Invest in Bravery: Ukrainian start-ups to meet Czech backers in Prague

Invest in Bravery is a project aimed at helping find investors for tech start-ups in Ukraine. It will be holding events in Prague – including a conference and workshops – on Tuesday and Wednesday and to find out more I spoke to David Nichols, co-founder of Invest in Bravery.

“Basically our focus is on supporting engaging with Ukrainian start-ups and businesses during the war, and also on positioning Ukraine as an undervalued and underappreciated asset or market for investment.”

How does investing in Ukraine help Ukraine in its war effort, or during this period of war?

Photo: Andrew Neel,  Unsplash

“Most of Ukraine is still intact, even though it’s getting bombarded with suicide drones and hypersonic missiles, etcetera, during the day and night.

“Life is going on there normally. People are doing business. A lot of Ukrainians have left because of the war, but those that are still there need to work. They want to work and they are able to work.

“And the IT industry is actually the only sector in Ukraine that has experienced growth – from the start of the war it actually grew.

“We’ve all probably seen pictures of Ukraine tech workers sitting in a bunker with a laptop, working. These are absolutely true stories, they are really happening.

“You basically can’t bomb a Ukrainian tech company out of existence, because they will work in bunkers, they’re distributed, there’s no factory to bomb, etcetera.

“So by engaging with Ukrainian companies that are able to work, you’re supporting Ukraine.

“And by supporting Ukraine you’re supporting what they’re fighting for, which is basically, from our point of view, democracy, the rule of law, positive human values, peace and prosperity in Europe and European integration.”

Are there any particular areas where Ukrainian start-ups are especially active?

“The IT sector is the one we’re most focused on. They have a lot of great products. There have been several unicorns that have come out of Ukraine: companies that are global phenomena.

“There’s no cultural barrier, basically. They can work in English, they’re working with a lot of US companies and Western European companies.

“And of course the defence sector: Defence tech is turning into a very hot sub-sector for Ukraine, because they are doing it for survival. And they are incredibly talented and capable people.”

What exactly will be taking place in Prague this week in connection with Invest in Bravery?

“We have been very lucky to get very strong support from the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Czech Ministry of Industry and Trade.

“On Tuesday there will be a lunch and then a start-up boot camp with some Czech corporates and a bunch of investors that the Ministry of Industry and Trade have sponsored to come and visit us – they’ve helped support travel, hotel accommodation and things like that.

“Then there will be a party at the [MFA HQ] Czernin Palace in the evening, to basically facilitate contact between investors and Ukrainian start-ups.”

And on Wednesday you have a conference, is that right?

Photo: Martin Vaniš,  Radio Prague International

“Yes, Wednesday is the conference. That’s really cool because we have US Ambassador Bijan Sabet coming to speak. We have UK Ambassador Matt Field coming as well.

“We have Vitalij Ustayj, who is the charge d’affaires of Ukraine. We have the minister of transport of the Czech Republic, Martin Kupka, and a lot of other amazing people coming to support that event.”

What would you regard as a positive outcome of these events in Prague this week?

“We want to show Ukrainian entrepreneurs who have built companies during the war, so in the most challenging circumstances imaginable… Some of them have literally founded the companies during the war and have brought them to profitability.

“We want to show the positive side of Ukraine’s future integration in the EU. We want to build excitement for that. To see them not as hand-workers or poor immigrants that are coming but actually rather as winners.

“These people are fighting for the values that the west is supposedly founded on and they’re willing to die for it. They are dying for it.”