Supporting Ukraine: The response of European startups and how to help

Scenes have come to European soils that the majority of us never could have expected to experience in our lifetime. As Ukraine has experienced invasion from Russian forces, the continent has been left shaken, shocked, and overwhelmed by what has happened. 

During this time, across Europe, we have seen heartbreaking footage emerge from Ukraine of civilians sheltering in underground stations, fleeing their country in desperation, and people across the nation taking up arms in an effort to defend their homes. We have all been inspired by different stories of people bravely stepping up to confront this invasion – one such example that captured our readers’ attention being Kira Rudik.

In such uncertain and frightening times, many of us want to take action, to support those suffering. Across Europe, we have also seen an incredible swing of solidarity towards Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. From collection points sending vital supplies to IDPs and refugees to financial and political support and beyond, the dire situation has shown the continent is united. 

The European startup ecosystem has also been playing a key role in supporting Ukraine during this time. Countries such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are giving practical information and tools for startup founders to get visas, and companies are getting help to relocate HQs. Ukraine itself has a thriving and healthy startup ecosystem and an inventive and talented nation known for creativity and an ability to come up with innovative solutions to everyday challenges. It is a resilient nation, and that is clear to see today. 

Here, we look at the reactions of different players in the European startup ecosystem, as well as how we can continue to best support Ukraine and Ukrainian civilians. We will keep updating this page, so let us know of any initiatives we should include. 

TechUkraine

TechUkraine is leading the charge on tackling disinformation, playing a vital role to ensure that verified information is disseminated about the ongoings of the war. It is encouraging people to spread only verified information and is also supporting organisations that strengthen Ukraine’s defence capabilities, as well as providing verified sources and links to important social media accounts.

“Tech community, being an active part of the society, consisting of thousands of educated people with a global outlook, is one of the pillars of Ukraine’s resistance”

People for People (Bunq, MessageBird and Picnic)

Established by three dutch entrepreneurs (Ali Niknam (bunq), Joris Beckers (Picnic) and Robert Vis (MessageBird)), the People for People foundation has been set up to support refugees fleeing the conflict. Already, the foundation has been providing temporary accommodation in Bulgaria and Georgia and is assisting Ukrainians in the process of getting work visas in the Netherlands. 

The aim is to get as many people to safety as possible – Ukrainians and Russians alike. The platform is working tirelessly to help people return to live with peace and harmony and are connecting those who want to help, with people who desperately need it. 

Tech to the Rescue

Polish initiative Tech to the Rescue is using tech to provide solutions. Founded at the start of the pandemic, the movement has now pivoted to support Ukraine. They have launched TechforUkraine to help design digital solutions to maximise impact. One of the first is razemzwami.pl, which aims to provide authoritative information collated from reputable sources. They have also launched SOS UA, an AirBnB-style platform that will connect those seeking help with those that can provide it.

GlovologoGlovo is encouraging solidarity and support. The team has developed a strategy to put people first and prioritise safety and wellbeing. All Glovo employees in Ukraine are being supported to move out of the north of the country and move west if they can. Glovo is offering temporary accommodation for those employees able to move into neighbouring Moldova, Poland and Romania and salaries have been advanced. The firm is encouraging employees at Glovo to donate supplies and ride for a cause. For each ride, Glovo will donate 15€ directly to Ukrainian Red Cross this month. Glovo launched in Ukraine in 2018, and set out a plan to support its community almost immediately with the onslaught of this crisis. On March 9th, Glovo announced its platform had been made available to provide essential services in 20 cities across Ukraine, including Kyiv. Glovo will not have any financial gains from the service in Ukraine and has waived the commissions/delivery fees to partners, NGOS and pharmacies.

Crypto-platform Bitpanda is enabling users to donate the crypto assets of their choice to their dedicated and newly-set-up Emergency Response Fund, contributing to causers that provide humanitarian support to people affected by the war. The firm has begun the campaign with their own donation of €100k, will match all donations up to €500k, and each of the founders are making an individual donation of €50k to the fund. The initial beneficiaries will be Save the Children – Ukraine Crisis Relief Fund and Doctors Without Borders (MSF). Further, with the eviction of Russia from SWIFT, Bitpanda has been keeping its community updated in terms of what this means for each of us. Keeping people informed is one of the best ways we can be supportive of people suffering in this war. The company is also placing a strong emphasis on ensuring team members are supported in prioritising their mental health and wellbeing, recognising that this is an anxiety-inducing time for all of us.  To this end, the startup is offering free and anonymous mental health support to all team members.

