Entrepreneurship is Vital for the Future of Ukraine

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

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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.

U.S. Company Earth Networks Partners with Ukraine Hydrometeorology Institute to Provide Real-time Weather Warnings Across Ukraine on a 24/7 Basis

Posted by: Michele Smith, Commercial Officer, Olena Stephanska, Senior Commercial Specialist, and Anatoliy Sakhno, Commercial Specialist, U.S. Commercial Service Ukraine

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On October 25 in Kyiv, a U.S. company Earth Networks (EN) and its partner, the Ukraine Hydrometeorology Institute (UHMI) publicly launched their nationwide Severe Weather Early Warning System (EWS) for Ukraine.  The EWS provides real-time warning of heavy rains, high winds, and hail, which is used by government agencies and customers like civil aviation authorities, to save lives.

AP Photo
AP Photo

 

In addition to its sensors in Ukraine, EN has more than 10,000 additional sensors worldwide.  EN integrates the information provided by these sensors with information from the U.S. National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Organization.  This extensive weather network – in conjunction with proprietary forecasting algorithms and technology – provides the most current conditions, refreshed every few minutes, from more than 2.6 million locations worldwide.

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U.S.-Ukrainian cooperation in this area began in early 2016 when EN and UHMI signed a cooperation agreement.  Immediately following this, EN installed 12 sensors in Ukraine, allowing EN and UHMI to launch their Severe Weather Early Warning System in July.  Moving forward, UHMI and EN plan to jointly market and sell their weather data services to businesses and government organizations.  Ukraine’s civil aviation authority is already a customer and EN and UHMI plan to bring more clients into the network over the next several years.

To demonstrate the full capability and value of their meteorological data services, EN, UMHI, and the U.S. Commercial Service in Kyiv recently conducted a seminar for prospective end-users.  George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine welcomed over 30 attendees from both the government and private sectors including; the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, the Ukrainian State Air Traffic Authority, as well as multiple airports, energy companies, gas station chains, and agricultural companies.

AP Photo
AP Photo

In his opening remarks, Mr. Kent underscored the importance of the EN-UMHI partnership:  “Today’s event is not only a seminar about a useful technology with life-saving public benefits, but it is also about international collaboration.  This system is the product of collaboration between two innovative companies – Earth Networks from the United States and the Ukrainian Hydro-Meteorology Institute.”

Indeed, the EN-UHMI partnership represents another step for Ukraine towards global integration, given that various mission-critical organizations in the U.S. and EU are already part of this global network.  For example, EN’s global network, which now includes Ukraine, also includes countries such as Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Georgia, Turkey, and Israel.

GE Locomotive Drives the Train of Deepening Commercial Relationships between the U.S. and Ukraine

Posted by: Michele Smith and Anatoliy Sakhno, U.S. Commercial Service Ukraine

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This fall Ukraine kicked-off the modernization of its locomotive and wagon fleet by testing General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive. In late September, George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, participated in a press conference held by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Ukrzaliznytsya at Kyiv’s central train station to unveil the new locomotive to the public.  According to Kent, “This new engine is a reminder of Ukraine’s recovering economy, an economy that is rebounding in nearly every sector after two difficult years.”  Kent also said that he hoped that after GE demonstrates its value with its locomotive that the partnership will between GE and Ukraine would expand into many other areas.

George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and GE Locomotive
George Kent, Deputy Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, and GE Locomotive

GE hopes that this demonstration project will show to Ukrzaliznytsya and the country the benefits of modernizing its locomotive fleet with U.S. technology.  Ukrzaliznytsya will test GE’s engine for four months and use data collected during this period to evaluate the efficiency and cost savings that this new locomotive could bring to Ukraine.  Initial tests are already showing that the new engine uses 20 to 30 percent less fuel and hauls twice as much as the locomotives Ukraine currently uses.  Maxat Kabashev, Vice President of Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), also participated in the conference and confirmed that since KTZ began using GE locomotives, it has saved over $300 million in fuel costs in five years and has set up a GE production plant in Almaty to produce locomotives.

General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive
General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive

In addition to serving as a symbol of economic recovery and as proof of the cost savings Ukraine could enjoy through modernization, this demonstration project also symbolizes a step forward in the creation of commercial relationships between U.S. and Ukrainian companies.  Though GE has cooperated for years with the governments of Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, this demonstration project is GE’s first major step into the Ukrainian market.  The Government of Ukraine and the U.S. Embassy are fully supportive of this cooperation given the scale and urgency of rail modernization in Ukraine.

