Ukraine is quite a peculiar country. Nearly 40 million people sitting on more than 5% of the world’s supply of mineral resources situated on the crossroads of trading roots between the East and the West are the poorest nation in Europe.
People call Ukraine the “breadbasket of Europe” thanks to our country’s immense agricultural potential. Still, with nearly 30% of the world’s fertile soil, we are only potentially a global agricultural superpower.
My country is one the most prosperous places for IT business and startups to grow thanks to whopping 402 universities producing 36,000 graduates with degrees in technical studies making Ukraine a top offshoring destination but we are still nowhere near Silicon Valley levels of technological innovation. Nor near its impact.
I sometimes think that you can slap Ukrainians in the face with new business opportunities and they still wouldn’t know what to do with them.
Ok, that’s not entirely true…
Basic business scene in Ukraine
The truth is – we are learning. Our business scene is fresh out of the cradle, but boy oh boy do we catch up fast.
Our people have spent 69 years under the iron boot of the Soviet Union. Our fathers and grandfathers were taught not to stand out. Big Brother was watching with a very close eye and everyone who was reckless enough of hoping for more like starting a cozy family business and rising up to the middle class mysteriously vanished leaving nothing but peculiar tracks left by a pitch-black “Volga.”
After all, who needs their own money in the “greatest country in the world” that is already giving its loyal sons and daughters everything they need?
Then the wall fell and forth came the nineties bringing a peculiar friend – the alluring angel of capitalism. But what good was it to a land filled with people failing to understand the concept of earning more than one needs to survive?
People went wild. Some of them grabbed their guns. With those guns, they’ve achieved great power and wealth enforcing themselves as the “monopolists of business” with fear and raw power.
It took two more decades for the smoke to settle down bringing us to where we stand now – a country of people who are still learning their own worth. We still have some catching up to do, but we’re getting there like a bat out of hell.
Sorry for the sad trip down history lane, but I feel like it is essential to understanding where our business scene stands today.
In America, people are born with marketing in their blood. You’ll be walking through New York City and you’ll see a homeless guy asking for money. You’ll ignore him, but he won’t ignore you. He will smile at you. He will wish “a good day to you, sir” and then he’ll do something crazy like a funny dance.
You’ll want to give him money the next time you see him.
And you will.
He’s on the same spot every day doing his networking magic to earn a steady flow of repeat customers.
In Ukraine, people won’t smile at you even if their life depended on it.
How we connect and network in Ukraine
Networking is actually one of the driving forces behind today’s business scene in Ukraine. We’ve opened our eyes, looked at how our western friends are doing it, and are widely adopting all of the latest trends.
We still don’t have a clue about how “real networking” works and why it is so important, but we don’t have the tie to slow down and think. We need to stay competitive. Even if it means bashing our head against the wall until it breaks.
Photo: Lviv Startup Club
You’ll see all kinds of expos, presentations, workshops, trainings, seminars, and exhibitions everywhere from a local hotspot café to a mall, a business center, or even a football stadium.
Heck, from Lviv Marketing Meetup to Lviv Startup Club to Data Science #ODSC Lviv, both my calendar and Facebook feed are stocked up on nearly three dozen events I’d love to attend this weekend. And that’s only my home town.
To be frank, if there’s one word you can associate with networking in Ukraine – it’s passion.
Tips for doing business with people from Ukraine
First and foremost, I’d like to notice that we are extremely influencer-driven in our decision making, especially when it comes to doing business. We’ll always take a recommendation of someone we either know and trust over a portfolio filled to the brim with relevant cases or jaw-dropping success stories.
This brings us to yet another conclusion: More than likely, we’ll fancy the names of the speakers at the conference over the curriculum.
If you are looking to attend a crowded industry-specific even filled with prosperous opportunities – check out the list of the speakers first.
Also, we take great pride in the achievements of other Ukrainians. We love the fact that Grammarly originated in Kiev, People.ai was founded by a Ukrainian, and Petcube is continuously winning new awards in London. Referencing a project like that in a conversation or complimenting the person you are currently speaking to on having similarities with “the big guys” will indeed get you far.
Lastly, remember that Ukrainians are very fast when it comes to decision-making (we have some catching up to do, remember?). In the US, hearing from a contact you’ve met at a conference in a couple of years is the norm. In Ukraine, you either show your worth and value upfront, or you’ll be forever lost in someone’s business card folder.
Speaking of business cards…
How we stay in touch
Ukrainian networking as fast and all-consuming, as a raging fire in the middle of a sun-dried forest. That’s why we rarely actually use visit cards and rely heavily on either on social media or some other unconventional, yet memorable methods of leaving an impact.
An augmented reality-based marketing pamphlet?
Been there, done that.
A QR code on one’s T-shirt?
But more often than not, apps like Eight that are capable of storing and categorizing business cards in a convenient matter or Telegram and LinkedIn apps are our go-to options.
Ukraine may not be on equal terms with the rest of the world just yet, but we were 70 years behind 18 years ago. Imagine what will the next decade bring!
This article was contributed by Alex Seryj in Ukraine.