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Y: The IT industry makes up nearly 5% of our GDP, something like 4-5 billion dollars. It did not come from nowhere; there were already people in the last century who moved the industry forward. They developed computer programming languages and made the first computers. It was this foundation which later generations were able to use – those that in the ‘90s founded small companies and brought them up to the same level as their international competitors. This industry is the future. I see lots of young creative collectives, start-ups, and products. This is a new economy, and Ukraine has a unique chance to leap forward. This book shows the transition from the past – from what has happened over the last 20 years – to the future, which is already at hand. I want our readers to understand that it is impossible to build a new economy without putting in special effort, especially in education. Education is foundation of any economy.
K: If I remember what I learned as a businessman [Kira made a decisive contribution which lead to the start-up Ring Ukraine being bought by Amazon for $1 billion], then Awesome Digital Ukraine is a pitch. You can pitch this with investors at Davos at the World Economic Forum. You can pitch it to your start-up investor at Stanford. I can name at least three points which make Ukrainian IT cool. Firstly, we are a space nation – we have had and still have a space industry. Secondly, we have many universities and our education is developing. Thirdly, we have many people who want to take part in the IT industry. I actually have an interesting story about this. When I had to go through a due diligence process [aka a procedure during which investors check out their potential investment], Amazon sent a group of lawyers, economists, and an informational security team to Ukraine. We were pretty nervous about this, especially the latter group. And you know what? A group of seven people turned up, and all seven of them were Ukrainians!
Y: Ukraine is in the top ten countries in the world for education. There’s no other national indicator like this, beyond talent and education. This is the basis we have laid. For me, this isn’t just some book telling a story. It’s a story about how Ukraine has changed, how it can still change and the sort of country she will finally become. Pay attention though – we are not writing about Ukrainian IT, but Digital Ukraine. The book’s also about the space industry, rockets, and biotech. I don’t know a single sphere of activity that could do without digitalization. This is a book about the past, the present, and future generations. And I would like to pitch it to other people, so that they knew about what we have in this country.
Y: Our clients in other countries say that Ukrainians have a particular shortfall. We are a nation of ‘troubleshooters’, i.e. people who are just good at fixing problems. ERAM Ukraine is only a small part of a global company, which also has offices in Silicon Valley. I remember lots of times when clients were unhappy with something and just said: “Let’s just give it to the Ukrainians to sort out!”. I would interrupt by saying that there’s too much difficult work there, and they would just reply by saying something like, “oh well, your guys will sort it out, you do have a talent for it!”. That is a property of the Ukrainian character: we know how to do better, and we just do it.
Ukraine is one of the few countries in the post-Soviet landscape that is changing and isn’t just standing still. You can’t lead a business without any dynamism to it. If you stop developing and moving forward, it means you’ve lost. In the 1990s, very few countries [of the former Soviet Union] were as open to change and investment as Ukraine was. We have key components, that allow us to create such a unique environment: openness, talent, and a lot of people interested in IT.