- Ukraine is an excellent destination for startup development because of the large pool of talent, good level of English proficiency, and strong education.
- Multiple world-recognized startups have been born in Ukraine, including Grammarly, Reface, and AirSlate.
- Despite Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine, the Ukrainian IT industry has been relatively untouched and continues to function and develop. You can hire Ukrainian developers with minimal risks, build an awesome product together, and support the entire Ukrainian economy.
As an IT outsourcing destination, Ukraine has attracted a lot of attention due to its rapid development and consistent growth. As a European country with a relatively low cost of living, Ukraine offers one of the most attractive price-to-quality ratios in the IT services market. Ukrainian developers have demonstrated superb skills and deep expertise in software engineering, UI/UX design, manual and automated quality assurance, business analysis, and many other IT spheres.
Now that Russia has launched a full-scale war, however, many startup founders and potential clients of Ukrainian IT companies have concerns about hiring software developers from Ukraine for their startups due to the risks associated with wartime.
In this article, you can find answers to many of the questions you may have about hiring developers in Ukraine:
- What’s the current state of the Ukrainian IT industry?
- Is it safe to hire Ukrainian developer for startups in 2022 and 2023?
- What are the startup risks of hiring Ukrainian developers, and how can you overcome them?
- How can you find and cooperate with software developers from Ukraine?
Building a startup in Ukraine in 2022: Safety considerations
Though Ukraine was and still is one of the most favorable IT destinations in the world, startup founders have some concerns about relying on Ukrainian employees. With war in Ukraine, will Ukrainian IT specialists still be able to do their jobs to the fullest?
What happened on February 24, 2022?
The war that started back in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea and occupied half of Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, turned into a full-scale Russian invasion on February 24, 2022. Since then, Russian military forces have attacked schools, hospitals, churches, residential houses, and critical civilian infrastructure in dozens of Ukrainian villages and cities.
Ukrainian military forces are shielding most of the Ukrainian territories, allowing people to establish a so-called war-life balance, keep working, volunteer, and even take vacations. After the shock of the first weeks of war passed and the realization of the situation set in, Ukrainian companies and financial systems resumed their work.
How many engineers have left the country?
Under martial law, Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are not allowed to leave the country. Instead, they are staying in Ukraine and working under regular air raid sirens.
Some Ukrainian IT specialists have relocated to other countries. According to the IT Research Resilience: War’s Impact on Ukraine’s IT Industry report, of 285,000 total IT specialists (as of December 2021), around 50,000 to 57,000 had moved abroad as of May 2022. This means that around 228,000 to 235,000 Ukrainian IT specialists are still in Ukraine. Among them, 57% claim they don’t want to leave the country.
How the IT community in Ukraine lives now
- 27% have changed their place of work
- 13% have moved to another project within the company
- 11% have switched to part-time employment
- 11% have lost their job and are looking for a new one
The vast majority of Ukrainian IT companies continue working despite the war.
- 75% have ongoing projects.
- 55% of IT company CEOs state they have received new opportunities for cooperation from clients as an act of support.
- 7% of IT companies say they have lost more than half of their revenue.
- 88% of surveyed IT companies note that they keep on recruiting new specialists for open vacancies.
The Ukrainian government is working hard to ensure stable electricity flows and internet access across the greater part of the country to enable an uninterrupted work routine. Furthermore, since Starlink has made its satellite internet service available in Ukraine, overall access to web connections has improved.
Ukrainian developers and IT companies support the сountry during the war
Fighting on their own front, Ukrainian IT specialists don’t just mitigate the consequences of Russian cyber attacks against Ukrainian media, government websites, and banking systems. They also build their own weapons. The Air Raid Alert application that warns Ukranians about the threat of missile attacks was created by Ukrainian software developers in just one day. With this app, the problem of an outdated air raid warning system (namely, sirens that didn’t function properly in many villages and small towns) was solved. Every resident can now get notified about air raid alerts by smartphone.
Across Ukraine, 96% of IT companies claim they are financially supporting wartime projects to bring Ukraine closer to victory. Ukrainian IT specialists regularly donate to charity and volunteer.
Clockwise Software is located in the city of Dnipro. Although battles and shelling happen in our region as well, Dnipro has remained a relatively safe place and has welcomed thousands of Ukranians from more dangerous regions. Despite all that’s happening in our country, we continue working on our projects, concluding contracts with new clients, and hiring new employees. We also keep donating, buying military equipment for our defenders, meeting the financial needs of hospitals that treat soldiers, etc.