General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive
General Electric’s (GE) TE33А freight diesel locomotive

According to the Minister of Infrastructure of Ukraine, Volodymyr Omelyan, after GE demonstrates its value with this locomotive, this partnership is likely to expand into many other areas.  “We believe that the locomotive presented by General Electric will be a success. I would like that General Electric was not only a strategic partner of the Olympic Games but a strategic partner of Ukraine. The corporation has all facilities for this. There are enough directions for cooperation: railways, aviation, other spheres where this corporation has proved to be a global leader,” the Minister Omelyan said.

50 States in 50 Days: Virginia — A Wealth of History and Diversity

Posted by:By James Wolfe, Press Attaché

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Virginia sign
Virginia sign, photo from en.wikipedia.org

At the time when the colonies established the United States of America, Virginia had the largest population and its leaders loomed large in the early days of the new country. Founding fathers from Virginia included General George Washington, who lead the Continental Army to win the War for Independence and served with distinction as the first President, and Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, served as Washington’s Secretary of State, became the country’s third President, and concluded the Louisiana Purchase, more than doubling the size of the country. In fact, four of the first five U.S. presidents were Virginians and no state has had more native sons become president than Virginia with 8 (Ohio’s 7 is a close second, followed by 4 each for Massachusetts and New York).

Louisiana Purchase, National Atlas
Louisiana Purchase, National Atlas

Jamestown, Virginia, founded in 1607, was the site of the first successful British attempt to found a permanent settlement on the North American continent. Roanoke Colony, also in Virginia, was settled in 1586, then abandoned, and resettled in 1587, after which its inhabitants simply disappeared, giving it the name “the Lost Colony.” (A fort and small sassafras plantation were established in 1602 on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, but were quickly abandoned.) Jamestown was settled on the shores of the James River, both named for King James I of England, and produced the first American manufactured exports to Europe after Captain John Smith recruited a few Polish and German glassblowers and shipbuilders to join the colony in 1608 (the Poles eventually conducted the first successful labor strike in the New World, demanding and receiving the right to vote, which was originally reserved for the English settlers). The Virginia Company ran the colony until King James revoked the royal charter in 1624, two years after what became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622 (by Powhattan Indians) wiped out nearly one third of the settlers. Jamestown served as the colonial capital from 1616 to 1699 (with a few interruptions) when the capital moved to nearby Williamsburg, where the College of William and Mary (the second oldest university in the United States after Harvard) was established in 1693. Both were named for King William III (and Queen Mary).

View of William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1902.
View of William and Mary College, Williamsburg, Virginia, circa 1902.

It was due to the College of William and Mary that I first became truly acquainted with Virginia (and Jamestown) – I transferred there after two years at UCLA to complete my undergraduate studies. The sense of the place’s history is one of the first impressions one has arriving in what is now referred to as “Colonial Williamsburg,” where the main downtown area and old part of the W&M campus look much as they would have in the early 18th century. One also learns quickly that Thomas Jefferson is only the most distinguished of the many famous alumni of the university (besides his other accomplishments, he also founded W&M’s cross-state rival the University of Virginia). William & Mary also educated U.S. Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler as well as U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Speaker of the House Henry Clay, and 16 signers of the Declaration of Independence (and George Washington received a surveyor’s certificate and later served as Chancellor). Notable graduates also include Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) founder William Barton Rogers, Daily Show star Jon Stewart and actress Glenn Close. Colonial Williamsburg has become a major tourist destination, famous for its open air museum with performers and artisans wearing colonial-era costumes and speaking in the manner of the day.

Virginia has much more to offer the visitor than this slice of its early history, of course. In the southeast, Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and Virginia Beach provide access to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and are home to a significant regional shipping port and U.S. military bases. In the west, the Blue Ridge Mountains and Shenandoah Valley provide opportunities for skiing in the winter, rock climbing, and hiking on the Appalachian Trail. The beaches on the northeastern peninsula shared with Maryland and Delaware (DELMARVA Peninsula) feature the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague, where visitors can camp among the wild ponies that inhabit the islands (and steal unattended food).

Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery

The state capital Richmond was the capital of the secessionist Confederate States of America during the Civil War. Famous Civil War battle sites can be seen in many parts of the state, some of the more popular being Fredericksburg and Manassas. More battles were fought in Virginia than in any other state, including Bull Run, the Seven Days Battles, Chancellorsville, and the final Battle of Appomattox Court House where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. The old Lee family estate in northern Virginia was transformed into Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, DC, and continues to serve as the country’s chief military cemetery.
The area known as Northern Virginia is more than just the western suburbs of Washington, DC. It is home to many federal agencies, including the Defense Department headquarters at the famous Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters in Langley. A picturesque bike trail runs along the Potomac River from Arlington, through Old Town Alexandria, to Mount Vernon, George Washington’s family estate, which is now a museum with a tomb housing his remains. Northern Virginia is home to many internet and telecommunications businesses. While cotton and tobacco were once kings in Virginia, the largest export today is computer microchips.