IT Arena 2023: The Future of AI, Startups, and Tech Cities
With 3364 attendees from more than 30 countries, over 100 speakers, an equal number of media representatives from around the world and Ukraine, 50 meetups in the city’s top restaurants and pubs, historical venues, and heightened security measures – IT Arena marked its tenth anniversary, honoring the past decade of technological advancements.
In recent years, despite all the challenges posed by the pandemic and full-scale war, IT Arena has not only persevered but also outgrown its previous venue, the Arena Lviv Stadium. This year, the conference stunned guests with new locations in the heart of Lviv: three historical buildings formed a vibrant “technological triangle” in the city center. The main stage of the event and the business track were housed at the Lviv Opera House. The Maria Zankovetska Drama Theatre served as the venue for the Startup Competition and the Product and Startup tracks. Workshops and discussions of the Tech track unfolded at the Andrey Sheptytsky National Museum.
At the IT Arena venues, attendees were in for more than just traditional speaker talks. They experienced hands-on workshops, an art exhibition reimagining the world’s technology, and high-quality networking opportunities. The main conference program featured insights shared by top tech experts, including professionals from companies like Warner Bros., Gartner, Simulmedia, Respeecher, and others. The special star guest of the IT Arena’s tenth anniversary was ONUKA – an artist whose music seamlessly blends folk with electronic soundscapes.
The event was traditionally hosted by the AI prototype, Arina, who opened IT Arena with an intriguing speech about the past and future. With the help of Midjourney and AI modules, attendees, along with the AI host, glimpsed into the future, showcasing what the world could look like in the next ten years. “Technologies don’t harm; they assist. In collaboration with them, humanity can achieve incredible feats,” summarized Arina.
War and technological cities
“Ukraine deserves much larger investments than it currently receives,” said Anatoliy Motkin, founder and president of StrategEast. He firmly believes that those who invest in Ukraine now will reap far greater benefits than those merely contemplating it, even amidst the challenges of war. After all, “innovations are born in moments of change,” noted Chris Burry, Co-Director of the American Market Access Center. The technological warfare led by Ukraine has spurred the emergence of new startups. Satellite communication, drones both on land and water, situational awareness systems, robotic ground technologies, and EW developments in these areas are already changing the situation on the battlefield. “Technologies save lives,” emphasized Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov.
Innovations save lives, both on the battlefield and in the rear. Lviv treats thousands of wounded daily. They all receive quality medical care in modern rehabilitation centers, created with the collaboration of international partners and local tech companies. Mayor Andriy Sadoviy shared this insight. Together with Patrick Burt, former mayor of Palo Alto, they discussed how to make Ukrainian cities more technologically advanced despite challenges. “Ukrainian resilience must be embedded in the growth model,” Burt believes, advising against replicating Silicon Valley: “Lviv already has its own achievements.”
And one of them is the use of 3D printing for construction. The first school created on a specialized printer in Lviv is set to open in 2024. Team4UA, led by Jean-Christophe Bonis, is handling this project. “Due to the war in Ukraine, there are numerous ruins: schools, bridges, private houses. The country needs rebuilding, and 3D printing will help do it faster,” says Jean-Christophe Bonis.
“Thanks to generative AI, most tasks can be automated within minutes, or even seconds,” says Gauthier Vasseur, director of the Fischer Business Analytics Center at Berkeley. In his opinion, AI can handle 80% of routine work. But is this always a good thing? Alex Dantas, founder of Circuit Launch, adds, “Any company can already reduce their workforce by 20% by applying AI.” Therefore, approaches to education need to change, with prompt engineering becoming an essential skill.
And what does the future hold for us? In just 5 years, the world will see an operating system with embedded artificial intelligence, predicts Svetlana Sikular, Vice President of AI Research at Gartner. By 2027, applications without embedded machine learning models will become a rare exception rather than the norm. This means that businesses need to utilize AI and ML to remain competitive.
Sikular also predicts that in five years, AI will become the main challenge in cybersecurity. Daniel Prieto, former Director of Cybersecurity Strategy at the White House, agrees: “Generative AI can be used for disinformation and creating deepfakes, which poses a risk.” Therefore, experts say it’s crucial to establish clear rules for the technology’s usage during these years.
