For the first time ever, the main stage of the Web Summit was devoted to Ukraine and its ongoing battle for freedom not only at the front but in business too. At the "Freedom Fighters: The strategy behind the knockout punch" talk, Parimatch Tech CEO Maksym Liashko and Ukrainian professional boxer, world champion, and Parimatch Responsible Gambling Ambassador Oleksandr Usyk shared their thoughts on how Ukrainian resilience inspired them to build successful strategies in their areas.
We’ve highlighted the most exciting parts of the discussion.
When Russia began its full-scale invasion, Oleksandr was in London. At five in the morning, he received a phone call from his wife about the war. On the news, Oleksandr heard about the shelling of airports and the closed sky above Ukraine. He changed his tickets and flew to Poland, from where friends helped him back to Ukraine by car. It took him more than a day to reach home, and he felt calm only when he got there.
Oleksandr: "Many people asked me why I returned. And I have a simple answer here: Ukraine is my home, and home shouldn't be abandoned. My family and children live here. That is all I have."
Maksym Liashko said that all of Parimatch Tech's people were totally shocked. Despite the news that war was possible, they didn't expect anything of this scale. Of course, the company carried out specific emergency preparations, like most companies in Ukraine, but they couldn't imagine such tragedy and cruelty from the aggressor.
Maksym: "The primary duty in the first days and weeks was to ensure basic safety for employees and their families. And all companies were engaged in this. All international companies, like Parimatch Tech, accumulated resources to support people in Ukraine, employees in Ukraine, the army and the state."
Oleksandr's personal involvement began with friends and neighbours in the area where they live. He joined the local territorial defence forces to protect the country from marauders and incoming aggressors. At that time, he said he couldn't think about boxing but trained every day because he was supposed to have a rematch with Joshua in the spring.
Oleksandr: "I decided that I would not take on any rematch. During the first month, I tried to help those who needed it the most. Once, I visited our soldiers who were taken out of the front line with injuries. They asked me to continue training for a second victory against Joshua because this meant a lot to them. I looked into the eyes of the soldiers and thought: "What can I do alone in the army? Nothing significant. But if I agree to fight and win, I will have an opportunity to be the voice of Ukraine to the whole world."
"We are Ukrainians who are heard and must speak about what is currently happening. There is a war in Ukraine. The aggressor wants to destroy us, but we bravely defend our homeland."
From Maksym Liashko's perspective, it is clear that business, government, and sports cannot be separated because everything in Ukraine is connected, and everyone helps each other. Businesses understand the importance of maintaining an economic front, cooperating with other companies, and sharing expertise on how to withstand a crisis.
A day before the Russian invasion, business representatives met with the President, Mr Zelensky. At that time, nobody knew that the war would begin the following day. But the main message was that whatever the difficulties, business needs to make a stand on the economic front.
Maksym: "Ukraine demonstrates an extraordinary level of voluntary assistance when the functions of business, families, the state, and the army are thoroughly intertwined, with everyone trying to support everyone else in every area. However, everything works harmoniously. It’s like building an army, where everyone has a certain task. It’s the same in business. We set short-term goals, but they must be met no matter what happens. And people show extraordinary abilities to achieve them.
And this principle of support and volunteering spreads like a wave, covering the whole country, helping companies, the state, and the army to exist. Thus, I call on the international community to join and support this wave and provide opportunities to Ukraine's state, the army, and business."
Now Oleksandr is involved in various projects. For example, he became an ambassador of the United24—an initiative launched by the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, as the main venue for collecting charitable donations supporting Ukraine. Oleksandr provides help to rebuild destroyed houses in the Moschun, Kyiv region and is supporting the country as much as possible.
Oleksandr: "Since October 10, massive attacks have occurred almost every day. The aggressor terrorizes our people. There is no light or water. But the Ukrainian people themselves are the light that shines on the whole world."
Maksym pointed out that Parimatch Tech and Ukrainian companies feel significant support and are grateful for it, including the help from other international businesses for companies in Ukraine. But now is the time to pay attention and start using the experience of Ukrainian companies because they are using unique know-how to achieve business goals in an extremely critical situation.
Maksym: "The Ukrainians have unique knowledge of how to build business processes and, simultaneously, solve primary domestic issues. And so, I invite you to search for business partners among Ukrainian companies. Because you can be sure that despite all the difficulties they face in a wartime environment, they still comply with their obligations and deliver their products and services, especially IT companies. They keep on working and keep on delivering."