 Delivery Hero is working internally to actively support any employees who have been affected and who require assistance for themselves and their families, with travel, accommodation, salary advances, and paid time off. The company is working with the World Food Programme to redirect the meal donations feature to support the Ukrainian emergency food assistance operation. Users can directly donate towards helping the people in Ukraine and to those in neighbouring countries who have been displaced as a result of the invasion. They will match any donations made by employees to the International Red Cross, to the value of €1 million.

Based in Estonia, Bolt is donating 5% of every order in Europe to NGOs supporting Ukraine, including the Red Cross. It’s predicted the company will be able to donate more than €5 million over the next two weeks and have already sent €1 million. In addition, the firm reduced the commission for all services in Ukraine to zero and incentivised drivers in Poland and Slovakia to accept rides on the Ukrainian border to transport people to safe destinations – helping to keep people moving. Bolt has taken the decision to remove all products produced in Russia or associated with Russian companies from Bolt Market, as well as to close down all operations in Belarus.

Fintechs For Ukraine has been launched to encourage tech firms to raise as much money as possible to help support victims of the crisis. All donations raised will go directly to Save the Children’s Ukraine Appeal which aims to see the fintech community, across Europe and beyond, join forces and come together by pledging money in support of the campaign. Monneo is launching the campaign, covering the payment costs to ensure 100% of donations go to the charity. Monneo is also urging businesses who may not currently be able to afford cash donations to consider promoting and sharing the message of its new initiative instead, via their social media channels. Lili Metodieva, Managing Director of Monneo commented: “As we watch the horror unfolding in Ukraine, we really wanted to find a way to help. We hope to encourage our colleagues and peers to stand together and raise as much money as we possibly can to directly help the people in Ukraine in desperate need of vital supplies.”

Single.Earth is launching a #StandWithUkraine NFT collection, will all proceeds going towards Ukraine. Over 2000 unique artwork, created by Duncan Halleck, represent the Ukrainian people holding on to their country’s freedom. The NFT collection will be sale on the Magic Eden marketplace and proceeds will go to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Silicon Castles, together with its European startup community, investors and the business incubator Startup Salzburg has launched Startups for Ukraine delivering medical supplies to Lviv and taking refugees back to Salzburg. The initiative collects medical supplies and monetary donations (used to buy medical supplies), deliver these medical supplies to the Polish-Ukrainian border and, on the way back, brings Ukrainian refugees to Salzburg. Silicon Castles has close contact with a former SEA (Startup Executive Academy) participant in Lviv who makes sure the medical supplies successfully arrive where they are needed most.

