Over the last year, Ukrainian startup founders have repeatedly proven that they can deliver great results against all odds.
Despite ongoing Russian aggression, the export of the Ukrainian IT services actually grew in 2022.
The country’s founders and operators have to run their business amid bomb attacks and power cuts — and the majority of them are actually positive about the future of their country’s ecosystem.
This resilience hasn’t escaped the attention of international VCs. We asked investors who are based outside Ukraine but keep a close eye on the country for the Ukrainian startups to watch. The catch — none could already be in their portfolio.
Here are their picks.
Investor: Smok VC
Warsaw-based SMOK Ventures launched its first €10m fund in 2019 — the VC has traditionally backed Polish startups, but now it’s looking more widely at the central and eastern Europe (CEE) region, including Ukraine.
Finmap offers a cash management and analytical tool for SMEs. It raised a $1.2m seed round in January 2022 from the Estonian accelerator Startup Wise Guys, Czech VC Presto Ventures, UK VC Sturgeon Capital and Ukrainian VC SID Venture Partners.
Right after the war started, the company lost almost all its clients and revenue. One of its cofounders, Ivan Kaunov, joined the army and went on the frontline to fight the Russians; the other cofounder, Aleksandr Solovei, moved to Lisbon, and has refocused the business to the European markets. In the following months, the company has rebuilt its client base almost from scratch. Now it’s fundraising again.
Founded in 2022, Stragaze is an app helping beginners, young adults invest in stocks. The app helps the users make investment decisions in line with their values, goals and risk profile. The startup is currently fundraising its pre-seed round.
US-based VC firm ffVC announced in September 2022 it was finalising its eight $50m fund which will invest solely in startups founded by Ukrainian entrepreneurs.
Preply is a language learning app and e-learning platform — it allows language tutors and students of different languages to connect for online learning sessions.
Founded in 2012, and currently headquartered in the US, Preply raised its $50m Series C in 2022, led by Owl Ventures, a specialist US VC focusing on education.
Read more about Preply’s story — and how it feels to fundraise during the war.
Investor: 500 Emerging Europe
Istanbul-based 500 Emerging Europe, a branch of US 500 Global, announced the first close of its second fund of €70m, which focuses on the CEE region, including Ukraine.
Kyiv-based Liki24 is an ecommerce platfrom which analyses medicine prices, allowing consumers to buy the cheapest drugs. It also offers medicine delivery service. It raised its €4.2m Series A from a Polish VC Horizon Capital, German TA Ventures and UK-based Flyer One Ventures.
Skyworker is an HR tech company which works like Tinder for recruiters and IT professionals. After the war started, its cofounders relocated to Warsaw, started doing business in European markets, and are now raising a seed round.
You can read about Skyworker’s story here.
Investor: Flyer One Ventures
London-based Flyer One Ventures is an international VC with offices in Kyiv, London, and Warsaw, that focuses on startups from the CEE region, including Ukraine.
Founded in 2020, Workee is a platform which provides business owners with clients management tools like CRM, payments and appointments. The startup, which was set up in Kyiv and is currently headquartered in Vilnius, Lithuania, raised a $600K pre-seed round from a Czech VC Lighthouse Ventures and Estonian accelerator Startup Wise Guys.
Others companies nominated
Respeecher is a Kyiv-based generative AI voice-cloning startup, which can recreate any target voice — a tool, which is used by filmmakers, game developers and content creators. Founded in 2018, Respeecher works with big name Hollywood clients. In 2020, it raised its $1.5m seed round from ffVC, Ukrainian VC firm ICU Ventures, and Dutch Acrobator Ventures.
Here you can read about how Respeecher has been coping during the war.
Founded in 2016 in Kyiv, 3DLook works on an AI-first mobile body measuring and virtual try-on solutions — a tool which is used by clothes retailers. The startup, which is currently headquartered in the US, raised $6.5m in a Series A led by US VC Almaz Capital.
Founded in 2016, Cargofy is a logistics tech startup — it uses AI that allows truckers to optimise their routes and take extra cargo on the way. The startup, which is now headquartered in the US, raised $2m in seed funding in February 2022, in a round led by JKR Investments Group, a Ukrainian VC, with participation from Flyer One Ventures.