“Everyone in the West wants to buy Ukrainian products.” How Ukraine’s Awesomic works during the war

Awesomic is a Ukrainian startup developing a platform that helps companies find their best-fit designers quickly. Most of the designers on the platform are from Ukraine. After the start of the full-scale war, some of them trapped in the occupied territories. AIN.Capital editor talked to the co-founder of the startup, Roman Sevastyanov, about the work of the team and clients in war conditions.

Co-founders of the startup Roman Sevastyanov and Stacy Pavlyshyna. Photo: Awesomic

About the start of the full-scale war

We prepared our team and designers in advance. We asked them to pack their belongings and documents in February so that they could leave quickly. In mid-February, we paid salaries in advance and evacuated designers from Mariupol and Donbas. There were about 5% of the designers there.

I also prepared instructions on how the company should act if a full-scale war broke out. We partially withdrew cash and gave it to managers. We also created a map that showed the location of our team and designers.

On the morning of February 24, we started following the instructions. We rented apartments in cities in western Ukraine and hired a team of psychologists for our designers. Unfortunately, some of our people lost their homes or even loved ones. So psychological support was very important.

Additionally, we provided financial aid. We also rented two villas in Egypt, where women with children who could go abroad had a safe place. Interestingly, we got these accommodations with almost no expense spared. We asked partners for discounts, which were enough to cover the rent.

About customers

We have two types of customers: the designers themselves and those who order their services. We have never built a business with Russia — we had neither designers nor customers in the country. So after the start of the full-scale war, nothing has changed in terms of cooperation.

A few clients placed orders for several thousand dollars in advance; we still feel good financially.

We have also added a new option to donate to a specific Ukrainian designer. We got this idea from Airbnb, where Americans booked accommodations from Ukrainians and helped them financially. In March, we raised $23,000 that way.

Before the war, customers would complain, for example, about deadlines. Today, most people understand the situation and are sympathetic to delays. We have not lost a single client by them saying, “There is a war in your country. I’m leaving.” Most of them are from Europe and the US, the countries that stand with Ukraine.

About the team

During the first two days of the war, our designers could perform 50% of the tasks. On the fifth day, the volume of orders fulfilled was 85%, and a week later, it was — 100%. On the 50th day after the invasion, we evacuated the last person from occupied Kherson. A driver who called himself “Kamikaze Driver” helped us. The service cost 5,000 hryvnias. Today all of the 145 people working with us are safe.

Nothing has changed in our work organization since the beginning of the invasion. We have always worked remotely — the designers only needed a laptop and Internet access. The only change is the security check. Our employees in Ukraine can press the “I am safe” or “I need help” button.

When we get a notification that someone needs help, the team responds to the request. Everyone is relatively safe now, except for the rocket bombing in the cities. But previously, several people were working from the occupied territories, so such a check was necessary.

Roman Sevastyanov. Photo: Awesomic

About volunteering

Before the war we donated one million hryvnias to Come Back Alive. We pay salaries to several people from the foundation so that they can continue their volunteer work and not search for a job. We are also trying to support the market. Currently, there is one job opening for three designers, although before February 24, the situation was the opposite.

So we offer orders to Ukrainian designers who have lost their jobs. If anyone has free time, we offer projects, such as creating NFT collections. In total, we had 130 people working for us in March. For the month, they spent 30% of their working time on design-related volunteer projects.

About partners’ support

After the accelerator program at Y Combinator, we got a small brand in the startup community. Many investors and startups wrote to me and offered their help. I replied: “If you want to help, then donate to charities or buy a design from us.

I sense a new trend in the West: everyone wants to work with Ukrainians, buy Ukrainian products, and help the country.