The war does have an impact on Ukranian IT specialists and IT companies. Still, it has not removed Ukraine from the list of the best IT destinations in Eastern Europe. The state of the IT industry in Ukraine proves this.
State of the Ukrainian IT industry 2021-2022
A huge talent pool, affordable prices, and high service quality are the top reasons for hiring developer for startups in Ukraine and outsourcing software development to Ukraine.
Let’s see how the Ukrainian IT industry has been doing in recent years.
- IT industry & economy
IT service exports remain a major component of the Ukrainian economy during the war. According to the National Bank of Ukraine, exported computer services in the first half of 2022 contributed 3.74 billion US dollars to the country’s economy, which is 23% more than for the same period the previous year. The IT sector has become one of the key sources of foreign currency flowing into Ukraine’s economy.
This makes the IT industry one of the largest and most important contributors to the Ukrainian economy and definitely speaks about its scale within the country.
- Tech talent pool & IT companies
Ukraine already has a considerable IT talent pool, and the number of skilled engineers keeps growing. According to the Ukraine IT Report 2021, published by the IT Ukraine Association, the number of Ukrainian IT specialists increased by nearly 81% in four years, from 157,000 in 2017 to 285,000 in 2021. This is equivalent to 128,000 new IT workers.
According to 360 Tech Ecosystem, an online database of IT companies, people, and investors in Ukraine, there were 1,648 product companies and 537 service companies in the country as of September 19, 2022.
In 2022, the Ukrainian government decided to help those Ukranians who lost their jobs due to the war obtain a new profession in the IT field. Thus, the Digital Transformation Ministry together with international partners launched IT Generation — a project intended to give 30,000 to 40,000 people who have never worked in IT a grant for studying one of the tech professions and subsequently joining the IT workforce. Thanks to this project, the government wants to increase the share of GDP attributed to the IT sector up to 10%.
According to DOU.ua, Ukrainian developers are proficient in the following programming languages:
- Java (14.7%)
- C# (14.3%)
- Python (12.1%)
- PHP (10.1%)
- TypeScript (6.9%)
- C++ (4.6%)
- Swift (3.1%)
- Ruby (3%)
- Kotlin (2.6%)
Josh Feldberg, a digital lead at a climate change non-profit in Barcelona who has experience working with Ukrainian designers, data scientists, and software developers, told CNBC that Ukrainian software engineers have a “very good reputation” when it comes to coding.
…They haven’t just home-taught themselves. A lot of them studied computer science.
Founders who work with Ukrainian developers value them a lot. They don’t consider war as an obstacle and keep cooperating with software engineers from Ukraine and choose to hire new specialists. In an interview for IT Arena in May 2022, Andy Kurtzig, the CEO of JustAnswer (an American expert marketplace with development offices in the Ukrainian cities of Uzhgorod and Lviv), said that “since the war started, we’ve hired more than 10 people in Ukraine.”
In the same interview, Andrew Brown, the CEO of Edunav, an American EdTech company with offices in Kyiv, Lviv, and Odesa, highlighted that the war has only strengthened the bond between Edunav and Ukrainian IT specialists who work for the company.
Ukrainian IT workers take their education seriously. There are wide opportunities for those who want to obtain higher education in the IT field in Ukraine.
Computer science and software engineering are among the most attractive degrees for Ukrainian graduates. There are more than 150 Ukrainian universities where students can obtain an IT education. The biggest are the Ihor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the Lviv Polytechnic National University, and the Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv. It’s predicted that by 2024, more than 20,000 students annually will get a bachelor’s degree in IT, which is 23% more than in 2020.
Most Ukrainian tech students start working in the IT field while studying. This way, they graduate having not only higher education but also real work experience.
Education in Ukraine has not frozen due to the war. Most schools and universities are equipped with shelters where students can wait out the air raid sirens. Students of educational establishments located in cities close to the front are studying remotely, and all the processes for this had already been set up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ukrainian developers are open-minded and eager to share their experience and learn by attending IT events, meetups, and conferences. There are a lot of tech events in Ukraine that welcome from 500 to 12,000 visitors: IT Arena, .Net Fest, iForum, Kyiv Outsourcing Forum, and many others.
Government and EU support
The government of Ukraine creates a comfortable environment for IT companies and startups.
On June 10, 2022, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal announced that the government is interested in supporting IT entrepreneurs who want to run a startup. The government plans to allocate a budget of UAH 10 billion for one year for this initiative. It will be focused on export-oriented companies in order to support the country’s economy during the war and post-war periods.
