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Ukrainian exhibitors are highlighted at CES 2023, after they traveled across the world amid an ongoing invasion from Russia.
For every business at the 2023 Consumer Electronic Show, it started with an idea. But for some, first comes survival.
Some exhibitors, who live in Ukraine, showcased a bomb shelter.
"This year's journey was much more complicated because due to the war limitations and air restrictions," Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association CEO Dmytro Kuzmenko said. "There are no air flights from Ukraine during the war. So, I had to cross the border by train."
From war-torn Ukraine to Las Vegas, the land of excess. From a country with planned power blackouts, to a city where the lights never turn off.
"It's really emotional to know that I'm here and my family and my little kid is over there. And I have a video call every day with them, trying to communicate," Kuzmenko said.
There are 10 different Ukrainian startups at CES this year, representing industries from agriculture to robotics — but most importantly, representing their home country.
A navigation device helps farmers be more sustainable, reducing costs for oil, fertilizers, seeds and more. But they also found a need for another type of AG technology for Ukraine.
"Since the war, we realized that a lot of fields that are mostly on the south and east of Ukraine that were used are now mined. So they have land mines in them," said Tatiana Gorzey with efarm.pro. "So we have created the technology that can help the farmers run their regular tractors to demine the field so they don't get blown up themselves, being on a tractor."
Valentyn Frechka, the founder of Releaf Paper, came up with the idea five years ago, when he was just 16 years old.
"It is really incredible that it's real," he said.
Releaf's product's solution is two-fold: The company works with cities, like Kyiv, to remove naturally fallen leaves and then, turn them into biodegradable paper products.
"We were able to create the corrugated boxes. It's also made from Releaf Paper," said Releaf Paper Co-Founder Alexander Sobolenko. "It looks like the box, but not any single tree has been cut down to produce this box."
Startups here expect to see even more Ukrainian innovation as a result of the war.
"It's very inspiring, and I believe that Ukraine is probably going to grow, grow and we're going to bring more and more innovators through," said Gorzey.
While the exhibitors are thrilled to be at CES, they don’t have plans to stay in the U.S. long.
"I'm looking forward to get back home and hug my little kid and my wife and to proceed my activity to rise up the entire ecosystem," Kuzmenko said.
"We have many, many things to show. And after that, we're coming back home," Ukrainian Startup Fund Project Manager Karyna Kudriavtseva said. "We're coming back home to develop the things that we're working on, to develop the ecosystem, to help the country win."
In our conversations, one word kept coming to the surface: Resiliency.
"They've been working despite the war, despite that air raid system, bullets, etc. Here they are at the CES, proving that they're working, they're developing and they are ready to scale," Kudriavtseva continued. "So, this is the moment when you understand that Ukrainian startups are the best investments. They're the strongest ones. There's no country at all, who [has] experienced such things. And these guys turned to be successful, despite all of these things."
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