Techopia Live: Tech leaders rally to help Ukrainian refugees

Ottawa has a multicultural technology sector workforce, including immigrants from around the world. When Russian tanks started to roll into the Ukraine weeks ago, a number of tech sector leaders, especially those with Ukrainian roots, jumped into action. Watching a mass exodus of Ukrainian refugees, these volunteers wondered if Ottawa could provide a safe haven for people fleeing the war-torn country. In this episode of Techopia Live, OBJ publisher Michael Curran talks with two volunteers from UkrainetoCanada.org, Kostyantyn Khomutov and Olga Davidson. This is an edited transcript of the beginning of that conversation. For the full episode, check out the full video or the podcast

OBJ:  Welcome to Techopia Live. This is a regular podcast from OBJ that features executives from next generation technology companies. We want to shine a spotlight on the up-and-comers and keep you updated on the established players, all with a goal of keeping the tech sector informed and connected. In this episode, we turn our attention to a geopolitical crisis that is playing out on our TV screens and social media, but it's much more real than simply images on screens. It's capturing our attention and simultaneously breaking our hearts as a humanitarian crisis unfolds. Of course, I'm referring to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Some members of Ottawa's technology sector are not content to sit back and watch this atrocity. On the contrary, a number of tech companies have sprung into action to launch a charitable endeavor called Ukrainetocanada.org. Let's meet two of its volunteers now. Please welcome Kostyantyn Khomutov. Hello Kostya and Olga Davidson. So Kostyantyn, can you give us a quick business bio and then talk about your role at Ukrainetocanada.org please?

KK: Absolutely. I am an aerospace engineer turned to the dark side of entrepreneurship about 20 years ago. I’ve started a number of tech startups here in the Ottawa area and am currently serving as a CEO of a company called GBatteries here in Ottawa valley. How am I involved with Ukrainetocanada.org? I got engaged with helping families and friends flee Ukraine for safety. That's how I met my fellow entrepreneurial colleagues here in Ottawa area. We've joined forces and created Ukrainetocanada.org.

OBJ: Well, bravo for that. Olga, give us a sense of your business background and what you're doing for Ukrainetocanada.org.

OD: I'm a yoga teacher and host of the Awakening Podcast. One day I just woke up because my husband walked in a room and said, ‘there is a war started in Ukraine. Half of my family on my mom's side is all from Ukraine, and I currently have family in Kiev and I thought, ‘Oh my God, what can I do to help?’ First I just read social media and it's all just dark. The more you read, the more fear and anxiety you have. So I thought, ‘what actual actions can I take to help them?’ Because reading news is not going to help. What can I do? I started to raise money. Then I met Kostyantyn and his team. and we just collaborated together and do everything we can to help them.

OBJ: That's excellent. Kostyantyn let's come back to you. Can you give us a little bit of the narrative? Give us the story of how not only you and Olga came together, but people like Solon Angel and others banded together.

KK: So everything started February 24th with the invasion of Ukraine and people started to help families and friends navigate to safety, out of Ukraine. There is big chaos happening. What I have realized is people are completely disoriented. They were located under the war crisis conditions. They don’t know where to go, where to run. They essentially were kicked out of their homes and they're running for safety. And I started helping, I starting getting on the phone navigating them through Google maps getting them to the borders, to the Western side of Ukraine and then further out to Europe, connecting with all of my friends, whoever I knew to get them shelter, housing and have a safe place to be for them and their family and their kids. And then I noticed on LinkedIn that Solon Angel from MindBridge AI had posted that he's helping a family. I messaged him and I said, ‘why don't we join forces and just help as many as we can.’ That's how it began. That's kind of the beginning of the story.

This is an edited transcript of the first part of this episode of Techopia Live. For the full episode, check out the full video or the podcast