Building Silicon Valley in Odesa

Building Silicon Valley in Odesa

Not many people know the story about two Ukrainian-American citizens who quit their US jobs and go to Odesa to build Silicon Valley on the shores of the Black Sea. These two girls have spent four weeks in Odesa working on revolutionary project - modernizing IT sector in Odesa.  Last night, at the Civil Hall in Manhattan, NY they shared their goals and experiences with us before heading back to Ukraine.

They both worked in technology sectors here in the USA, and now they work side by side with Odesa Major, a former Georgian President, Mihail Saakachvili, as a part of new revolutionary administration, which is a part of new reforms implemented by President Petro Poroshenko. 

Lyuba Shipovich, who also is the President of non-profit organization Razom, became the head of Department of Information Technology in Odesa.

A new IT team of Odesa administration is focusing on three main areas. First, they want to make government processes automated and building e-government. Second, they share their knowledge and experiences they gained in the USA with Ukrainian students to promote IT education. Many Ukrainian students are eager to volunteer for the project because they want to learn about IT sector and how it works in the country of Apple, Inc. Lastly and this is quite important, the American team is supporting and promoting democracy in Ukraine. They are striving to switch government processes to digital format and later make it all available to public through the Internet. They see IT revolution as a tool to decrease corruption in Odesa. 

They also see Odesa as a beacon of greater change in whole Ukraine. If Odesa project succeeds, it will give a green light to apply the same strategies and approaches in other regions of Ukraine. 

Such project would be impossible without challenges. As Lyuba and Natalia mentioned, they are not looking to stay in Ukraine permanently. They are hiring and training smart software engineers and developers from Ukraine to take their place. What they have seen so far, it is a problem to find managers. They say there are smart people, who can coordinate and organize but they are afraid of being put on the top in a manager position. It is more phycological barrier that needs to be overcome with practice and confidence. Another challenge is funding. They are looking for investors who would truly understand the future of IT revolution and be able to help financially. They are establishing connection and cooperation with other governments. But it is a quite slow process. 

What is also impressive that Lyuba and Natalia do it all for free. They and their team volunteer knowledge, skills and time to create a technological hub in Ukraine - on the shores of the Black Sea. 

As Natalia Shyrba said last night, she was shocked in a good way by the life in Odesa,  and how amazing and friendly people are. She has never been to Odesa before, and she expected to see the worse.  But as it turned out, it was pleasant and positive surprise. She also mentioned that many things and way of life in Odesa, reminded her a lot about life in the US. 

They encourage people who have skills in IT field to reach out to them through Razom organization, and who want to be part of IT revolution in Ukraine. Everyone who feel they can contribute with ideas, skills and financially, are welcome to connect with them also via Razom Facebook page.