Initiatives from across Europe

  • Ukrainian startup Choice31 is dedicated to online education. In simple words, it helps to enter IT without technical skills. The company transfers 50% of all sales to the official aid fund for those who suffered from the war. They offer education for refugees in different digital areas: PPC, SEO, and ASO. Choice31 is announcing an open call for those who want to support education for refugees financially. You can donate so that Ukrainian refugees can get an education. This will not only support Ukraine but also reduce the economic burden on EU countries. Just fill in the form, and representatives of the Ukrainian startup Choice31 will contact you to discuss all details.
  • JustAnswer, which connects people with experts and has hired extensively in Ukraine, developed plans to ensure staff safety. It is now helping its staff create shelter spaces or even relocate to safer areas. 
  • While Ukraine-founded Grammarly is moving operations from the country so that Ukrainian staff can focus on their families’ welfare, it remains committed to the country, continuing to hire there and offering reassurance to staff that jobs are secure.
  • Emma Heap, the co-founder of Sudor, is working to bring awareness to the fact that companies need to continue supporting employees, and hiring talent, in Ukraine. She, alongside Maciej Szczepaniak, is working on a project to support Ukrainian developers and build a sustainable and scalable solution for many startups like Sudor to support their teams in Ukraine during the war.
  • Shypple has opened up its network, office and connections to help with transport, visas, housing and more.
  • Nostics is using its infrastructure to gather and send medical supplies like surgical disinfection and medical gloves to Ukraine.
  • Lumaly is putting its dev team to work to help Ukrainians find new housing in Germany
  • Uni Systems have opened up job offering in Greece, Brussels, Luxembourg, Romania, Italy and Spain (with the option to work remotely) for Ukrainians affected by the war.
  • Urban Impact Agency has put together a new “digital airlift” for Ukrainians coming to Berlin, to quickly find their way around the various support offers in the city. The multilingual project has been led by Sophie Persigehl, Oleksandra ‘Alex’ Kovbasko and Jonas Schorr.
  • Canva is working with a number of nonprofits including UNHCR, Save the Children Ukraine, Tabletochki, UNICEF, and World Vision. The company is shipping 3,000 USB power banks to displaced people who have had to flee their homes for safety and has already donated $1 million with an additional pledge to match team donations up to $5k per team member.
  • Remote has partnered with Portugal to bring Ukrainians to live and work there
  • The Latvian startup ecosystem expressed solidarity and will support tech workers with Visa applications. “During these dark times, we invite you to remember that even small voices carry great power if they are united.”
  • Rockit has offered free co-working spaces to fintech and sustainable innovation Ukrainian startups relocating to Lithuania.
  • Predica has turned its Warsaw office into a welcoming home for Ukrainian refugees, consisting of 30 beds, a kitchen, bathrooms, and a garden.
  • The Ministry of Interior of Estonia has announced measures and support on how to enter and stay in Estonia.
  • Procesio is offering all startups access to its plans for free, keeping operations running. The firm is also providing office space at its Bucharest HQ for startups and founders that have made the decision to flee Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian cyber startup Cyber Unit Tech launched a global anti-war hackathon.
  • The German startup Wunderflats is offering 3500 flats for Ukrainian refugees.
  • Reface is directing its tech to the Ukrainian military effort. The app, which allows people to map their faces onto other photos, is being used to share images and messages from the war zone and is targeting their 5.5 million Russian users to share news and images that the Russian state media are less likely to show. 
  • Healthtech firm DocPlanner has created a list of doctors ready to provide Ukrainian citizens with free medical consultations as part of a campaign launched called ‘Doctors for Ukraine’. The service has been launched in partnership with Telemedi. 
  • Bulgarian company BESCO is working with the government to open up borders for tech talent.
  • Euratechnologies is sponsoring visa applications for tech founders and their families, and offering free access to its acceleration programmes.
  • Spanish Startups will provide free consultancy for all the startups and founders who would like to move to Spain and provide assistance about the ecosystem and how to start operations in the country.
  • Romanian ROTSA is offering assistance to Ukrainian startups looking to relocate
  • InnovUp is asking the Italian government to activate an immediate visa pass for Ukrainian entrepreneurs and founders.
  • Portuguese Beta-i is contacting all of its Ukrainian startup alumni to offer support, and it’s also open to providing assistance to any entrepreneur aiming to move its business to the country.
  • Jobs4Ukraine has set up a platform for Ukrainians to find jobs, also providing information for companies and those who want to volunteer.
  • A coalition of La French Tech mission, France Digitale, and The Galion Project has launched a crowdfunding effort on Leetchi to raise money for supplies for Ukrainian refugees.
  • Station F is offering Ukrainian entrepreneurs who have taken refuge in France free accommodation for their families at Flatmates,
  • Scaleway CEO Yann Lechelle is pushing for long-term work visas to allow Ukrainian refugees to find jobs in the French Tech sector and help their families settle in France.
  •  Paris-based HRTech startup JobTogether launched EU4UA, a platform to match refugees with people who can offer shelter.
  • In Vilnius, hot-air balloons carrying the Ukrainian flag flew over the Lithuanian capital in a show of support and solidarity.
  • The EU4UA initiative has been launched by 4 tech entrepreneurs to help Ukrainian refugees find emergency accommodation across Europe. The platform has already enabled more than 10k refugees to register.
  • Pipedrive has donated $250k to the Red Cross, mobilized their team to gather material donations to be sent to the crisis centre and refugee centres, offered time off for employees directly impacted and allowed paid volunteering time off for any employees volunteering for charities supporting Ukraine. The company has also made Pipedrive available in Ukrainian, waived fees for Ukrainian customers outside of Donetsk, Luhansk and Crimea for at least the next three months and suspended services in Russia and Belarus.
  • Flixbus is offering free rides from Bucharest, Przemysl and Rzeszow to those fleeing the conflict.
  • Cleantech startup Lifesaver Power has relaunched its Lifeline to the Frotnline campaign to supply power banks to Ukrainian refugees. Already, the company has supported the donation and delivery of over 2000 fully charged power banks to those in need in Poland and key Ukrainian cities, including Lviv. Throughout the month of March, Lifesaver will be matching the sale and rental of every power bank at The O2 and Cheltenham Festival and it has also launched a Just Giving campaign to raise £1,000
  • Kyan Health is offering dedicated group counselling sessions in Russian and English at zero cost for those in the area.
  • ClickMechanic is currently donating £1 for every completed booking on the platform to the Red Cross.
  • WeHelpUkraine.org is a platform to help Ukrainian refugees find living support worldwide.
  • BG4UA.com has been launched by a group of Bulgaria-based entrepreneurs, tech community members, and friends of Ukraine as part of the Bulgarian evacuation, relocation, and accommodation efforts for Ukrainians.
  • Preply has committed to make a monthly donation that is equal to all revenues earned in Russia towards Ukrainian humanitarian causes. The startup has also launched a page where people from all over the world can submit messages of support, which is then translated into Ukrainian. So far, 20k people have contributed from 115 countries, in 84 languages, with more than 5k messages of encouragement published thus far. In addition, tutors based in Russia have been suspended from teaching on the platform.
  • Berlin-based Babbel is now offering free access codes to refugees wanting to use its platform to learn the languages of their host countries. Refugees can start learning the languages relevant to them, including German, Polish and Italian, of the 14 languages currently available with Babbel. Babbel is also developing Ukrainian as an in-app language. Additionally, Babbel is developing a multitude of resources, such as articles on arriving in Germany and Poland for the Babbel Magazine, and a Ukrainian glossary for people in host countries wanting to learn Ukrainian.
  • Traveltech startup Airalo has launched a donation campaign, Help Ukraine Connect Fund to help Ukrainian refugees remain connected with free eSIM connectivity.
  • Insurtech Zelros has created an initiative where they are taking in and welcoming any Ukrainian or Russian impacted by the current situation, who is looking for a part-time or full-time job in their industry. Applications received by these impacted individuals will receive priority and support will be distributed to help with relocation costs.
  • Portugues social tech startup, SPEAK, has launched a platform “SPEAK For Ukraine” which aims to help refugees overcome language barriers across Europe. This platform connects volunteers to organizations, as well as Ukrainian war refugees who, after arriving in their host country, need assistance to break the language barrier and join an informal network of support. Within the first days of launching the platform, hundreds of sign-ups were already registered from over 60 cities worldwide, and a number of Ukrainian refugees have already started learning Lithuanian and English in major Lithuanian cities.

