text is also available in russian (sorry, it`s still my native language).