HomeTech StoriesFrom WhatsApp to Grammarly: Ukraine’s Influence on the World of Tech

From WhatsApp to Grammarly: Ukraine’s Influence on the World of Tech


Ukraine is dealing with a major crisis as neighbouring Russia launched an invasion this week. News reports suggest missile attacks have affected various parts of the country, impacting daily lives of civilians. The situation is also getting worse due to a series of cyberattacks targeting the Ukrainian government. Ukraine is the second-largest country by area in Europe after Russia. But, apart from being one of the largest countries in the European region, Ukraine has a great history of bringing several technology companies to life. Some of them still have their roots in the country, while many have Ukrainian founders who conceptualised and made them renowned brands.

Since Russia started its invasion drive on Thursday (February 24), Ukrainian government and banking websites are getting targeted by cyberattacks. Facebook and Twitter have also launched special features to let users in the country lock their social media profiles for security.

One of the major reasons behind these cyberattacks and the potential of seeing a wave of hacking incidents in Ukraine is to strategically impact the country’s technological advancements. The cyberattacks by Russia is also expected to have a global impact.

Ukraine has a large number of tech startups and is also home to the offices of various big technology companies. It also owns a vast IT-outsourcing sector that is powering some of the largest corporate entities around the globe.

In addition to tech startups and IT companies, there are various technology companies that have Ukrainian roots.

WhatsApp is one of those firms. It was founded by Ukraine-born Jan Koum in January 2009. The app was initially launched to show statuses, though it later gained popularity as an instant messaging platform. In 2014, Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion (roughly Rs. 1,43,100 crore).

Similar to WhatsApp, fintech company PayPal was co-founded by Ukrainian emigrant Max Levchin. It was initially founded as Confinity in 1998 and as X.com in 1999. Lavchin left PayPal in December 2002 — months after the platform was acquired by e-commerce company eBay.

In 2012, Lavchin founded the US-based buy-now pay-later (BNPL) platform Affirm. The 46-year-old entrepreneur also produced the movie Thank You for Smoking and co-founded companies including social app developer Slide.com and fintech startup studio HVF.

Snap, the parent of photo-sharing app Snapchat, in September 2015 acquired photography startup Looksery that was co-founded by Ukraine-based Yurii Monastyrshin. The deal that was valued at $150 million (roughly Rs. 1,130 crore) was the biggest acquisition in Ukraine’s history. It also enabled Snapchat to bring a masking feature called Lenses that is still live on the app.

With Looksery on board, Snap has a massive office premises in Ukraine capital Kyiv as well as in Odessa.

Kyiv is also the home for app developer MacPaw that is claimed to have a base of over 30 million users around the globe. The company is known for its macOS utility app CleanMyMac X.

MacPaw assured users that all its products including CleanMyMac X would work without fail despite the attacks taking place in the city.

“We’ve prepared various assistance programmes and launched an emergency plan to ensure the safety of our peers based in Ukraine,” MacPaw Founder and CEO Oleksandr Kosovan said in a blog post.

 

Typing assistant Grammarly is also one of the biggest tech companies coming out of Ukraine. It was founded by Ukraine-born Max Lytvyn, Alex Shevchenko, and Dmytro Lider in 2009 and is widely being used by content creators around the world.

Although Grammarly is headquartered in San Francisco, California, the company has its primary developer office in Kyiv.

In addition to the companies built by Ukrainians that are now based out of the US, Ukraine still has software firms that are developing global products. Readdle is one such firm, and it is based in Odessa. It is known for the email client SparkMail that is available for iOS, macOS, and Android.

Companies including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft also have their offices in Ukraine. Additionally, content delivery network and Web infrastructure provider Cloudflare has its data centre in the country.


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