More than two weeks have gone by since the war in Ukraine started. As many of our Ukrainian team members and portfolio founders say – we don’t know which day of the week it is, but we do count the days since Putin’s aggression in Ukraine started.
Startup Wise Guys has 5 teammates of Ukrainian origin and 38 investments in startups founded by Ukrainians. The extended community of other startup employees, our mentors, and partners is even larger. This war is very personal to us and we strongly stand against violence and Putin’s aggression. We stand with anyone affected by the war.
Where do we as SWG stand
During the last 2 weeks of active communication on our social media and direct channels, we see many of you looking to us as a company that is close to Ukraine and also thus has both a certain power and a responsibility in this unimaginable and tragic situation.
First, we are humbled and grateful for the many initiatives and positive waves of help that have spanned from our network – from private personal help offers to larger campaigns.
Secondly, we have received a lot of incoming requests to clarify our standpoint regarding Russia, as well as other allies of Russia, like Belarus. We also see that apart from unimaginable physical cruelty and violence, the information war and aggression is picking up beyond the battlefield and is posing security and civil war risks to many other countries with Soviet past and direct borders with Russia.
Therefore we believe it is important to share our stance:
- We are against war. We are against violence. We are against this unjustified aggression.
- We do not and will not invest in Russian based companies (or companies which have business activities in Russia and/or any other company which has management bodies and/or beneficial owners in Russia). Nevertheless, we do support Russian- or Belarusian- origin startup founders who actively oppose Putin’s aggression and his regime. Founders, who have fled these countries should not be discriminated against based on their nationality or language. However, we also urge them to take proactive steps in opposing the regime, fighting propaganda, and helping Ukraine.
- One of our values says “we are founders driven” and will be on their side in good times and tough times. Apart from 38 investments in Ukrainian founders, we also have invested in founders from 45 other nationalities, including Russian and Belarusian ones. Furthermore, our team has 25+ nationalities represented. As long as there is a value match, we will continue supporting our portfolio founders regardless of their nationality or where they come from (at the same time working in accordance with the official restrictions also applicable to us as an EU company).
- SWG has an extensive network of founders, mentors, investors, partners and we have already witnessed cases, where hate or discrimination based on nationalities is publicly brought out. We clearly stand with Ukraine and believe that Russian invasion in Ukraine should be stopped immediately, however we do not support public social media “executions” and will not be participating in any public shaming or disputes regarding individual people’s fault. In cases of suspicions or signs of value clash and “pro-war position” among our community, we invite people to reach out to us and we will assess these cases directly and act accordingly.
- As the COVID crisis already proved, it is a community and aligned values that help survive. We stand together with those affected by the war, and we do so based on our values. We are totally and firmly against this unacceptable act of war, an unprovoked aggression and an invasion that must be stopped to prevent further loss of lives and guarantee Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty, freedom and democracy. Within our own community, we will not tolerate denial or twisting of facts. We will also not stand for any kind of discrimination against founders, partners or team members, regardless of nationality.
Heart first. People first.
Family – this is how our founders refer to SWG and the wider community around it. Our first and initial action was to check the status of our Ukraine origin and Ukraine based teammates, founders, and their families. And we keep on doing that on a regular basis, first, making sure they are alive and safe, secondly, constantly looking for ways we can help as humans and as an investor and employer. This has led us to create an internal “Ukraine help squad” that takes care not only of our portfolio, but also facilitates support to a wider group of people affected by the war. Our big, caring community in Europe and beyond has joined our efforts.
What is happening in Ukraine is heartbreaking. In a strange way it is also heartwarming to see our founders, mentors, investors, and service providers opening their homes to refugees, buying gasoline or airline tickets to those on the run, donating money, army boots, buying medicine, and more. Every good deed matters in times like this, and our community has shown a great deal of engagement and readiness to act.
Given the large volume of incoming requests and offers for help, we saw a need to systematize available support and information. Therefore we created a crowdsourced, but verified Notion database. It is sorted by country and provides information, from trustworthy donation links to accommodation and legal support. We have received more than 100 submissions of offers or help needed, dozens of families have found shelter and transport with help of this information. If you need help or can offer help, you can fill out a form and our internal Ukraine help squad will help facilitate.
Donations to larger initiatives are highly advised (see Notion for suggested donations), however, there are also smaller initiatives that help people first hand and directly. Our Ukrainian colleague Karina has helped launch a grassroots initiative – Ukrainian Sisters – to support single moms and the elderly in or fleeing Ukraine. Every euro counts and if you can take part in this initiative, please understand that your contribution will have an impact. Find donation information and more about this movement in our recent blog post. To date, Ukrainian Sisters have helped 170 families.
Next wave of challenges
As time passes, we see the next wave of support being needed. Many refugees are looking for further relocation after having a few days’ rest in the neighboring countries of Ukraine. People that have settled in their short-term homes away from home are looking for jobs and ways to sustain their families. There are many founders who have decided that their best support to Ukraine is via contribution to the economy and thus keeping their business running. They are looking for relocation possibilities of their businesses, new clients and markets. We at SWG are looking into setting up potential business relocation hubs and currently aggregating information about business support and regulation in various European countries.
While we started our own tech and startup job position database to leverage our network, it quickly became clear that the best thing is to join hands with other similar initiatives. Now, together with Ukrainians seeking new opportunities, Mirjobs, Vanhack, Relocate.me, and jobs4ukraine, we are centralizing our efforts towards a single source of job positions at jobs4ukraine, focusing not only on knowledge workers but also on blue-collar job opportunities. We invite tech companies to think beyond the regular need for tech talent and think of other positions that could be filled by people without a tech background.
These are very difficult, confusing, and emotional times. We admire the courage of Ukrainian men and women. And while helping on the humanitarian and business side today, we are looking forward to helping rebuild Ukraine as a powerful startup and business hub, as well as a beautiful and free country. We are sure Ukraine will win and peace will be restored.
Stop Putin’s war! Slava Ukraini!