We would like to also point out that we have not been able to cover or document everything being done to support Ukraine at this time. The truth is, we are living in dark, troubling times but the European community has certainly rallied together. There are numerous initiatives and companies drawing up plans to protect people, support aspirations, and advocate peace. 

What you can do to help Ukraine

It’s normal to feel helpless at this time. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. Should you want to help support Ukraine and the efforts being done, there are key things you can do. 

Firstly, is to remain as informed as is in your capacity. Take care to spread compassion, empathy and facts. Being well-informed on the situation is one of the best tools to protect people. 

Secondly, you can donate to and support efforts on the ground. Signing petitions, donating to organisations, and contributing to collections are great ways to get involved and show your care for Ukraine and the people suffering in this war. 

Here are some places that you can direct your attention to: 

  • Medecins Sans Frontiers – Sending surgical and trauma kits, supplies to respond to mass casualty events, and medications for chronic diseases. 
  • The British Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal – which is raising funds to provide practical support for those affected, like food, clothing, first aid and shelter.
  • The UN Refugee Agency – which accepts donations that will fund the emergency shelter, relief items and practical support.
  • Donate to the Kyiv Independent, a credible English-spoken media outlet reporting from the front lines.
  • Donate money or deliver medical supplies to Startups for Ukraine
  • Get involved with People for People.
  • If you’re able to support Ukrainians to find a place to stay, or are looking for how to help with housing, medical, legal, psychological, logistical, and financial support check out WeHelpUkraine.org
  • If you’re in the UK, consider signing up to HomesforUkrainians.co.uk if you are able to host Ukrainian refugees.

You can also show your support via social media. Using #StandwithUkraine is an incredible tool of resistance and solidarity in the modern age. 

“We know we are fighting for our country, for our freedom to build our future according to global values. And there is no way back. Freedom, once tasted, can’t be forgotten. High ideals, once understood, stay with us forever.”

TechUkraine’s Director Nataly Veremeeva