A Difficult But Rewarding Year in Review
It’s been a year since the unprovoked, illegitimate, and devastating invasion of Ukraine. On this anniversary of the invasion and resulting war, many people are sharing their memories and reflections, summarizing and reviewing this past year. Unfortunately, these reflections and summaries are not based upon their personal calendars of holidays, celebrations, milestones, and achievements, but by this war instead.
I’m also remembering this year as the most difficult one in my life. But, at the same time, I have a lot to owe to this year, and I am living, breathing, and walking in ambivalence. Here are some of my insights.
Scaling a Business During Wartime is an Exceptional Experience
📈 During this past year, the Hily dating app has doubled its revenue, and the number of daily active users increased by 70%. Taimi continues to grow too, reaching 17M users last year, and remains sustainable and growing.
One of the first things I understood quite quickly is that it’s important, even in such rough circumstances, to set ambitious and hard-to-achieve goals. While this might appear to be counterproductive, in fact it is not. Sirens and missiles stress people out, but goals help them stick to their working routine, to celebrate achievements, and to focus on their professional lives - at least for a good chunk of their days.
It’s also essential to always try new things: new business approaches, new tactics, new strategies. During wartime, it can be extremely difficult because the situation around you can change significantly and very quickly. Still, we have never given up on constantly tracking our results, and if we aren’t getting those, we have changed the approaches very quickly, giving us more space to maneuver, and eventually, resulting in goals met.
All of this has happened because our teams have remained focused, and continue to work hard. And my main task has been to provide our Ukrainian team with working conditions that are as comfortable as possible.
During the first days of the war, when Kyiv was under siege, we evacuated the entire Ukrainian team with their loved ones, to the West of Ukraine, and provided them with a coworking environment, so they could live and work there for as long as necessary. That lasted 3 months, and after russian troops were forced out of the Kyiv suburbs, our team returned to the Kyiv office.
Working Without Electricity is Not a Big Deal if You Get a Bit Creative
💡 Beginning on October 10, russia started to bomb Ukrainian critical infrastructure which resulted in constant blackouts, limited amounts of light, and water supply outages.
This time, we decided to provide relocation for those employees who couldn’t live and work normally in such conditions. Some of them moved one more time to the West of Ukraine, some of them decided to stay in Kyiv.
As it turned out, we can work even without reliable electricity. It took a bit of time to provide a smooth electrical supply to our office in Kyiv, and to all relocated employees. In the meantime, our Ukrainian teammates managed to organize their work processes by collaborating with their teammates and moving to one another’s homes, depending on each shutdown schedule. Many colleagues gave advice to each other on how to make power banks work longer, how to make delicious food on a gas burner, and even how to create makeshift heat as winter set in. This all has been amazing teamwork that has extended far beyond the workplace. They say, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and our team has certainly personified this old saying.
Volunteering Has Become a Daily Routine - It’s Just What We Do
From the very first days that I arrived in Kyiv, I had pretty much decided that I would only move out of Kyiv if Russian troops managed to seize our beautiful, but significantly damaged, capital city.
As I continued to stay, I realized that the resistance effort was everyone’s responsibility, even if they were not on the battlefronts. I decided to organize a small volunteering squad among others who had also chosen to stay in the city.
First, we began to transport medicine to everyone who needed it and to collect different requests for other needs (food, transportation, clothing/blankets, etc). During this time, I was constantly in a car, driving or riding all day. After that, I began to help various military units, providing them with water, food, and later, with ammunition. Right now, I’m not riding all day, but do still participate in different volunteer initiatives each and every day. Now, I cannot imagine not having volunteer activities as a part of my daily routine. It has just become a part of my life as well as the lives of so many others. We are all in this together. And as another saying goes, “We are our brothers’ keepers.”
Hope For the Best, and Prepare for the Worst
I really didn’t expect that war would come, even though the media space was full of messages and warnings. Maybe we were in denial; maybe we were looking at the world through “rose-colored” glasses. None of this matters now. It happened, and we were forced to quickly adapt to a completely different way of life. But we have done it, and our response is certainly a testament to the resilience of man when faced with the worst possible scenario.
From a business standpoint, the message is clear. You must always have a plan for the worst-case scenario. It may not be a war, but there are many potential threats to any business. Consider, for example, the impact of the Covid pandemic on so many thriving businesses.
As a CEO, remember this: your team(s) rely on you for leadership and their own livelihoods. You must develop a plan for the unexpected. And if Plan A doesn’t work, you better have a plan B, C, or even D if necessary. We were shocked one year ago. But we have adapted, keeping what has worked and moving to new plans when other things have not worked. Through it all, I can now say, we are not unprepared for whatever may befall in the future for our business.
Some Final Thoughts
What a year this has been. It has been filled with professional and emotional highs and lows, as I and my team met adversity with triumph, adapted to some of the most difficult working conditions, and found a comraderie that will last for the rest of our lives. My company has not just sustained itself but has scaled; my team has shown a resiliency that I believe has not been equaled elsewhere; and we have learned the value of giving what we can for a larger purpose. We have suffered, but remain victorious.
Hily is a dating app that centers on communication as a key means of connecting singles, and is among the top 10 dating apps in the US, with 28 million users globally.
Taimi has more than 17 million users worldwide, disrupting the online LGBTQ+ dating space with the concept of fluid dating - allowing users to date and explore their sexuality without the constraints of traditional dating apps or social stigma.
The apps’ staff and functions are distributed among offices in Las Vegas, London, and Kyiv. Alex divides his time primarily between London and Kyiv. The apps’ teams include 600 people worldwide. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, Alex has decided to support the UA office by remaining with his team in Ukraine.
This article is part of Tech.eu's highlighting of remarkable Ukrainian startups on the one-year anniversary of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Read more ...