In Ukraine's 25 years of independence, the country’s business scene has veered from communism to gangster capitalism to entrepreneurial innovation.
Over the years, an array of businesspeople from Ukraine and abroad have managed to build great companies, even in Ukraine’s challenging business environment dominated by oligarchs.
The success stories include expats from Western Europe, the United States and even other parts of the former Soviet Union, such as Lithuania-born Aivaras Abromavicius coming to Donetsk to work in a Swedish investment fund, and others, like American Jed Sunden, coming to Ukraine and founding the Kyiv Post and a multimillion-dollar media empire that he sold.
The Kyiv Post has drawn up a list of 25 top businesspeople who are running, or who have successfully run a business in Ukraine.
The newspaper excluded the nation’s richest people from this list, preferring to emphasize people who created new wealth and ideas rather than those – like many top oligarchs – who made their fortunes simply by acquiring Soviet assets in non-competitive and non-transparent – some would simply say rigged – privatizations.
The list also attempts to reward those who have shown commitment to a high degree of business ethics and community involvement.
That said, the Kyiv Post recognizes such lists are subjective and that many other worthy people could easily be included in the top 25 businesspeople. Nevertheless, here’s who we highlight:
20 outstanding persons
Jean-Jacques Herve, a French-born agronomist who has been working in the region since 1974, has served in a variety of roles in Ukraine, the first being an advisor on agriculture to the Ukrainian government. He serves on the board of Credit Agricole, Ukraine and also teaches at the Kyiv School of Economics.
Denis Dovgopoliy founded GrowthUp Group, which trains and invests in Ukrainian tech startups. He helped develop such well-known companies as Viewdle, sold to Google for at least $35 million, and a Ukrainian ridesharing company that merged with French BlaBlaCar. GrowthUp also organizes IT conferences such as Silicon Valley Open Doors in the United States and Dublin, and Ukraine’s biggest IT conference, iForum.
Both a successful businesswoman and formidable political figure, Jaresko contributed a lot to the development of Ukraine’s economy. In 1992, she became the first chief of the economic section of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine, responsible for strengthening economic cooperation between the two countries. She served as Ukraine’s finance minister later from Dec. 2, 2014 in ex-Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Cabinet until early 2016. She left Horizon Capital, the company she co-founded, in 2014.
Steve Fisher has been Ukraine country director for Citibank since 2010. He was elected to the position of chairman of the board of directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine in January 2016.
Currently at the helm of investment banking services firm SP Advisors, Nick Piazza has been working in Ukraine regularly since 2006, when he joined Concorde Capital. Before joining SP, Piazza was CEO of BG Advisors, another investment company.
Before agreeing to head the Ministry of Economic Development in the wake of the 2014 EuroMaidan Revolution, Aivaras Abromavicius worked for Swedish-owned investment fund East Capital. Starting there in 2002, Abromavicius split his time between working on projects in Donetsk and Kyiv.
Taras Kytsmey co-founded SoftServe, a Ukrainian software company that has main offices in Austin, Texas and Lviv. Founded in 1993, SoftServe has become the largest IT outsourcing firm in Ukraine.
Without Jed Sunden, this list might not exist. Sunden founded the Kyiv Post in 1995, and made it the heart of a small publishing empire before selling the newspaper to Mohammad Zahoor on July 28, 2009. Sunden also owned the news magazine Korrespondent through his company, KP Media, before selling the title to Ukraine Media Holding in 2011.
Dmitry Krepak worked as the chairman of Polish-backed Ukrainian lender KredoBank from 2012 until December 2015, when he moved to the position of regional manager for Visa in Ukraine, Georgia, and Armenia. KredoBank has weathered the country’s banking crisis quite well, remaining stable, legally compliant, and has snapped up market share given up by collapsed banks.
A longtime player on the Kyiv real estate market and former partner at mall developer UTG, Vitaliy Boyko now heads Urban Experts, a land development and consulting firm that maintains assets around the region. After the EuroMaidan Revolution, Boyko spent a year in Kyiv city government as a deputy at the Kyiv Investment Agency.
Torben Majgaard has been an expat in Ukraine for almost 20 years. Ciklum, the company that the Danish citizen founded in 2002, has seen astounding revenue growth in the past several years. Majgaard’s success has vaulted Ciklum into the ranks of other major IT outsourcing companies in the nation and worldwide. Ciklum employs up to 2,500 people in Ukraine.
Evgeni Utkin is the founder and president of KM Core, an innovative hi-tech holding company, with a portfolio of assets in IT, microelectronics and nanotechnologies. Utkin is a hi-tech pioneer and a prominent figure in the knowledge exchange process between the West and both Russia and Ukraine.
Vyacheslav Klimov co-founded Nova Poshta, one of the fastest-growing companies in Ukraine. Its annual turnover is about Hr 2 billion ($80 million). Klimov is also the president of the Association of Ukrainian Entrepreneurs.
Valery Krasovsky is co-founder and CEO of Sigma Software, a Ukrainian-Swedish IT company, which currently employs more than 500 people in Ukraine and partners with giants like SAP, Microsoft and IBM. Sigma Software is considered a rising star, and is among best 100 outsourcers in the world, according to The 2016 Global Outsourcing 100.
Vadim Rogovskiy founded social app monetization ad network Clickburner in 2010. In 2013 it transformed into the mobile marketing platform Clickky, which by rose to 11th in the prestigious list of the 5,000 fastest-growing companies in Europe, called The 2016 Inc. 5000. He is also a cofounder of one of the biggest startup incubators in Eastern Europe, WannaBiz. In 2015, Forbes Ukraine put Rogovskiy on its list of 30 most successful Ukrainians under the age of 30.
