Russia-Ukraine-Europe: How to Capture the Tech Market if You Are Russian
Not so long ago, the majority of well-known tech companies, including Apple, IBM, Hitachi, and Amazon, among others, have refused from cooperation with Russia unwilling to be associated with the genocide initiated by Russian leadership.
Now, some tech companies refuse from hiring Russian experts or engaging with Russia-based companies and investors. Meanwhile, people are talking about the opportunity for Russian businessmen and businesses who have fallen under sanctions in Europe or the US to paint themselves blue and yellow, negotiate a Ukrainian citizenship and keep conquering the Western world as a Ukrainian.
To be fair, there’s nothing new about the scheme. While the whole world is seeking for ways to refuse from Russian products and decrease Russian impact, some Russians have used Ukraine as a cover for their activities for a long time already.
How Did Ukraine Become a Pool for Russian Tech Businesses?
For people engaged in the tech sphere, it would not be a secret that the vibrant Ukrainian tech market, which started developing around 30 years ago, has attracted businesses due to the high quality of work at comparatively low rates. This has given a solid push to the boom of the sphere and the arrival of numerous outsourcing companies. Many rankings indicated Ukraine as an attractive location to develop tech business. A recent Coursera assessment of countries has acknowledged that Ukraine is among the top ten cutting edge technology countries. But the problem with the area was that such recognition attracted Russian capital to the country as well.
Ukrainian Tech Business With Russian Ties
Probably the most vivid example of such technology business in Ukraine was Lucky Labs co-owned by a Russian businessman Sergey Tokarev. Back in 2001, Tokarev co-founded Globo-Tech in Russia. The company developed software for online casinos and slot machines – they copied the games of popular developers and sold them as own products. After the gaming industry fell under ban in Russian, Globo-Tech developed undercover casinos.
But an interesting thing is that due to high level of corruption, such businesses in Russia cannot function properly without the involvement of government and intelligence agencies. Tokarev was lucky enough to have been born a son of his father, which allowed them to receive the necessary licenses. His father is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Interstate Union of Hero Cities led by Pavel Borodin, who is closely connected to Putin and was referred to as the one who has helped Putin to gain authority.
But when the business grew in Russia to the extent it was already difficult to hide, Tokarev decided to move to Ukraine with its vibrant tech sphere. In Kyiv, he founded a gambling company Lucky Labs that continued dealing with gambling and casinos.
A Sincere Russian Ukrainian
For some time already, Tokarev lives in Ukraine and focuses his business activities on the Ukrainian market. Stem is Fem, Roosh, and Reface are just some of his project that use Ukraine as a trampoline to be noticed and to appeal to Europe and the US. But despite his reputation as a businessman who builds Ukrainian tech scene, he remains deeply Russian. With a car park and a couple of flats in Russia, Tokarev still remains a Russian who supports Russian authorities and hasn’t spoken against the war or referred to it as the war. As most Russians, he just tries to stay silent about the events and continues doing business. One of Tokarev’s latest initiatives that went public through the people close to him – an investment in Ukrainian tech initiative Diia City, which will help him to approach the Ukrainian government.
Diia City doesn’t confirm the news, but why would they? Tech industry representatives in Ukraine are talking about investigations of Tokarev’s history of crossing the border and visiting Crimea. The insiders claim that the State Border Guard of Ukraine and the Security Service of Ukraine are checking Tokarev’s visits to Crimea, which was a breach of Ukrainian laws. It is also worth mentioning that back in 2016 Tokarev appeared in the list of people sanctioned by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. It would be strange enough to learn that the Ukrainian government has agreed to work with a person of Russian origin who still doesn’t recognize the war. Or doesn’t the money smell for Ukrainian authorities?
It is often strange to hear requests from the Ukrainian government to stop financing Russia’s war in Ukraine, to stop working with Russian businesses while Russians are deeply engaged in Ukrainian tech sphere. Tokarev is a bright example of such involvement. And while he can work in Ukraine being a Russian close to the authorities, how can European or American companies be confident that they are not working with Russians? Especially if such a person gets access to the government initiative that is to expand the scale of tech business in Ukraine, attract new investments and new tech companies in Ukraine.
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