In order to support the Ukrainian IT sector and business, the government has also launched Diia.City, a virtual economic zone with a special tax rate (10%) and special financial and legal regimes. It’s intended to attract foreign investments to Ukraine and simplify the process of business management (namely for IT companies). Diia.City is expected to create the most favorable conditions for the development of IT businesses.
We are transforming Ukraine into a country of IT companies and startups.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy during his speech at the third Diia Summit in Kyiv
More than 260 companies with 20,000 IT specialists have become Diia.City residents according to Mykhailo Fedorov, the Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, on his Telegram channel.
The EU has also demonstrated a desire to support the Ukrainian IT sphere. In June 2022, the European Commission launched a €20 million action to support the Ukrainian innovation community. It’s planned to support at least 200 Ukrainian tech startups with up to €60,000 each while also providing business advisory and matchmaking services to them.
World-recognized tech solutions built in Ukraine
In the last few years, Ukraine has taken a big step towards modern technologies; numerous commercial startups and government initiatives have fully digitalized services in ways that were previously unimaginable.
According to the Ukrainian Startup Ecosystem report, the number of startups founded in Ukraine has grown steadily in the last few years.The vast majority of today’s Ukrainian startup owners have founded their businesses between 2019 and 2021.
Readdle, Depositphotos, GitLab, and many other prominent products have been created by Ukrainian software engineers. Let’s take a closer look at some of the striking and innovative startups that have been founded in Ukraine.
Grammarly is a famous Ukrainian unicorn with more than 30 million users. This writing assistance platform uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to help people communicate clearly in English, check grammar and spelling, detect plagiarism, and more. In 2022, Garmmarly was recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the 100 most influential companies in the world and was named one of the world’s 10 most innovative AI companies by Fast Company.
Reface is an AI-based deep fake app that swaps users’ faces with those of celebrities or movie characters to create amusing videos and pictures. In 2020, Reface became the most popular app on the App Store in America. As of December 2021, the Reface app had been installed 180 million times.
AirSlate was developed as the very first no-code business automation platform in the world. It has e-signing functionality, no-code robotic process automation, contract negotiation, and document generation features. In June 2022, the company completed a $51.5 million financing round that valued AirSlate at $1.25 billion. AirSlate now has over 100 million users worldwide.
Along with highly successful commercial products, Ukraine has one digital solution to be especially proud of.
Diia (“Action” in English) is a Ukrainian e-governance brand launched in 2020 by the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine to make all government services and documents available via one app. Ukrainians can now have their passports, driver’s licenses, COVID certificates, and other documents on their smartphones. Diia also gives online access to more than 70 governmental services, including for registering a business. Ukraine has become the first country where e-documents function on the same level as physical documents.
During the war, Ukrainian refugees have been able to enter EU countries using just their digital documents. Moreover, Diia has enabled users to register as internally displaced persons in a new city, report war-related property damage, and apply for compensation all within the mobile app.
As of August 2022, Diia was being used by 18 million Ukrainian citizens and residents.
Ukrainian startups have become pioneers in various fields. Many of these startups have no analogs anywhere else in the world. Thanks to outstanding creativity and deep expertise, Ukrainian developers can create innovative products both for the internal market and for export.
Hiring a developer in Ukraine: Other concerns you may have
When deciding to cooperate with software developers from Ukraine,you may have some other concerns that are not related to the war or the level of developers’ professionalism.
Being an Eastern European country, Ukraine is in the same time zone as some European countries and only one or two hours ahead of others.
Moreover, years of active work with partners from other continents have proven that even significant time zone differences are not an issue for Ukrainian IT companies. They have a tried and tested approach to scheduling online meetings with partners from countries with big time differences that satisfies both sides.
Due to the war, there are temporarily no civilian flights operating in Ukraine, but in peacetime, it takes only from one to three hours to get to major European countries from the biggest Ukrainian airports, making it easy to organize offline connections with Ukrainian developers. Prior to the war, there were also convenient connections to major cities overseas so that business trips between Ukraine and the USA, Canada, and Australia were a breeze.
When you think about hiring IT professionals from a non-English speaking country, language may become a stumbling block. All Ukrainian IT students learn English at university or at courses, and most are able to communicate directly with foreign clients when they start down their professional path. Most software development companies provide free English classes for their employees and organize English speaking clubs with native speakers so workers can regularly improve their English skills.
According to EF research, in an English language proficiency rating, Ukraine ranked 40th in 2021, surpassing India, China, Russia, Japan, and many other countries. In 2020, Ukraine took 44th place in the ranking.
Ukraine is advancing towards European data protection standards. Back in 2017, Ukraine began implementing its data protection system in line with European standards.
