What does the first innovative city in Ukraine look like – photo report from UNIT.City

On April 6, 2017 presentation of the first part of large-scale project UNIT.City was held in Kyiv at the address: 8 Semyi Khokhlovykh Street. As Max Yakover, Managing Partner of the park, says, it is not a traditional technopark. He stated, “It is a city within a city, a potential place of concentration of creative economy of our country. A project of such scale is absolutely unique experience for Ukraine.” How far do his words correspond to the actual state of affairs? AIN.UA visited the city and made exclusive photo coverage of the finished part of UNIT.City, which is ready to host the first residents.

In order to become Managing Partners of UNIT.City, Max Yakover and Maxim Bakhmatov had to leave VDNG, state facility, which they successfully decommunized. Maxes do not conceal the reason for leaving.

Maxim Bakhmatov commented, “We went out from VDNG, because we realized that we would spend a lot of time with uncertain result due to many unclear things, which take place in the legislative environment. For the same period of time here we will finish construction. It is a private business and private territory, and we can do here whatever we want based on the concept that we now develop and improve.”

We are going to make considerable investments to the project: for the period of four years the main and sole investor Vasiliy Khmelnitskiy intends to spend up to $200 million on UNIT.City. He said, “In the world such projects are commonly referred to as innovative parks. However, we would like to create something more than that – the whole innovative city that will become a unique ecosystem for companies, operating in the sphere of high-tech and creative industries.”

UNIT.City project goal is to integrate educative, business, cultural, medical, sports and entertainment facilities, aiming to provide small and medium-sized innovative business with access to all infrastructure and expertise, required for rapid development, in the same territory. Something like that was described by Dave Eggers in his book “The Circle”. This book will soon be filmed in a movie starring Emma Watson.

A city within a city

Now we have opened five facilities in UNIT.City, which will be described below. According to Maxim Bakhmatov’s evaluations, it is about 2% of the future city. The total area will cover around half a million of square meters.

By the way, the first stage of UNIT.City already makes quite strong impression. The territory with its buildings and decorative elements reminds well-known campuses of Google, Apple and other Silicon giants.

Total area of future innovative city is rather impressive – about 25 ha of the old Kyiv motorcycle factory, which is going to be fully built up. Construction works are in progress and, for today, the work is humming just behind the building of business campus.

Meanwhile, the team of UNIT demonstrated already finished facilities. Business campus, sports complex (free for residents) and café are located on the area of 4,000 square meters.

Another 3,000 square meters are occupied by free of charge programming school named UNIT.Factory that we were talking about earlier. It is the key educational element of the city that, in fact, UNIT.City started from. Here they also have one more educational project -Bionic University (course of studies started on March 1, 2017).

It is noteworthy that when AIN.UA had a tour of the school, all these new buildings in high-tech style were absent around the school. The city is growing with really high speed.

Who are those that UNIT.City is built for?

The center for entrepreneurship creative development, as partners see it, is primarily intended for representatives of innovative business: small Ukrainian and international product companies, R&D-centers and startups.

A building with mirror walls is the first business campus on the territory of the city, but not the last one. For today, 25 residents, including the well-known Ukrainian startup Concepter, the companies Forland and SmartFarming, the associations Hi Tech Office Ukraine, two laboratories: virtual reality (Sensorama) and 3D-prototyping (FabLab Fabricator), have settled in this campus.

The infrastructure is provided to the residents by a partner of UNIT.City —Technology Companies Development Center (TCDC). It is a project, focused on technological transformations of resident companies. TCDC render them assistance in search for ideas, talent management and team building. Project partners are represented by Kyiv-Mohila Business School and Hi Tech Office Ukraine.

Concepter will move to UNIT.City in May and will occupy the entire floor in business campus. Oleg Malenkov, a cofounder and COO of Concepter, told: “We have chosen UNIT.City, because it offers all required conditions to the companies, which create innovations in Ukraine and sell it throughout the world. We met these guys and grasped their vision. It is similar to ours. We also found out who our neighbors would be. We came here, viewed this place and liked it.”

Previously, office of Concepter was located in the notorious business center that the team was forced to move out. Today, the team of 30 people temporary works in coworking space.

