Ukrainian entrepreneurs have staged a high-profile breakthrough into the ‘Forbes 30 under 30’ list of success stories – in fashion, IT, and fighting corruption.
From 15,000 nominees under the age of 30, two Ukrainian designers were chosen in this year’s European edition – Daria Shapovalova, 29, and Anna Karenina, 21.
They were joined by Kharkiv-based IT entrepreneur Dmitry Zaporozhets, 29, in the category of Enterprise Technology for his work with GitLab. This system develops ‘Gits’ that keep track of changes in computer files.
Shapovalova emerged a decade ago as a leader in Ukraine’s burgeoning fashion industry when she helped found the country’s biggest international fashion week, Mercedes-Benz Kiev Fashion Days. This five-day event opens this Wednesday.
Shapovalova went on to create the Kiev Fashion Institute, the first private Ukrainian educational project dedicated to studying interconnections between fashion, technology and business. It has more than 500 graduates.
“The mission that Kiev Fashion Institute has taken upon is of vital importance - no company can be thoroughly built without a decent basis of knowledge,” Shapovalova told the UBJ . “My utmost wish is to create and educate more professionals for the fashion industry of Ukraine.”
Ukraine’s fashion industry, Shapovalova said, has a key advantage: a low entry threshold compared to Western Europe and the United States.
“'It is extremely cheap to produce in Ukraine - cheaper than in China -- and that can be a good start for numerous successful businesses on the ground,” she said. “We have the potential to become a strong light industry manufacturing country.”
In 2014, Shapovalova co-founded More Dash, a sales and PR agency for promoting Eastern European designers on international markets. She also featured on the BoF 500 list, the first professional index of people shaping the $1 trillion fashion industry.
Anna Karenina, designer of the Anna K brand, was selected in two of the 20 categories – the arts and the youngest. She held her first fashion show at 16 and became the youngest designer to participate in the fashion weeks' Big Four - New York, London, Milan, and Paris. Last February, she showcased her Autumn/Winter 2016 collection during New York Fashion Week.
Karenina has proved diverse in her collaborations. She has used paintings by primitive Ukrainian artist Maria Prymachenko and created a collection with one of Ukraine’s most successful shoe brands, LAPTI. Her work graces the pages of fashion's most influential media, including Vogue.com, Vogue Italy, Vogue UK and Glamour. Her brand is sold in 40 shops in 25 countries. At home, it has pride of place in Kyiv’s newly revamped, high end ЦУМ department store, alongside Isabel Marant, Marc Jacobs, and Alexander Wang.
Recognition by Forbes for these two designers cannot be underestimated, said Olga Sushko, editor-in-chief of Vogue Ukraine.
“Daria Shapovalova's and Anna Karenina's Herculean task has been duly appreciated by such a top-rated international medium,” Sushko told UBJ .
“These two women are young and successful faces of our country,” she added. “They are known in the world. They are deferred to. They have plenty of ambitions and plans in store, which leads me to saying that this is hardly the last list we will see with their names in it.”
Zaporozhets started GitLab as a personal project in 2011 in his native Kharkiv.. As a software developer, he found himself writing thousands of lines of co
de every day and wanted to do something to ease tracking changes and coordinating work on files among multiple people.
"Imagine you have five stores throughout the city, and you keep accounts in paper ledgers,” Zaporozhets told Forbes. “If you need to check the numbers, it is necessary to take up paper archives and look for manually.”
In 2011, created one an open source-solution for hosting git-repositories at a competitive cost.
Since its launch, GitLab has received $27 million from investors, including August Capital, Khosla Ventures and Ashton Kutcher. According to its website, it is now used by more than 100,000 organizations, including NASA, Alibaba, IBM, SpaceX, Expedia, AT&T and the European Organization of Nuclear Research.
Since March 2015, GitLab’s team has grown from nine to 158 employees working from several bases. Its sales and marketing office is in San Francisco. Another part of the team works in the Netherlands. Some developers code in Ukraine, where Zaporozhets spends most of his time.
Also featuring on this year’s Forbes Under 30 list is corruption fighter Anton Marchuk, 20.
Marchuk is an analyst for Anti-Corruption Headquarters, a Kyiv-based NGO aimed at reforming Ukraine's political system. He is the youngest recipient in Forbes’ Law & Policy category. Marchuk works with the Reanimation Package of Reforms, an NGO coalition that joins forces to promotee and implement reforms.
With reporting by UBJ Kharkiv Correspondent Kate Zaika, reachable at email@example.comI
Slider Photo: Fashion designer Daria Shapovalova (Credit:Lana Tokarchuk)
Top photo: Designer Anna Karenina (Credit: Sasha Samsonova)
Middle photo: It innovator Dmitry Zaporozhets (GitLab)Bottom photo: Last May, the GitLab team was 85 -- half the size of today. (GitLab)