Ukrainian companies continue to operate amid Russia’s invasion of their country and are determined to continue as part of the national effort not to be overwhelmed by the threat from the East.
Software Development Service Provider Redwerk is an example After the lives of all its staff were thrown up in the air when Russian tanks entered Ukraine, the company had to act quickly.
Konstantin Klyagin, its founderHe was traveling home from a vacation in Sri Lanka and, during a flight change in Dubai, learned that Russia had invaded his homeland.
He had to change his plans while in Dubai and headed to Berlin, where he had previously lived and owned a flat. He has not yet returned to Ukraine.
Klyagin is the founder and CEO of Ukrainian software development company Redwerk, which focuses on developing software as a service (SaaS) for businesses. It was created by Klyagin, 24, in 2005 and now serves international clients with integrated SaaS development services in the Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure clouds.
The company started in Zaporizhzhia and opened an office in kyiv in 2010. Its workforce is comprised of developers, DevOps experts, project managers, UI designers, and all the roles that are required to build and launch a large-scale SaaS operation, Klyagin said.
It was on February 24 of this year that, on a flight back to Ukraine, Klyagin had to think about helping his family and staff get to safety before thinking about his business.
“When I arrived in Dubai to change flights, the media was full of news about the invasion,” he told Computer Weekly. “I listened to Vladimir Putin’s speech and realized that he was not going to Ukraine.”
“I listened to Vladimir Putin’s speech and realized that he was not going to Ukraine”
Klyagin said the most shocking sight for him was Russian tanks crossing the border just 80 kilometers from the city of Kharkiv, where he grew up and had a family.
“I never went back to Kyiv in February and have been working remotely ever since,” he said. “I arrived in Dubai, I realized that Russia had invaded and there was no going back because the airspace was closed.”
Klyagin had previously lived and worked in Germany and had a flat in Berlin, so he decided to go there. His girlfriend, who was pregnant with his first child, soon joined him.
After five months in Berlin, they moved to Lisbon in Portugal, where Klyagin had a large group of friends. “Lisbon was considered an important web 3.0 hub and many Ukrainian businessmen came here,” he said.
His parents are now safe in Berlin, but his business, with 80 employees, has remained in the Ukraine.
Klyagin himself plans to return to Ukraine as soon as possible. “When it is safe and the war is over, I will move back to Ukraine the next day,” he said.
Meanwhile, Redwerk has continued to operate at full scale, following a temporary slowdown as the company and its staff readjusted to the new reality facing Ukraine.
“At the beginning of the invasion, there was a lot of uncertainty,” Klyagin said. “Many companies were moving entire operations to the west of the country, but there were huge difficulties, including a housing shortage, so we decided to do it in a decentralized way.”
This is where the company’s remote work experience gained during the Covid-19 pandemic helped. “We told everyone that they would each get $2,000 up front in cash or in whatever form they wanted, to pay their way to safety, or they could use their own money and we would compensate them,” Klyagin said.
Virtually all of Redwerk’s staff accepted the offer. “Most of the team has been working remotely since the pandemic with only 10 to 15 in the office every day,” Klyagin said. “Our people went to the west of the country or to the center.”
Then, on February 28, Klyagin wrote an email to his employees asking if everyone was safe and asking what they needed to get to work. “I said to continue working because it was important for everyone to have an income in that situation and it was also important for the Ukrainian economy,” he said.
Klyagin said that in the first week of the invasion, 20% of the company’s staff could work, in week two it had reached 80%, and before the end of March it was 100% operational. “And we continue to hire people,” he added. “We don’t let anyone go, apart from the usual wear and tear.
“We’re winning people over because there were more good people in the market who just fell victim to their employers panicking and letting them go. We were able to select the best minds and talents to grow the company.”
The company lost two employees when they joined the Ukrainian army.
According to Klyagin, Redwerk is doing more business now than before the war. He believes this is because he has focused on business to take his mind off the turmoil in Ukraine. “I found this as a refuge from the war and it worked because I got five new clients, 25 more employees and the business grew,” he said.
The company did not lose customers after the invasion after Klyagin contacted each of them separately to assure them that work would not be interrupted.
In fact, Redwerk is not Klyagin’s only business. Since 2021, it has also invested in a Zaporizhzhia-based company that develops drones for civil use, focusing on industrial settings. IZIVIZas the company is known, is still in its infancy, but has undergone a transformation during the war.
“Business stopped for a couple of months, but we decided to help the military prepare their drones and we provided them with drones free of charge,” he said.