Posted by: Chip Laitinen, Economic Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Kyiv
Last week we celebrated Global Entrepreneurship Week, a time to recognize Ukrainian entrepreneurs and inspire new ones. President Obama has made entrepreneurship a priority for his administration and at this year’s Global Entrepreneurship Forum he called entrepreneurship the engine of growth that creates good-paying jobs, puts rising economies on the path to prosperity, and empowers people to come together and tackle our most pressing global problems, from climate change to poverty.
Startup founders are some of the most fearless people you will ever meet and share some important traits. First, they don’t accept the world as it is, instead, when they see a problem they envision a solution and then set out to make it happen. Another important trait is that they don’t cower under pressure. Many entrepreneurs take on powerful, entrenched interests that have no intention of letting go of their old way of doing things, but no matter the challenges, entrepreneurs don’t back down. Those traits should sound familiar, as they perfectly describe, the courageous Ukrainians who have envisioned a better future for their country and are striving to see that vision through.
That spirit is why I believe entrepreneurs continue to succeed in Ukraine, and are a key component to the country’s economic revitalization. Even during difficult economic times, entrepreneurs continue to create new companies, new technologies and new ways of doing business away from corruption and cronyism. These new companies are helping Ukraine connect with the rest of the world economically and culturally, and most of all, are creating new, well-paying jobs that are the foundation of the development of a new middle class in Ukraine. It’s imperative that the government works hard to provide the enabling support and environment for these startups to thrive, and that the financial sector and investors find innovative ways to provide access to capital so startups can grow.
Ukraine’s entrepreneurial success and future potential is based on its well educated workforce and connections to international markets. The technology sector particularly stands out because so many of the world’s largest companies rely on Ukrainian IT professionals to keep their businesses operating at the highest levels. These engineers, developers, programmers and other skilled and experienced workers offer a fantastic entrepreneurial resource. Not only do they have experience working with the latest technologies, they also see the problems faced by consumers and businesses all over the world and can envision solutions.
Certainly, entrepreneurship is more than just coming up with an idea; it also involves developing a business plan, raising funding, assembling a team, creating a work culture and selling the product. This is why I’m proud that USAID supports entrepreneurship efforts like Kyiv Polytechnic University’s Sikorsky challenge. Participants complete a rigorous six week start up school to hone their idea and find areas where they will need support. The program culminates with a pitch day for investors. We are also proud to partner with TechStars on a Startup Weekend held at America House where people of any age or background can come together to create a new business idea. We at the U.S. Embassy are proud to stand with Ukraine and to support Ukrainian entrepreneurs who are seeking to create new and innovative businesses that will power Ukraine’s development.