Most of the international relief efforts for Ukraine have focused on charitable giving and humanitarian aid. Some brands have ceased business relations in Russia as a show of solidarity with Ukraine while others have expressed support in more symbolic ways. One Ukrainian company, called UA IT Hub, is seeking a different kind of relief: patronage. It’s reaching out to companies in Europe and North America asking them to hire Ukrainian tech talent for their contract-development work.
Before the war started, estimates said as many as 200,000 computer programmers lived in Ukraine. Some worked for Ukrainian tech companies. Some worked as contractors for foreign companies. Some worked for large firms specializing in recruiting talent for tech projects. Many have lost work as a result of the war and are trying to survive on what little savings they have left, says Ivan Kosyuk, the 22-year-old Ukrainian expat who cofounded UA IT Hub and acts as its CEO.
The idea behind UA IT Hub, which now comprises a network of 1,200 programmers, designers, and other specialists, is to find project work for Ukrainian techies who need extra schedule flexibility due to the realities of war. While the group does have full-time workers, it also has many who can’t work full time because of family obligations and volunteer work as part of the war effort, says Kosyuk, a first-year grad student at Cornell University. Some engineers also need time to work on tech projects for their government—developing both defensive and offensive cybersecurity systems, for example.
“Even small tech projects can help us give jobs to people, [to] pay taxes to our country and keep volunteering,” says Kosyuk.
UA IT Hub puts together teams of tech workers who have the right mix of talents and time availability to fit the needs of projects. And the group’s network includes a diverse array of skill sets, from machine learning to cybersecurity to app development.
Kosyuk says potential clients sometimes worry that the Ukraine workers won’t be able to attend regular project management or progress meetings. So, UA IT Hub provides a layer of project management and coordination so that the programmers and designers stay in sync with the project timeline and other needs of the client. It currently has four people dedicated to building teams and managing projects.
When a project becomes available, UA IT Hub posts the project requirements and other information online. It then fashions a team of engineers that fit the project requirements, including skill sets and work availability.
“If the project requires two senior-level engineers we can do that; if the project needs 20 junior developers we can do that,” Kosyuk says. “It may require some combination that might need to change over time to get the best possible performance.”
And the work pays well. “The salaries we offer are 40% or 50% higher than what the market usually offers,” Kosyuk says. “So, instead of working 160 hours a week, the contractor can work much less and still get the same salary. That leaves them time for attending to their families.”
“I believe that the client gets a much better product and more efficiencies,” he says.
Being a registered LLC in the Ukraine, UA IT Hub pays taxes directly to the Ukraine government. Some of that money, of course, will be used in the war effort. The company does not withhold money from the checks of contractors or freelancers, but provides them with the paperwork they need to know how much they’ll need to pay the government.
Kosyuk says UA IT Hub has already completed one project. It built a system for an Australian shipping-equipment company that scraped the websites of competitors to collect data for competitive analysis and new product development.
It’s now helping a small U.S. venture capital firm develop the software of one of its portfolio companies that manages staff in hospitals, Kosyuk says. It’s in the beginning stages of a project for a Swedish recycling company in which it will build a data analysis system; also, it expects to build a computer vision system that accurately sorts different kinds of glass.
And things are looking up on the networking side. Kosyuk says UA IT Hub has been in talks with CitiBank and Stanford University about potential partnerships. In fact, both companies invited Kosyuk and company to present a business plan on their respective campuses.
Kosyuk has family members who chose to remain in Ukraine. His parents are both business people who run food production facilities. They now spend most of their time visiting factory floors to help make sure that food production continues during the war. He also has an uncle who is a doctor and works near the front lines operating on wounded soldiers.
Kosyuk told me he was very worried for his family members during the first days of the war in late February when many people believed the Russian army would easily take Kyiv and oust the Zelensky government. But as it became clear that a Russian victory is far from assured (or even likely), his anxiety receded.
“I believe that my family will be safe,” he says. “I’m very inspired that they decided to stay and help.”