Cooperation with Ukrainian developers starts with signing an NDA to protect your sensitive information and reduce the chances of data leaks.
How to hire developers in Ukraine for your startup?
Let's assume you have chosen Ukrainian developers as the perfect option for implementing your startup idea. Still, there are hundreds of IT companies in Ukraine, and it may be confusing to decide whom to work with.
Go through the following steps for hiring developers In Ukraine to secure a reliable and effective partnership.
1. Begin with a startup brief
In order to choose the software development company with the deepest expertise related to your project, you need to know exactly what you need and be ready to share this information with vendors.
Instead of saying something like “I want to build an app like Instagram” or “I want to create a photo sharing app,” it’s recommended to create a project brief — not yet an established and detailed plan but a clear and simple explanation of your request.
Your project brief may contain information such as:
- Target market
- Target audience
- Technology stack
- Benefits for users
- Your goals and objectives
- Your budget
- Project specifics & peculiarities
To sum up, a project brief should contain all the information you have about your startup at the time when you approach a startup development company.
2. Decide what cooperation model to look for
After filling in a project brief, answer this question: Do you have a product development team or would you like to build one from scratch? Then, choose a type of service you need:
IT staff augmentation is good when you need several specialists to complete your existing team (for example, your dedicated software developers aren’t skilled enough in React and you are struggling with some frontend-related challenges) or you just want to reduce the time to market by extending your team. Instead of taking the risk of hiring part-time freelance developers, you can go for staff augmentation services.
Choosing staff augmentation, you can hire professionals to work on your team for as long as you need. Note that you will have to allocate time for developer onboarding before starting the development process.
- IT outsourcing
When you don’t have a team that can bring your idea to life, the best choice is IT outsourcing: you won’t have to waste valuable time looking for ways to develop your startup with minimal risks but instead can hire a development team, choosing each specialist separately. An outsourcing company takes over everything related to product development while you can focus on strategic business-related tasks.
Depending on your unique project needs, you may cooperate with a software development team consisting of a business analyst, software developers, UI/UX designers, and QA engineers and led by an experienced project manager. This model assumes long-term full-time cooperation that starts with a project discovery phase and goes on as long as your project is alive.
3. Shortlist vendors
The next step is to make a list of vendors that can provide the type of service you need. To do so, you need to do the following:
Choose an outsourcing destination
Despite the full-scale war in Ukraine, development companies in the majority of Ukrainian cities continue providing high-level services.
Four Ukrainian cities — Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, and Kharkiv — are included in the StartupBlink rank of best cities for launching a startup. Let’s now take a closer look at some of the biggest IT hubs in Ukraine.
The capital of Ukraine, Kyiv naturally houses the majority of top Ukrainian technical universities and IT companies. According to Statista, there are almost 100,000 IT specialists in Kyiv city and the Kyiv region.
Kyiv is not only the largest tech hub in Ukraine but also one of the largest and most developed tech hubs in Europe. The majority of Ukrainian startups (55.1%) are located in the Kyiv region.
Kyiv also houses numerous international companies. Snapchat, Huawei, Upwork, and other global companies have R&D centers in Kyiv.
As the largest tech hub in Ukraine, Kyiv may seem like the most attractive outsourcing destination, but note that software developers from this city have the highest salaries in the country (above average for the Ukrainian IT sector). So if your budget is limited, consider other destinations within Ukraine.
Lviv, located in the Western part of Ukraine, houses 563 IT companies as per the 2022 Lviv IT Cluster report. According to IT Research 6.0, the number of IT professionals in Lviv has been constantly growing, up from 26,000 in 2020 to 31,000 in 2021.
The Lviv region is located on the border with Poland, so it’s a popular IT outsourcing destination for startuppers from Eastern Europe.
Odesa, a city located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea near the border of Moldova, has more than 150 IT companies and more than 10,000 IT professionals.
Because of its access to the sea, Odesa is currently subjected to rocket attacks. Still, most IT companies from Odesa continue to operate with their teams distributed across the country.
Dnipro is the industrial capital of Ukraine. There are more than 13,000 IT specialists in the city. The IT market in Dnipro has been growing especially intensively, with the number of IT specialists expected to double by 2025 compared to 2022.
Dnipro takes second place in Ukraine, after Kyiv, in terms of the number of R&D centers. Well-known companies including Siemens, Oracle, Wix, and Wise (formerly Transferwise) have offices in Dnipro.
Kharkiv, the second largest city in Ukraine with 511 IT companies and around 45,000 IT specialists (as of 2021), used to be one of the top IT destinations. Being located close to the border with Russia, however, the city is now bombarded with artillery and missiles on a daily basis. The majority of IT workers have left Kharkiv and moved to safer places; those who have decided to stay in the city have become accustomed to new realities and continue to work in wartime conditions.
