Announcing: Startup Wall of Fame Ukraine
We’re excited to announce the first version of our Startup Wall of Fame Ukraine – 12 outstanding Ukrainian companies who we think should be on the wall. Before we get to the list, let us explain what the Wall of Fame is, why it exists in the first place and how startups get there.
Startup = Growth
What’s a startup? Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator has said, “The only essential thing is growth. Everything else we associate with startups follows from growth.”
When putting together the Startup Wall of Fame Ukraine, growth was an especially important indicator. Essentially, these are the local tech companies with a unique solution that have already proven they can grow 80% - 100%. And that doesn’t mean once. That means year over year.
Investments, revenue, team
Let’s take People.ai, one of the youngest stars on our Wall of Fame. In 2016, they launched. In 2017, they raised $7M. In 2018, they raised $30M. You can do the math! When it comes to growth by funding, it’s not all that hard to scrape it up to $1M from FFF (Friends, Fools, Family - “investor” group that’s not overly critical about what they’re investing into), but to keep it up and raise past $5M - now, that’s an achievement!
Another way to look at growth is by revenue - if a company can grow its sales by 80% - 100% each year, they are a strong contestant to join the Wall of Fame. Our benchmark for this Wall of Fame is min $1M of annual revenue through sales. Comptera is a great example of growing steadily “into a million-dollar business without any outside investments”.
A third option would be to look at the employee count. Startup life is hard and competition for the brightest minds is heavy. A small group of cofounders might be ok working without a salary, eating noodles in a garage while building the prototype, but you can’t build a team like this. Growing from 20 employees to a 100 in a year indicates clearly that the company is on to something scalable.
Why even create a Wall of Fame? Because of the massive impact the most successful startups could bring along.
One thing is the economic impact on a local scale (startups create jobs; attract foreign funds and international opportunities; work with organizations to help create policies that support forward-looking business models, etc).
But another one - a much more powerful one - is the impact on the mindset of future founders and the startup ecosystem in general. If this happens, the ecosystem itself becomes scalable and could potentially take off in a very short amount of time.
Companies that have been able to achieve a high level of growth and successfully operate in the international markets have gained valuable expertise. They have very specific know-how, and are part of an international network - for a beginner founder both of these hold priceless value. In the startup world, mistakes are expensive, yet all founders will make them. If a young founder has a chance to learn from others’ mistakes and avoid even one of them, that’s already a big win.
The question is, what resources they have available to make the most informed decisions possible. This is why a culture of cooperation is so important in any startup ecosystem - in a community of founders, everyone can move so much faster because the support of the network. Shifting the local mindset can have a profound impact.
We can’t underestimate the importance of role-models. Throughout the 1990s, Estonia was looking towards Finland, dreaming of its own “Nokia”. After the Skype revolution, it hit Estonians that they can do incredible things themselves. Thus, the “Skype mafia” was born and some of Estonia’s most iconic startups were established in the after-wave - Starship Technologies, Pipedrive, Taxify, Transferwise, etc. Now there 4 unicorns in a country of 1.3 M people. With more on the way (the next two are predicted to “earn their horn” within a year).
Ukraine is yet to witness that explosion of impact in the local ecosystem. But the great startups and founders are already here - the list of Ukrainian Wall of Fame is the proof. Our dream is that the leading Ukrainian startups, with Ukrainian founders, would have a clear presence in Ukraine and help build up a strong ecosystem with their energy, vision, network, expertise, know-how, and why not, even funds! There are many ways to contribute.
So, the Wall of Fame is not only about celebrating business success. It also highlights the “willingness to give back”. It’s really about people who can share their success and help others grow.
The Startup Wall of Fame Ukraine
Without further ado, here are the first 12 Ukrainian startups that we nominate to the upcoming Wall of Fame:
The Wall of Fame Watchlist
And here’s our watchlist - the startups who are well on their way to passing the bar and/or really stand out with their values and the positive impact the founder is already creating within the Ukrainian ecosystem:
The Wall of Fame for Ukrainian startups is a work in progress. We’ll keep on investigating the startup scene. LIFT99 is here to stay - if you want to know more about what are we up to and what’s our mission, just come for a visit at LIFT99 Kyiv Hub. Our team would love to meet you!
In the meanwhile, we eagerly invite everyone to join the conversation, help us define the best companies, and locate the founders with the most potential.
Did you notice some names missing from the list? Which other startups should we keep our eye on? Why?
Share your ideas and proposals in the comments section below!