Much of Andriy Pivovarsky’s work as infrastructure minister was focused on opening up access for Ukraine to key global markets. Before taking the top job at the ministry, Pivovarsky was the managing director of the investment banking department at one of Ukraine’s leading groups of companies working in the field of investment and financial services, Dragon Capital. He is also the CEO of Continium Fuel Industrial Group, which owns a successful national chain of gasoline stations and convenience stores in Ukraine.
The founder and permanent head of Kyivstar company since 1994, Ihor Lytovchenko spearheaded the development of one of the most successful businesses in Ukraine. Under his leadership, Kyiv’s local cellphone provider took the top position on the national telecoms market, providing services to about 25 million subscribers all over Ukraine.
The founder of a venture fund targeting startups Digital Future, a member of the Ukrainian Business Angels Network, and an investor and board member of dozens Ukrainian tech startups, Oleksii Vitchenko has built a career as a successful businessman in Ukraine and abroad.
Sweden’s Sturen has been an investor in Ukraine since 1994. In 1996, he cofounded the largest tomato processing company in Central and Eastern Europe – Kherson-based Chumak. A fan of green energy, he also cofounded the Ukraine-based wind power development and investment company Vindkraft Ukraina. In 2010, Sturen cofounded yet another company in Ukraine, Green Team, which soon became the biggest vegetable cold storage and packaging company in Eastern Europe.
With over a decade of experience in IT management, Alex Bornyakov has founded and managed a number of successful companies and startup incubators, including U.S. video monetization platform VertaMedia, now valued at up to $50 million, and outsourcing company Intersog. He is also a managing partner at business incubator WannaBiz and a lawmaker for the Samopomich Party.
Horizon Capital CEO Lenna Koszarny is with Dmytro Kostyk, owner of Kodisoft, near the Presidential Administration in Kyiv before a meeting between the country’s information technology leaders and President Petro Poroshenko on July 6 in Kyiv. (Lenna Koszarny/facebook)
$100 million to his name, Dragon Capital CEO Tomas Fiala has done well
since his arrival in Ukraine in 1995. Fiala, a Czech national who first
set up an office in Ukraine for a brokerage, has wound up staying here
since, weathering everything from the 1998 financial collapse to the
country’s current economic troubles. Along the way, Fiala has developed
Dragon Capital, which he founded in 2000, into a Western-style investor,
even negotiating the 2007 sale of a minority stake in the firm to
Goldman Sachs, the U.S. investment firm. Fiala also chaired the European
Business Association from 2010 to 2015.
Capital co-founder and CEO Lenna Koszarny has led the Western-funded
investment firm since December 2014, when Natalie Jaresko left to become
the nation’s finance minister. Koszarny manages $600 million in assets
across three funds within Horizon, focused on encouraging growth in
Ukraine and regionally. Koszarny is a board member of the American
Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine as well as the Ukrainian Venture Capital
and Private Equity Association.
Chechetkin, 37, launched Rozetka 10 years ago. It is now Ukraine’s
biggest online retailer, accounting for a whopping 40 percent of the
country’s e-commerce industry. It is the standard bearer for the entire
Ukrainian retail market. At first Rozetka sold mostly consumer
electronics. But, step-by-step, the list of goods it sells has been
augmented with toys, clothes, sports goods, beauty care products,
musical instruments and even pets supplies. The website has 145,000
items available for purchase and boast more than 1.5 million visits
every day. Chechetkin’s net worth is estimated to be $64 million.
Kolodyuk, 45, has been active in building the entrepreneurial community
in Ukraine since the 1990s, and has founded and developed around a
dozen companies in the information technology, telecoms, internet and
media sectors, which have brought in $1 billion in revenues. From 2001
to 2005, Kolodyuk was the chair of the Telecoms Committee of the
American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. He was elected as a Young
Global Leader (from Ukraine) of the World Economic Forum in 2008. In
2001, he founded AVentures, and in 2012 with his partner Yevgen Sysoyev
launched a new fund — AVentures Capital, focused on early stage IT and
web-related projects, with a focus on global market. Since then,
Kolodyuk has not just become a famous investor and mentor for many of
Ukraine’s young companies, he has committed himself to creating a
successful Ukrainian startup and VC ecosystem. In August 2014, Kolodyuk
founded the Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association,
which promotes investment opportunities in Ukraine. He is also a board
member of Ciklum, a global software engineering and technology company.
His AVentures fund has invested more than $10 million in Ukrainian
startups over the last four years.
European Bank and Reconstruction Development country director for
Ukraine from 1995 to 1999, Jaroslav Kinach has focused his business
efforts since on the energy industry, attempting to bring Western
standards to local resource extraction. Kinach serves on the boards of
Black Iron Inc, DeNovo and Emerstone, an investment fund that is poised
to win a tender to develop the country’s largest oil field. After
working for the EBRD, he was an advisor to the prime minister of
Ukraine, providing policy advice on attracting foreign investment.
Between 2003 and 2008, he served as an independent director on the
boards of Swedbank Ukraine and Chagala Group Limited, an LSE listed real
estate company based in Kazakhstan, and was non-executive chairman of
Fabian Romania Limited, an AIM listed company operating in Romania.
Kinach holds an MBA from Columbia University, New York; a BA from
Concordia University, Montreal; and is a Fellow of the Institute of