The battle of startups
The future belongs to startups. That’s why, as tradition goes, IT Arena hosted the battle of the most ambitious developments – Startup Competition. The total prize fund for the competition amounted to $489,000. Winners were chosen by a jury of experienced investors. The first-place winner received $10,000, while the second and third places received $8,000 and $5,000 respectively. Additionally, this year, startups received investments during the competition.
The winner in the main category was the S.Lab team, that develops eco-friendly packaging to replace polystyrene on an industrial scale. In addition to the cash prize, they received $100,000 in investments from ZAS Venture, $10,000 from angel investor Sasha Reminnyi, and €100,000 from Vesna Capital. Second place went to NUMO, an app that assists adults with ADHD. Third place was secured by Jetbeep, whose team created fully autonomous parcel storage lockers.
This year, in partnership with the defense technology cluster Brave1, IT Arena introduced a special category for defense startups. The first place in this category was awarded to Himera – a compact digital radio station for communication within military units. Second place went to Zvook, an acoustic detection hardware-software complex for identifying airborne objects. The third place was secured by Falcons, who developed the ETER system for enemy communication equipment, electronic warfare, and drones triangulation. Additionally, defense tech startups Zvook, Falcons, Mantis Analytics, and Griselda received $200,000 in investments from an angel investor.
During IT Arena, the Ministry of Digital Transformation and the USAID Cybersecurity of Ukraine’s Critical Infrastructure Activity announced a new grant program for the development and implementation of innovative solutions in the field of cybersecurity.
“Ukraine has already proved its digital potential on the global stage. USAID is committed to helping Ukraine’s startups transform groundbreaking ideas into market-ready solutions that will turn heads across the globe. I’m proud that with the announced $500,000 grant program, USAID and the Ministry of Digital Transformation will be able to accelerate Ukraine’s best and brightest ideas in cybersecurity – that will not only strengthen Ukraine’s cybersecurity, but also that of the world,” Jim Hope, USAID Ukraine Mission Director.
The future is now
The coronavirus pandemic and full-scale war have shown that it’s impossible to prepare for everything. The key is the ability to adapt. “It’s important to think about the future, be prepared, learn to solve problems, be more resilient. But it’s impossible to predict everything; you need to be flexible,” says Laurent Dupuch, Chairman of the Management Board of UKRSIBBANK BNP Paribas Group. And in this, Ukraine leads the way. “Your DNA is to inspire the world,” Laurent Dupuch is convinced.
Ambitious goals and impressive results truly captivate foreigners with Ukraine’s technological prowess. “Our goal is to build the most convenient country in the world,” shared Mstyslav Banik, Head of the Department of Electronic Services Development at the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, from the IT Arena stage. He described the process of working on Diia and its continuous development. “Ukraine is technologically ahead of many countries in the world,” added journalist Yulia Mandiuk, who has been living in New York for 12 years.
Over the past ten years, technologies, the country, the tech industry, and IT Arena have all evolved. What remains unchanged is the desire to bring people together for discussions, business networking, and inspiration.
“IT Arena 2023 is not just another event; it is a tribute to our efforts, a journey into the past, and a glimpse into the future. Despite the challenges of the war, we have managed once again to gather representatives from business and government, investors, and young entrepreneurs for the development of the industry and Ukraine,” notes IT Arena CEO Stepan Veselovskyi.
“IT Arena, held in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has become a symbol of resilience and unyielding spirit in the Ukrainian technology industry. With our support, the conference featured top-level international speakers in their respective fields. Meetings with international experts help Ukrainian professionals integrate into the global environment and develop cutting-edge technologies, thus remaining competitive in the global tech market. The agency will continue to support the IT industry to foster its growth and contribute to the country’s economic recovery,” notes Natalia Petrova, USAID Project Manager.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine for the opportunity to host the conference. We were incredibly pleased to have our Defenders at IT Arena. Tickets were free for all those who defend our state.
Special thanks to our partners who supported IT Arena despite all the challenges of the war:
Organizer: Lviv IT Cluster
Water partner: Morshynska
Next year, from September 27th to 29th, IT Arena will return with a new program and networking opportunities. How can we make the conference even better in 2024? We kindly ask you to spare 5 minutes of your time and fill out the feedback form.