Entrepreneurship is Vital for the Future of Ukraine

Posted by: Chip Laitinen, Economic Counselor, U.S. Embassy, Kyiv

Читати українською

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.

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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.

President Barack Obama waves as he walks off the stage at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Stanford, Calif., Friday, June 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
President Barack Obama waves as he walks off the stage at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Stanford, Calif., Friday, June 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

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.

Tech Expo Fun at America House, 2016
Tech Expo Fun at America House, 2016

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.

Ukraine on the World Stage:  The UN General Assembly

Posted by: U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt

Читати українською

US President Obama and Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
US President Obama and Ukrainian President Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

Each September, world leaders descend on New York for a whirlwind week that’s the diplomatic equivalent of speed dating.  Welcome to the UN General Assembly – “UNGA” as we in the diplomatic community affectionately call it.  Dozens of motorcades zip across the Big Apple to and from UN headquarter at Turtle Bay, leaving the rest of the city’s inhabitants stuck in perpetual gridlock.  Countries rent out entire hotel floors to build meeting rooms and temporary work spaces.  Staffers work around the clock preparing materials for presidents, heads of state, and foreign ministers, whose movements are coordinated down to the minute.  Even parking for official and state-owned aircraft at JFK is a carefully choreographed dance.

This year, amid all of the frenzy, Ukraine was a constant at the forefront of our diplomatic efforts.  You saw it publicly in President Obama’s speech – which President Poroshenko called “very strong” in his comments to U.S. media.  You saw it in the Vice President’s meeting with President Poroshenko, where we announced new that the United States would provide Ukraine with new counter battery radar systems to help equip Ukraine to better defend its sovereign territory.  And you saw it in Ambassador Samantha Power’s call for Nadiya Savchenko’s release as part of her #Freethe20 Campaign.

Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
Vice President Biden and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

But perhaps even more important than the official statements made in the General Assembly Hall are the moments behind the scenes, where leaders can connect on a personal level — unencumbered by staff and diplomatic formalities.  Take for instance the big bear hug Samantha Power gave President Poroshenko before the Secretary General’s lunch, or the warm conversation between our two presidents on the margins of  the Leaders’ Peacekeeping Summit.  These are highly symbolic of the relationship between our two countries, and our unyielding support for Ukraine’s democratic success.

That success is rooted in the ideals we share with the Ukrainian government and its people – the same ideals that President Obama spoke about in his address, and that the Ukrainian people have shown time and again their willingness to speak out and fight for.  When a corrupt government sought to repress your fundamental freedoms, you stood together on the Maidan and demanded a better future.  When Russia invaded Crimea and eastern Ukraine, brave Ukrainians put their lives on the line in your country’s defense.  At Bankova and the Rada, CabMin, the PGO, Ministries,  and Oblast Administrations, there are brave reformers press forward, striving to create an open and transparent government accountable to the people.  It’s change that we support, and change that we believe in.

Ukraine’s courageous young reformers at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015
Ukraine’s courageous young reformers at the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, Sept. 2015

But that change is not just the work of world leaders and senior government officials alone.  It depends on each and every one of Ukraine’s citizens.  On the brave men and women who continue to volunteer to serve at the front, and the volunteers who support them.  On those helping small business owners who fled the east set up shop in a new city or town.  On the police officer who refuses to accept a bribe, and the prosecutor who brings charges against the corrupt regardless of status or influence.    On professional, independent journalists working to hold public officials accountable.  And on people across Ukraine showing up at the polls on election day and taking an active interest in the political life of their nation.

That’s why I’ll never forget the image of some of Ukraine’s courageous young reformers – including friends like Natalia Popovych, Yulia Marushevska and Hanna Hopko – standing in the General Assembly hall with the Ukrainian battle flag from Ilovaisk.

Ukrainians are living proof of what President Obama said, that “the strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity.”  And that’s why I know Ukraine will succeed.

Ukrainians are living proof of what President Obama said, that “the strength of nations depends on the success of their people — their knowledge, their innovation, their imagination, their creativity, their drive, their opportunity.”  And that’s why I know Ukraine will succeed.