Despite the ongoing invasion, the ninth edition of IT Arena brought together tech professionals, government officials, cybersecurity and digitalization experts and representatives of the country’s two biggest charity funds to support Ukraine in these uncertain times and lay the foundation for rebuilding the country after the victory. It would be impossible without young talents, bringing fresh and innovative solutions to the industry. The Startup Competition hosted during IT Arena gathered a bunch of such ambitious talents.
Pitching ideas from underground shelters and finalist selection
Out of 70 teams that applied to participate in the contest, 28 qualified for the semi-finals. The total prize fund of the competition equalled $340,000, including money prizes and in-kind services. Startup Competition Semi-Finals took place at the creative space !Fest Republic. The venue was equipped with a bomb shelter, allowing contestants to continue their pitches despite air raid sirens. A considerable number of startups this year focused on EdTech and HealthTech solutions, automation tools for filmmakers and marketers. In addition, semi-finalists included a dating app and working hours and a business relationship optimization app.
“The IT Arena 2022 Startup Сompetition showed us that MedTech and EdTech teams that dominated the contest demonstrate global ideas. Again, I would like to highlight traction, but, in my opinion, the most important skill this year is the ability to quickly adapt to new conditions and continue working despite high levels of uncertainty and risks,” says Ivan Dmytrasevych, CEO Startup Depot. Lviv Business Incubator.
The first day of the Startup Сompetition ended with a selection of 10 finalist teams, getting ready to pitch from the stage at Lviv National Opera. The finalists focused on solving real-world technological and humanitarian emerging problems. Five of ten teams focused on medtech solutions.
The Startup Competition 2022 jury included Dmytro Kuzmenko, CEO at UVCA, Joachim Laqueur, General Partner at Acrobator Ventures, Ramon Vigdor, General Partner and co-founder at Acrobator Ventures, Andrew Zinchuk, Founder and General Partner at ZAS Ventures, and Leon Podobedov, General Partner at hi5 Ventures.
Startup Competition’s top three: WRAP, Knopka, Nanit Robot
The winner of the Startup Competition 2022 became WRAP, an app automating video production flows. The team won the Best Startup Award and a $20,000 prize from IT Arena, CRDF and USF. The team is originally from Lviv. They switched to full-time mode just a few months before the contest, working non-stop without getting paid. CPO Stephen agrees that this period was emotionally challenging.
“Our win is, first of all, a sign of big morale support. It has definitely positively charged us for the upcoming year. Moreover, we’ve already met a few cool investors and talked to representatives of venture funds and angels. We’re planning to use the grant money for legal paperwork, development and current subscriptions,” says Stephen Skoropadsky, CPO, WRAP.
Knopka, a creator of an IoT/SaaS solution for hospitals that ensures medical assistance is provided within 3 minutes, took the second prize and $18,000. The solution is already used in a few hospitals in Ukraine and Poland.
“For us, the prize at the Startup Competition is, first of all, recognition that years of continuous work have been appreciated not only by our clients but also by the community of entrepreneurs and investors. We will use the entire grant for the presentation of our product at the most important medical event of the year, the MEDICA exhibition in Dusseldorf. Thanks to the grant, we will be able to design a powerful stand. Victory in the Startup Competition is powerful support and a chance to attract a large number of customers and partners,” says Ivan Osadchyi, CEO, Knopka.
The third prize, or $15,000 went to Nanit – an educational robot and EdTech solution for kids and adults that allows them to identify creative and technical abilities, learn engineering skills in the creative process and raise professional orientation by 30%.
“Each of our achievements adds motivation to continue product development. We see that our solution can revolutionize the field of education. Thanks to the prize fund, we will equip our laboratory with the necessary equipment, and we will spend part of the amount on production. We also have invitations to several international events, where we will present the product to the world,” says the startup’s founder Vlad Kotov.
Jury member and investor Ramon Vigdor highlights the resilience of young Ukrainian startups. “There are a lot of talents in Ukraine. Even though the war is going on, they are still pushing to create wonderful things. Sometimes they need some help with commercials or to be more realistic about the tech, but I see good potential and I’m looking forward to seeing new startups next year,” Ramon Vigdor, General Partner and Co-Founder at Acrobator Ventures.
Joachim Laqueur, General Partner at Acrobator Ventures, adds: “It’s very important to keep the support of the local tech ecosystem from outside as Western-based funds do. Technology is such a long-term beneficial force. Now we’re seeing the first wave of successful companies breaking the ground. Even during the time of war, these people, these companies are able to address problems that are not restricted by borders.”
In addition to official partners of the event, IT Arena is often visited by angel investors. GetOrder, one of the startups participating in the Startup Competition, has already attracted investment from Oleksandr Reminnyi, GM of Marketplace at UiPath. International investors also express interest in Ukrainian teams: “One interesting trend that I’m seeing this year compared to previous years – more startups’re trying to do good for society. For instance, Donor.ua, Knopka… I’m seeing several startups which are focusing on society and health. I like that,” says Mathias Eklöf, serial entrepreneur and founder of Hype Ventures.
All Startup Competition finalists will receive $25,000 certificates from Amazon Web Services and 1 hour of consulting for each team from httpool. UVCA will provide informational and mentoring support, assistance in investment attraction, and attraction startups to participate in local and international profile events to Solar Plex, Scally, OptySun, INPUT SOFT, WRAP. Demium will provide the opportunity to work for 3 months in one of the physical hubs across Europe Kyiv, Valencia, Barcelona, Malaga, Madrid, Warsaw, Prague to DonorUA. hi5 Ventures is awarding 3 months of mentoring support and access to the fund’s network of specialized experts to WRAP. Sigma Software Labs will provide 3 open desk office spaces for 6 months in the office of Sigma Software, BC “Astarta” in Kyiv to INPUT SOFT. Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge will provide 6 months of free coworking for a team of up to 5 people in Warsaw to Nanit Robot. Unit.City will provide a stay for teams of 5 people for 6 months in Unit City in Kyiv to DonorUA, Chameleon Age.
Special thanks to partners of Startup Competition 2022: CRDF Global, USF, Amazon Web Services, UVCA, Unit.City, Polish-Ukrainian Startup Bridge, Sigma Software Labs, hi5 Ventures, Dеmium, and Reactor.ua.