Donations, jobs for migrants, and shutting up shop in Russia: How Europe's startups are reacting to the invasion of Ukraine


Ukraine has quietly underpinned the world's IT development, with a growing population of highly educated, comparatively cheap software engineers building everything from banking apps to Snap's AR tech.

When Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country, the region's tech firms mobilized to offer support to their employees on the ground facing the collapse of their nation.

At first, many moved to evacuate staff, but now companies are opening up jobs for migrants, conducting widespread fundraising to help Ukrainians, and pulling their services out of Russia.

Insider looked at some of the key initiatives being led by Europe's startup ecosystem to offer a lifeline to civilians. 

Donations to aid Ukrainians

Czech rapid grocery delivery startup Rohlik had pledged to donate 1% of its turnover from February 24 to 28, and has launched a charity voucher scheme. 

In Germany, it hopes to donate at least €10,000 ($10,900) from internal fundraising and is helping refugees find new homes in the Rhine-Main area and in Munich with food and materials.

Estonian ride-hailing company Bolt said it will donate 5% of each ride fee to non-governmental organizations supporting Ukraine for the next 2 weeks, which will amount to over €5 million ($5.5 million), the company said. 

Fintech app Revolut has pledged to match donations made by users up to a total amount of £1.5 million ($1.32 million). The London-based fintech is headed up by Nik Storonsky, who was born in Russia but is now a British citizen and a descendent of Ukraine. In a blog post, Storonsky condemned the war, saying it was "not just horrifying, it is almost impossible to believe." He went on to add that the war was "wrong and totally abhorrent" and called for diplomatic solutions.

Nik Storonsky
Revolut CEO Nik Storonsky. 
Revolut, which is based in Kyiv, connects startups with software developers and engineers. While supporting its own team, the company has donated "a substantial lump sum" to the Povernys Zhyvym – "Back and Alive" – fund. All of the seed-stage startup's profits in February and March will also be donated to the Ukrainian army. 

Grammarly, a cloud-based proofreading tool based in the US and Ukraine, has offered additional support to both Ukrainian employees and citizens. On top of its existing contingency plans, it will "donate all of the net revenue earned from Russia and Belarus since 2014", worth around $5 million, to causes supporting Ukraine, a company representative told Insider. 

"Grammarly has also suspended service in Russia and Belarus," said the representative. "Additionally, we've created a webpage, offering a variety of ways for people to educate themselves on the facts of the war and how they can #StandWithUkraine."

In a bid to tackle disinformation, the company has also offered Grammarly Premium to "trusted media organizations in Ukraine" to "help disseminate truthful information". 

Cash flow management tool Finmap, which has employees across Ukraine, has reoriented its team to support the army, volunteers, and to stop the spread of misinformation. It is actively campaigning to international partners to close Ukraine's sky via a third-party petition on Open Petition.

Testlio, based in Estonia, has "wholeheartedly condemned" the actions of the Russian government. As well as relocating staff, freelancers, their families and offering cash grants to them, the company said it has contributed to organizations such as Doctors Without Borders that provide help on the frontlines of crisis zones. 

Supporting evacuation 

Kifki, Rohlik's Hungarian brand, has launched a website for customers to buy food to be donated to the border. Sezamo, the startup's Romanian arm, has organized shuttles from the Ukraine border to Bucharest. The company transported the first refugees to the embassy and airports on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, over 275 tech companies have banded together to support non-governmental organizations through a Tech For Ukraine initiative, according to Tech To the Rescue which is leading the campaign. The initiative has so far launched an Airbnb-style platform for refugees displaced by the attack. 

Jobs for migrants

Berlin-based Rebel Tech, a startup that repairs smartphones in its automated warehouses, is bolstering its headcount and will support Ukrainians with visas and relocation. 

Meanwhile Tractable, an artificial intelligence startup based in London, is aiming to do something similar. On March 1, its CEO Alex Dalyac said the startup would "carve out 20 jobs for refugees from the conflict in Ukraine" and  "provide long-term financial support to 20 refugee families." 

"Some of the strongest impact we can have for a refugee is to get them a job – i.e. stable recurring income – with which they can feed their family. We've been hiring for 40 Ops roles in Iași, Romania, which is quite close to Ukraine," Dalyac wrote on a blog

Free services

MacPaw, a software developer for iOS, is based in Kyiv, has offered free VPN software to Ukrainian citizens so they can safely communicate with their contacts abroad. Forbes reported earlier this week that it updated its ClearVPN service "with a shortcut that links directly to information on trusted ways that users can support Ukrainians", including links to petitions, fundraisers, and verified media sources. 

Estonian online identity verification startup Veriff has pledged 1 million free verifications to businesses and organizations supporting Ukraine, such as money transfer services, accommodation, or relocation services.

Ukraine-based Vista has opened up its stock photo service Depositphotos, launching a free collection called "Say No to War." The images, which are updated in real-time, "shows the brutal truth of what's happening in Ukraine from those on the ground," the company said, and are available to anyone from global news organizations to individuals posting on social media.

Suspending operations 

Bolt, the ride-hailing company, has suspended its services in Belarus. It has also removed any goods manufactured in Russia and aims to donate them to charity. Earlier this week, CEO Markus Villig announced that Bolt would donate €5 million to support Ukraine. In the next two weeks, it will direct 5% of its revenue from orders towards humanitarian efforts in the country.

Bolt CEO Markus Villig
Bolt CEO Markus Villig. 

The initiatives come as a raft of businesses curtails their dealings with Russia. Microsoft and Apple both suspended sales in the country while filmmaking firm Warner Bros halted the release of its new movie "The Batman." Similarly, CDPR, the developer behind the hugely popular Witcher series,  said it would no longer sell into Russia while tech conference firm Web Summit curtailed the appearance of Russian entities at its events.

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