At CES, Ukrainian startups want to help their country win…

A dozen Ukrainian start-ups have set up shop at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with the aim of making their country triumph, both economically and on the battlefield.

The contingent was welcomed with open arms by the mass of consumer electronics, while, on the contrary, no Russian companies were allowed to present their innovations, due to the Russian invasion of ‘Ukraine’.

Before the war, Ukraine provided fertile ground for digital innovation, but the struggle has seen the country’s startups relocate and rethink their plans.

But, according to Karyna Koudriavtseva, director of projects at the Ukrainian fund for start-ups, who accompanied these companies in Nevada, they continued their activities.

“This is an opportunity to represent the Ukrainian ecosystem with dignity and pride,” insisted Ms. Koudriavtseva, “we are trying to save this ecosystem and make it prosper despite the war”.

Today, Ukrainians basically have three jobs: their regular job, volunteering and helping the army, she adds.

“I think it takes a lot of courage from our Ukrainian friends to be here,” says Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association, organizer of CES. “They proved to be able to protect themselves from the Russians, but also very enterprising.”

The start-up fund has chosen to highlight military technology, launching drone-centric “hackathons” during which engineers exchange ideas that are easy to replicate in the field.

“The start-ups present what they have achieved, if a solution is interesting, they will take it to the armed forces and directly on the battlefield”, explains to AFP Ms. Koudriavtseva.

But war is not the only theme present: the small Ukrainian robot Nanit makes it possible, for example, to teach electronics and computer programming, particularly necessary for jobs in the sector.

“When we launched our start-up, we wanted to focus on children,” says Nanit’s general manager, Vladyslav Konovets, “but in the worst situations, we can’t teach children on site, because of missile attacks and all that”.

While continuing to develop educational toys, Nanit has begun teaching soldiers on the front lines coding, new skills that can help them find jobs when the war is over.

“Of course we support our troops, that is our main objective”, insists Mr. Konovets, who adds: “Being a start-up is difficult in itself, but being in wartime makes things three or four times harder”.

– Save the planet –

Several Ukrainian start-ups at CES are focused on saving the planet as much as their country.

Releaf Paper is proud to be the world’s largest producer of bags, boxes and other cardboard made from dead leaves. The specimens presented do not differ from the usual paper products and the company guarantees that they decompose quickly.

Releaf hopes to build its first factory this year in Europe, according to its managing director, Alexander Sobolenko.

The war forced the company to be more efficient and seek markets outside Ukraine due to the impact of the conflict on the local economy.

Start-up Rekava transforms coffee grounds into disposable cups with lids and packaging, all of which are easily biodegradable.

Start-up Corner, on the other hand, allows you to design your kitchen online and then build it with recycled wood, for a price much lower than a new kitchen, according to product manager Julia Holovko.

“We are very proud to be able to show not only our successes on the battlefield, but also our successes on the economic field,” she insists to AFP.

As for start-ups that cannot directly participate in the war effort, do they help in another way, specifies Karyna Koudriavtseva? “We are doing everything we can to accelerate Ukraine’s victory.”

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