Ukrainian creative agency Fedoriv, which, by the way, is engaged in brand development, communications and design for UNIT.City, will also become the resident of UNIT.City

Andrey Fedoriv, a founder and CEO of the agency, told: “We understand that there is a number of tools that we would like to work with, but have no skills to do it – it is not about classics, like SMM, but about certain experiments. Therefore, we decided to open here a new digital segment Fedoriv Digital Lab, and the experiments will be carried out within the framework of this segment.

Initial office of Fedoriv in UNIT.City will cover an area of 150 sq. m. Andrey Fedoriv shared his vision, “We are not going to make a classic office where people come in, sit at the desk and do their job. It will be like in case with Fedoriv Hub —multifunctional space. Fedoriv Hub proved that it is justified and makes a good story. In “Arena” we already have 1,000 sq. m, and we will continue building up capacities there and, at the same time, will make progress here.”

Andrey Fedoriv also added that it is important for the agency to stay within UNIT.City, in order to remain an innovator in their sphere. He explained, “The clients have divided into two categories: those, who are in the future or seek to be there, and those, who stay in ultratraditional categories. We can cooperate with the companies, which deal with cheese and alcohol in Ukraine and Belarus, as well as with startup, incorporated in Germany and focused on Swiss market. Although, these companies are very different mentally. That is why we need to have faster speed of our internal changes in the agency than the speed of external transformations.”

How campuses work

Business campuses work in the format of club offices under sharing principle. Max Yekover clarified, “Imagine, you have a small company intended for 10 employees. In fact, all that you need is a small premise. You don’t need all other office infrastructure – meeting-rooms, etc. Therefore, you share this infrastructure with other companies. WeWork operates according to the same principle.”

Sharing principle is one of the key ideas of business campus organization in UNIT.City. Therefore, it is not so important how the offices are built in here, but it is much more critical who dwells in these offices. Yakover exemplifies, “Upon completion of repair works, Fab Lab will move in. It means that the opportunity to prototype will be provided in UNIT.City.” Accordingly, presence of Sensorama provides the residents with access to their own VR- and AMR-laboratory.

What is next?

By the end of 2017 they promise to open 20,000 sq. m more for business campuses on the territory of UNIT.City. If the first premises of UNIT.City are the reconstructed buildings of motorcycle factory, the new ones are built from scratch. These facilities will have high ceilings, special ventilation system, required for hardware laboratories, and other constructive solutions, taking into account demands of future residents.

The first building of the second stage is half-finished – the construction completion date is scheduled for June. A huge coworking space will be located on the first two floors and club offices – on the third floor.

Nearby they lay foundation for one more object, much larger in scale. According to Max Yakover, it will be a seven-storied campus with an area of 11,000 sq.m. Old buildings of motorcycle factory will be demolished. On this place they will build a few more facilities that will be finished approximately in November and January next year.

Max Yakover states, “All this will be completed during the next 12 calendar months. Now we hold negotiations with those who will become residents of these spaces. We have a lot of interested people. One building has already been sold for leasing.

UNIT.City expects to become the key location for creative layer of Ukrainians, particularly, those who are engaged in IT sphere. In fact, it will make the project a competitor for such projects as “Chasopys”. However, Max Yakover, being the owner of “Chasopys”, does not worry about it. He explained, “In “Chasopys” I have a management team and here – I am a management team. We will compete, but it is absolutely different scales. “Chasopys” is a nice place in the downtown of Kyiv. And here we are building the city! We also don’t worry about Creative Quarter. We wish them good luck and are ready to cooperate, cooperate with everyone.”

What does the government think?

According to evaluations of Khmelnitskiy, UNIT.City will contribute to creation of up to 15,000 high-paid jobs and will provide the talented youth with an opportunity for self-realization within their own country, thereby reducing brain drain.

Such aspirations and noble intentions, of course, draw attention of senior state officials. On the day of official opening of UNIT.City, Vladimir Groysman, the Prime Minister of Ukraine, visited the territory of the city. He personally inspected the facilities and declared that the government will create all conditions for development of the innovative city.

As for now, the team of UNIT.City is just doing its job. Max Yakover promises that we have a lot of interesting discoveries ahead.