Kharkiv: The Hidden Hotbed Of Innovation In Eastern Ukraine

Published on:

Eastern Europe is continuously making its way up on the technology map. We're taking a closer look at the developments of a special gem in Eastern Ukraine: Kharkiv!

Eastern Europe is increasingly perceived as a valuable source of technical talent, as well as an emerging ecosystem for technology businesses. The region’s biggest country—Ukraine—has seen a growth in attention from both investors looking for ventures to fund, and tech companies interested in tackling its nearly endless talent pool.

Not many, however, wander beyond arguably the most well-known Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Lviv. The second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv has long since become one of the country’s major technological and educational hubs. Although often overlooked by tourists and the media, the city has more than 22,000 IT professionals working across more than 200 small and medium tech companies.

In addition to that, more than 200,000 students are enrolled in Kharkiv’s 80-odd universities. Five of the highest-ranked universities that specialise in technical education bring more than 2,000 graduates to the industry every year. This combination of industry and education makes Kharkiv a hidden gem, and creates a wide range of opportunities for companies looking to expand their R&D facilities in the region.

The Big Names

A number of major local and international technology industry players have been working with Kharkiv-based software developers. The list of well-known customers of local companies includes Microsoft, Aol, BuzzFeed, Thomson Reuters, Wellness Layers, The Huffington Post, among many others.

“The city has a great ambience to it, and it’s really genuine,” said Amir Kishon, founder and CEO of Wellness Layers, which has partnered with Kharkiv-based Agilites to develop digital therapeutics solutions. “People there are highly motivated, highly intelligent, highly inquisitive, and willing to learn—similarly to those you could meet in Silicon Valley or in Israel. I can also say that the team we work with consists of some of the best people we have in the company as a whole.”

Some of the technology companies went even further than partnering with local suppliers. In 2013, Canadian-founded transportation giant Bombardier opened an engineering centre in Kharkiv. Employing 28 people as of 2015, the site “provides a full range of rail control services including design, turn-key signalling, telecommunications projects and maintenance services.”

Kharkiv-based telecommunications-focused software development company Telesens has built a number of solutions for NEC, Nokia, and Telia, as well as the biggest local mobile networks: MTS, Kyivstar, and Life. The company has built Tinterconnect, the interconnect billing and settlement system that has become quite popular among cell operators across the world.

Another notable service software development company in Kharkiv is INSART, which works with, amongst others, SalsaLabs — the US-based CRM and Online Engagement platform for non-profit organisations. Salsa Labs is a CRM system, payment platform, and an online marketing suite for non-profits, which INSART has helped for a number of years. In addition to that, the Kharkiv-based company has been certified as a trusted software vendor by ACI Worldwide, a NASDAQ-traded multi-billion company that provides services to the world’s biggest banks. “We’ve done a number of projects for ACI Worldwide. Last year ACI Worldwide acquired PAY.ON, a German based company that provides white-label solutions to payment service providers and acquirers. Now we extend the PAY.ON connector network and develop new connections to banks / acquirers and other financial entities,” said INSART CEO Vasyl Soloshchuk.

In order to coordinate the effort to create a thriving environment for IT companies in the city, local companies have formed Kharkiv IT Cluster. Launched in 2015, the non-governmental organisation is tasked with helping the city to develop as one of Eastern Europe’s main technology hubs.

The cluster currently consists of more than 25 companies, and offers international players a sort of API to local suppliers. This includes easy access to the talent pool in companies and universities, as well as fast-tracked support from state officials.

Feel Kharkiv’s Vibe

The unique atmosphere of the Kharkiv tech scene is supported by a number of events held throughout the year. Among the largest ones are the AI Ukraine and Kharkiv.js conferences, which gather hundreds of people interested in the latest innovations in software development and computer science.

The interest in the scientific fundamentals of today’s tech shared by most Kharkiv IT professionals’ is primarily down to the high-quality education most of them received through local universities. The IT Cluster currently works with seven of them, including National Technical University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”, Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics, Vasyl Karazin Kharkiv National University, and Mykola Zhukovsky National Aerospace University “Kharkiv Aviation Institute.”

Many of the alumni of these universities have participated in the final stages of the international programming contest series ACM ICPC. Dozens, if not hundreds, currently work at Google, Samsung, Amazon, and other technology giants in different parts of the world.

Graduates of Kharkiv universities have also built exciting technology products and companies known far beyond the borders of Ukraine. For example, Yevgeniy Shpika is the founder and CEO of the media asset management system, which is used by a number of enterprises in the US. Alexander Kolb, alumnus of Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics, is the head of Promodo, an international internet marketing services company he founded more than 10 years ago.

There are also a number of professional meetups and smaller conferences in the city, attended by people working in the industry and eager to learn new techniques and practices. Most of these are organised by local companies and somewhat reflect their focus.

“The more companies will be involved in this movement, the better,” said Vasyl Soloshchuk, whose company is the founder of the Smart Club meetups series on Java, JavaScript, Quality Assurance, and other disciplines and programming languages. “Our goal is to form a community and allow more people to share their knowledge.”

Something For Everyone

In addition to building their own products and working with technology giants on their projects, Kharkiv-based companies have been involved in a number of promising startups from all over the world.

The team at Sloboda Studio, for example, has worked closely with CityFALCON, a London-based fintech startup that was awarded the first runner-up prize at Twitter’s global startup competition. The service provides a personalised financial news feed powered by machine learning algorithms and crow curation.

Another local company, HoustonApps, has created Paydock, a payment management solution that allows businesses to forget about buggy gateways that take ages to set up properly.

“And we moved forward applying our experience to new custom projects,” the company said in a recent job posting. ” We help medium and large businesses from Australia and the States to develop perfect software for their needs.”

Amsterdam-based healthcare startup Bruxlab has a lasting relationship with another Kharkiv-based developer—Altexsoft. The team has created a machine learning algorithm that is able to distinguish teeth grinding from other noises made by the human body, which allows for early diagnosis of sleep bruxism. It also developed an iOS app for the startup, as well as a solution for communications between the doctor and patient.

The vibrant tech scene, unparalleled talent, and the wide expertise of local R&D suppliers makes Kharkiv a perfect high-tech business destination in Eastern Europe. From bootstrapping startups to enterprises, the city is able to offer a solution to any problem. With the rate at which the local ecosystem has been developing, it’s also easy predict that it will secure its position on the world technology map sooner rather than later.



Sharing is caring!