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You're reading: Ukrainian startup Ugears to sign deal with Disney

Ukrainian startup Ugears is working out a deal with the Walt Disney Company to sell its mechanical wooden models in Disneyland parks and Disney stores worldwide.

The two companies have been trying to reach an agreement for four months. One of the requirements is for Ugears to undergo an audit, which will take place in September,  the CEO of the Ukrainian company Gennady Shestak told the Kyiv Post.

Shestak says he has already received a “very long list of requirements” from the U.S. entertainment giant together with a range of auditors certified to conduct an audit for Disney.

Some of the main requirements concern fair labor conditions and financial transparency. If the audit goes well for Ugears (Ukrainian Gears), Disney will sell Ukrainian wooden models in its stores around the globe, including in Disneyland parks.

Disney has already approved of the first model, a wooden carriage by Ugears, which “they liked very much,” said Shestak. Other three prototypes are being currently under review.

Shestak, who worked with Disney for six years, publishing the American company’s children’s books in Ukrainian, says that while Disney is demanding, partnership with it is prestigious.

Disney is ready to order a trial batch of 10,000 Ugears models, which will cost $150,000.

Ugears’ inventor sells shares

Amid the preparations for the agreement with Disney, the inventor and founder of Ugears Denis Okhrimenko sold his 25-percent share to Shestak for $360,000. This ended a conflict between both of them that’d lasted since the summer of 2016.

Okhrimenko founded Ugears in 2013. He needed investments and partnered with Shestak in 2014, who supported the idea financially.

In 2015, Ugears crowdfunded $406,000 on Kickstarter, in spite of originally asking only for $20,000. After this success, the company ran three more crowdfunding campaigns on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, collecting $531,000 more.

After one of the campaigns, Okhrimenko complained Shestak started to push him out of the business, and soon he left the company retaining his share in it.

Inventor and founder of Ugears Denis Okhrimenko (L) and CEO and owner of the company Gennady Shestak put together one of the mechanical wooden models during the shooting of a promotion video in 2015. The relationship between the businessmen has turned sour over the years, resulting in Okhrimenko selling all his shares to Shestak in 2017.

Inventor and founder of Ugears Denis Okhrimenko (L) and CEO and owner of the company Gennady Shestak put together one of the mechanical wooden models during the shooting of a promotion video in 2015. The relationship between the two has turned sour over the years, resulting in Okhrimenko selling all his shares to Shestak in 2017.

Along with the number of its models, the number of jobs at the startup is growing too, with around 140 people now on staff. Ugears is getting orders from more than 80 countries, mostly from China and the United States (the Ugears models there are at least two times more expensive than in Ukraine).

Today Ugears is estimated to be worth $1.2 million. Shestak owns all 100 percent of the startup’s shares, while Okhrimenko claims he’s lucky he was allowed to get money for his part and leave.

“This is a good exit from the business that has seized to be yours,” Okhrimenko told the Kyiv Post. “That’s the Ukrainian realities — partnership has become a family business, in which there’s no place for me.”

Shestak, however, denies any aggression towards his partner and says the inventor just stopped generating new ideas.

“Okhrimenko stopped inventing in 2016. Then, he threw a tantrum and quit,” says the CEO. “Nobody put pressure on him. It will be wonderful without Denis. We have already released more models than we did with him. We have lots of talented people in the company.”

Okhrimenko says he knew Ugears was preparing for the agreement with Disney.

“If it happens eventually, (Shestak) can get seven figures,” Okhrimenko says, but insists he has no regrets. Currently, the businessman develops two new projects: Time 4 Machine and PAGL.

“I have plenty of new ideas, and if Lord helps me, I’ll bring them to life,” the inventor says.

The Kyiv Post’s IT coverage is sponsored by Ciklum. The content is independent of the donors.

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