How can you choose the optimal destination for your startup?
Due to the war, you have to take some additional considerations into account when working with Ukrainian software developers. In particular, you need to ensure the threat to your project’s development is minimal. Ask your potential vendors how they work during the war, if team members are in safe places, and what the company will do in case of an emergency situation in their region.
Check portfolios, CVs, and testimonials
When choosing a vendor, it’s important to check case studies to evaluate a vendor's expertise and the quality of completed solutions. This will help you choose a vendor with experience in your industry.
A company’s portfolio allows you to evaluate the company’s products and services as well as experience in your field and technology expertise. The successes recorded in a company’s portfolio allow you to estimate if your potential partner is really able to deliver a quality product and if you can get maximum profit out of your cooperation.
You should carefully investigate a company’s portfolio and take a closer look at the products the company has already developed to make sure they relate to the product you’re planning to launch.
There is no better way to get insights into the inner workings of a company than checking testimonials by previous clients. They reflect how successful the company is in doing its job, how it deals with challenges, and the pros and cons of cooperation. Usually, you can find testimonials on a company’s official website. You should also check reviews from a company’s previous clients on independent resources like Clutch, LinkedIn, and GoodFirms.
4. Talk to potential partners
Once you've talked to companies you're interested in, it’s time to choose the most suitable development service provider.
Before you sign a contract, you need to ensure there won’t be unpleasant surprises during your cooperation. Ask about how your potential partner handles legal requirements, rates, possible hidden software development costs, the company’s values, etc. The right vendor will be willing to provide you with all the information you ask for (this also speaks to the vendor’s soft skills).
Prepare a list of questions that will allow you to check a company’s competence and attitude towards you as a client. Here is a list of basic questions you should ask:
- What is your specialists’ level of English proficiency? (It will be much easier to find a common language with developers who are fluent in English.)
- How will the vendor assign software developers and other team members for your project? (It’s important to find out about the vendor’s selection criteria and share yours. This way you make sure that you get a software development team that is a pleasure to work with.)
- What’s the company’s project management strategy? (It’s meaningful to get to know how the company provides its services, what approach to project management the company uses, how frequently you’re going to have meetings with your team and get status updates, etc. You also should share your own expectations about your potential cooperation).
The vendor should be open about everything related to your cooperation and be willing to ask you questions too. If your potential partner isn’t interested in the specifics of your project and the deliverables you would like to get, they’re likely focused on completing tasks without getting deeply involved in your project.
5. Develop your assessment system
After you’ve spoken with the vendors from your shortlist, you need to make your choice. Here’s how you can build your assessment system:
- Create a table with pros and cons of each candidate. This way, you will be able to clearly see which company offers the most benefits.
- Define your priorities. These are the things you can’t give up. You will be able to cross off the list of companies that are not compatible with your priorities.
- Decide on criteria on which you're flexible. For example, if the custom app development cost of the company that left the best impression slightly exceeds your expectations, you can decide to allocate more money for initial development in exchange for a more promising partnership.
Remember also to talk to your app development partner, stakeholders, and colleagues, ask them for advice, and listen to your own impressions and thoughts of each company. This guide will help you make the best choice and increase your chance of building the startup of your dreams.
Boost your startup with Ukrainian developers’ skills
Due to war, the IT industry in Ukraine has undergone changes, but it hasn’t stopped working, and the quality of services remains high. Developers in Ukraine continue to work on new projects and sign contracts with companies from abroad.
To hire software developers from Ukraine, you should start by creating a document that describes all the information you currently have on your project, decide on which type of service you need (staff augmentation or outsourcing), choose a safe destination with a large talent pool and shortlist development vendors, talk to potential partners, and choose your assessment system.
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- How much does it cost to hire developers in Ukraine?
According to Glassdoor, the average monthly salary for a developer in Ukraine is $3,000.
- Are Ukrainian software developers good?
- Is it safe for businesses to outsource the development of core products to Ukraine?
The vast majority of IT companies in Ukraine continue to work despite the war, have active projects, and continue to hire new specialists for open positions.
- Is it cost-effective to choose Ukrainian developers over local talents?
The rates of developers from Eastern Europe are much lower than those of developers in Western countries, so many founders choose Ukraine as an outsourcing destination if they want to get a cost-effective solution.
- How well do Ukrainian programmers speak English?
Almost all Ukrainian developers speak English at least at the intermediate or upper-intermediate level.