Economic turmoil throughout Ukraine and military conflict in the regions of Donbass and Lugansk have disrupted the lives and careers of many Ukrainian scientists and engineers. Through its online training programs and boot camps, CRDF Global strives to provide scientists and engineers from areas afflicted with ongoing military conflict, as well as other regions of Ukraine, access to tech entrepreneurship training and mentoring that will provide them the tools to rebuild their careers and regions and contribute to Ukraine’s economic revival.
From October 13-16, 2015, as part of its efforts to help foster sustainable science and innovation capacity in Ukraine, CRDF Global held 2015s STEP Ukraine Pitch Competition in conjunction with Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI) and its annual Sikorsky Entrepreneurial Challenge, Ukraine’s premier startup competition. The competition aims to spur Ukrainian innovation and allows emerging entrepreneurs to hone their ideas and receive funding for product development, including tracks for young innovators, computer sciences, engineering, robotic technologies and smart machines, mathematics, and an Intel track, whose winners compete in the International ISEF competition sponsored by Intel. This year’s participants received 573,000,000 hryvnia ($25,000,000) in funding from investors to further develop their ideas. CRDF Global’s cooperation with the challenge inaugurates its partnership with KPI, paving the way to continued collaboration supporting innovation and technology entrepreneurship in Ukraine.
Twenty-nine participants, representing a wide range of research institutions and industries, took part in the rigorous and hands-on program of training and mentoring by experienced entrepreneurs and business development experts from the U.S and Ukraine. The American mentors, Dr. George Gamota, Ben Littauer, and Catherine Mannick, brought decades of expertise in business development, tech commercialization, and investment in early stage businesses, while training program participants.
The training sessions focused on the core aspects of technology-based development, customer development, early stage funding and effective investor pitch techniques. In addition, Inna Gagauz, a representative of CRDF Global’s partner organization – Kharkiv Technologies Center, delivered an insightful presentation on potential funding and business development opportunities in the European Union. The interactive sessions, group projects, and one-on-one mentoring not only delivered practical information about creating new and scaling existing businesses, but also provided Bootcamp participants with an opportunity to apply this new knowledge to improving their business concepts and investor pitches right there, in the course of the two-day program.
On the third day of the program, participants presented their refined business pitches at the competition judged by a panel of experts from the U.S. and Ukraine. Winners of the competition received the following awards:
- CRDF Global Travel Grants to attend networking events and conferences in the U.S were awarded to three of the top-ranking entrepreneurs: Kira Liapina, Sergei Ponomarenko and Oleksadra Rohachova.
- CRDF Global Travel Grants were also awarded to this year’s most outstanding Ukrainian mentors -- Irina Afonina and Ivan Kulchytsky, allowing them to network with U.S. professionals and attend premiere entrepreneurship events in Silicon Valley.
- CRDF Global Mentorship Grants to cover customized six-month one-on-one coaching by U.S. experts were awarded to the second highest-ranked group of four entrepreneurs: Tetyana Kravchenko, Dmitry Raspornya, Anna Tashyryeva and Natalia Sherimbetova.
- CRDF Global “Special Mention” award was given to Rostislav Musiy for his tenacity and commitment to entrepreneurialism and innovation in the face of Ukraine’s difficult economic environment.
CRDF Global looks forward to hosting this year’s STEP Ukraine Bootcamp winners in the U.S. as it continues its efforts to rebuild entrepreneurship ecosystems and develop indigenous technology commercialization capacity in Ukraine.