How the tech industry is reacting to the Russian invasion of Ukraine


February 24, Russia launched an invasion of neighboring Ukraine after months of military buildup on its borders.

The attack began with cyberattacks that targeted Ukrainian government services with floods of internet traffic and data-erasing malware, followed by land, sea and air incursion. Ukrainian media are also report failures caused by cyberattacks, which the Ukrainian government says are “unambiguously linked” to Moscow.

The invasion was harshly reprimanded by the United States, European Union and NATO allies with promised unprecedented and extensive financial and diplomatic sanctions against Russia, sanctions likely to affect business, trade and finance throughout the region.

The impacts of the invasion are also undoubtedly felt throughout Ukraine’s tech ecosystem, which includes not only hundreds of startups and large tech companies, but also research and development offices for some of the largest. world’s leading technology brands.

As the situation on the ground rapidly evolves over the next few hours and days, TechCrunch will continue to bring news and analysis on how the conflict is unfolding in the tech and startup community.

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A director of a large technology company, who asked us not to name the company for the safety of its employees, confirmed to us that he is in the process of determining how to evacuate all his personnel to Ukraine. The situation is hampered by the fact that all airspace is now closed and public transport is largely out of service. The current plan is to figure out how to get staff across the border to Hungary or Poland.

The situation will also lead to major economic fallout for startups in Ukraine.

Readdle, the company that makes PDFs, emails and other productivity tools, is one of Ukraine’s best-known startups. Based in the southern city of Odessa, the company’s main spokesman and chief executive, Denys Zhadanov, canceled a phone interview for this story, saying there were too many emergencies to handle at the moment. He did, however, speak with TechCrunch via text.

“We developed business continuity plans some time ago and [are] execute them now,” he said. “All of Readdle’s Readdle products and services are operational and there is no evacuation for the team [being undertaken] That much.”

Zhadanov noted that Readdle became an international company some time ago, with people employed in 11 countries. A “big chunk” of the team, he said, is still based in Ukraine.

“Ukraine is home to the best engineers, designers and other technology professionals,” he added. “I know many tech CEOs have made a conscious decision to stay in Ukraine. Many of them help out and donate to help the county and its people.

In Ukraine, there are many more local startups that are also feeling the fallout (and supporting if you’re so inclined). They include Ajax, a home wireless security company; the Grammarly AI-powered grammar and writing engine; the Reface face swap app; Petcube pet camera system; People AI, the business and marketing intelligence start-up; and the Preply language tutor marketplace. These companies have raised funds from some of the biggest VCs in the world and one question will be how and if these relationships will be affected by the latest developments.

Software company MacPaw, which develops Mac software and utilities, said in a blog post that although its headquarters are in Kyiv, its infrastructure is hosted on Amazon Web Services and physically located outside Ukraine. Its payment processor, Paddle, is based in the UK and expects “nothing will change” for its users. “At this time, we remain strong, united, and ready to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” MacPaw said in an email to TechCrunch.

In addition to startups, you have larger tech companies that have both out-of-country R&D operations as well as teams providing more localized services, ranging from content to ad sales.

For those with consumer-facing platforms like Google’s YouTube or ByteDance’s TikTok, the question will be how they’re used — or misused — with misinformation, or conversely censorship, and how companies deal with this type. of traffic. On top of that, there’s the matter of the services as a whole, how they stay active, and if they’re at risk of being shut down due to penalties or internet service disruptions. We’ve reached out to Meta, Apple, Facebook, Google, ByteDance, and Snap for comment and will update as we learn more.

A few things to note for now:

Google, on the face of it, has about 200 people working in the country, covering both R&D for global services and localized operations. It has faced a number of issues over the years with censorship around YouTube in Russia, although it has so far had no analogue in Ukraine.

TikTok and its parent company ByteDance have no staff in Ukraine, but they do have a wildly popular app – which last year was estimated to have a 30% reach in the country, doubling from the previous year. We told last year how it became a key battleground around anti-Putin activism fueled by Navalny.

Twitter is warn users in Ukraine to protect their online accounts, such as using multi-factor authentication and disabling location tracking in tweets. It’s a sharp turnaround from 24 hours earlier, when Twitter confirmed it had mistakenly suspended accounts sharing details of Russia’s military activities before the invasion.

And, chief executive of internet giant Cloudflare, Matthew Prince, said the company had “removed all cryptographic material from Cloudflare customers from servers in Ukraine,” hours after the invasion began, as part of an effort to protect customer data and communications in the event the data center is compromised. Cloudflare opened its Kiev data center in 2016, which remains operational according to the company’s status pages. Cloudflare provides content delivery and network security for organizations and governments.

TechCrunch will bring you updates as we learn more.

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