Ukrainian and American Innovation, United

Ukrainian and American Innovation, United

The Ukraine Business Incubation Cohort Goes to Washington, D.C.!

March 9, 2023

Out of the forge of inordinate challenges comes a new era of connection between the innovation ecosystems of Ukraine and the United States. The GIST Initiative and the U.S. Department of State are proud to be a part of building this deeper connection and are working to support Ukrainian innovation as it builds a new, ever brighter future. The Business Incubation Program is one of the key pillars of this effort, as we have invited 13 select Ukrainian entrepreneurs to participate in over 6 months of U.S.-based business incubation, our longest and most intensive Business Incubation ever. These innovators have just concluded a transformative week of activities in Washington, D.C., where they not only deepened their relationship with one another, but between our two nations. 

Learn more about this incredible adventure! 

The week kicked off on Monday, where the 13 innovators all met together for the first time, flying from their U.S. residencies in Tucson, Phoenix, and Chicago. This emotional homecoming heightened the shared struggles Ukrainian innovators are facing, but also the importance of community and connection in overcoming these challenges. 

The group's first stop on Monday was at Ukraine House, a non-profit organization created to celebrate and  support the Ukrainian people. They where joined by Oksana Markarova, Ambassador of Ukraine to the United States. She had the opportunity to meet with innovators and the GIST Team, highlighting the importance of innovation in securing Ukraine’s future. This was followed by a workshop hosted by Cooley LLP: Registering Your Business in the U.S. & Protecting Your Company's Intellectual Property, designed to help Ukrainian entrepreneurs build businesses that can thrive not only in Ukraine but in the U.S. as well, continually deepening economic collaboration.

On Tuesday, innovators took advantage of the unique D.C. ecosystem and continued their business development experience with some of the leading innovation incubators in the country at Halcyon House and SEED SPOT. At Halcyon House, the innovators learned more about building financial models to help grow and sustain their businesses. Participants were also able to meet with Halcyon’s cohort of international innovators from Africa. At SEED SPOT, participants learned about U.S. business funding opportunities and best practices for securing local, state, and federal government contracts. This training was facilitated by Michael O’Brien, Managing Principal at MOB Advocacy Government Relations. Later that evening, innovators participated in a 1:1 business mentoring session where they were joined by former Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern, who brought his experience as a mentor to share regional insights. 

To continue the mission of dialogue between our two countries, the Ukrainian innovators on Wednesday had the opportunity to directly interface with the U.S. Department of State, kicking off the day at a meeting with the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs where topics like the US’s involvement in supporting European countries such as Ukraine were discussed, heralding what is just the start of a new era of continued collaboration and shared innovation culture. 

This was followed by a lunch with the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, the GIST Initiative's home at the State Department, where participants were able to hear from Jason Donovan, Director of the Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, who shared remarks about how the GIST program is supporting early stage entrepreneurs and innovators in science and technology, enlivening the essential role that fostering global innovation plays in American leadership and diplomacy. 

After continued meetings at the State Department with the Office of Subnational Diplomacy, the innovators returned to Seed Spot, where they had the opportunity to have 1-on-1 sessions with experts and practice their pitches. 

The D.C. Showcase

Thursday culminated in a highlight of the week, the Ukraine Business Incubation D.C. Showcase, where innovators were able to share their vision directly to key Ukrainian and U.S. State Department leadership at this exceptional event, working together to continue fostering a shared culture of innovation support.  

“It is impossible to understate the value and the work of Ukrainian innovators, who despite the ongoing war, believe in the future of Ukraine. The people in this room will make up the future of Ukraine’s post-war economic might, (and) these ideas and projects will help us shape the future of the economic architecture in Ukraine, focused on sustainable products not only for the benefit of Ukraine, but the entire world...”

- Yaroslav Brisiuck, Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy of Ukraine

The DCM was joined on stage by Jason Donovan, Director, Office of Science and Technology Cooperation, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs and Daniel Bischof, Director of the Office of Eastern European Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Those words couldn’t ring more true as one walked around the room, seeing what each innovator was sharing at their station. From new health advances and sustainable technologies to groundbreaking IT and enterprise tools, it was impossible to not feel inspired by the future that these entrepreneurs are bringing to life, and admiration for the resilience, tenacity, and pride they carry in building Ukraine’s future. 

After such an impactful morning, the innovators had an opportunity to relish in so much of what Washington, D.C. has to offer, taking some time to find further inspiration. They had the opportunity to go on a guided tour of The Kennedy Center to learn more about the future of performing arts, followed by a group local entrepreneur dinner at sPACYcLOUD, a Ukrainian-owned restaurant and small business and part of the vibrant regional Ukrainian entrepreneurship community- a perfect way to close out such an extraordinary day.  

On Friday, the entrepreneurs visited The Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where they learned about science and technology innovations throughout history, echoing the impact they are making now in the present, and building towards the future. 

This note was a perfect way to close the week, and reminds us of how essential innovation can be in fostering impact and building a future worth believing in. This is true around the globe, and rings especially true in working with these inspiring innovators, crafting their vision in the face of unimaginable challenges, and working to build a better future for Ukraine and a model for innovation and entrepreneurship for the entire world. 

We could not be more proud of all that this cohort has accomplished and will continue to achieve. We invite you to follow along with their continuing journey, and that of the entire GIST Initiative, by subscribing to our newsletter and following us on social media. 

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