Ukrainian higher education institutions may annually launch several hundred startups

В українських вишах можуть створювати кількасот стартапів щороку

Graduates of Ukrainian higher education institutions may annually establish over 700 startups. But first, universities shall have startup culture.

“If you see the glow in the eyes of students, then your goal is to keep these eyes glowing,” – addressed Elena Donets to CEOs of the universities. While giving her talk, she repeatedly puts emphasis on ticket to successful startup policy in the university: the most important thing is not to raise obstacles. Other rules will be out of operation. One university can not copy the successful experience of another one – even within a single country, much less of the foreign experience.

Elena Donets, Founder at DUKO company, is the expert in creation of innovative eco-systems within universities. During the past 5 years she held the position of CEO at StarTau – incubator of Tel Aviv University. Since 2008 Elena and her workmates were trying to create startup ecosystem in Tel Aviv University. First they were focusing on the experience of Harvard and Stanford – something similar could be find only there. However, none of the relocated models became viable.

New generation, raised by TV shows about startups, came to the university in 2013 or so. It is safe to say that this generation is the startup culture-bearer. University’s management team had nothing to do, but to stay away, and so was done.

During the next 5 years startups of Tel Aviv University entered the list of top 25 world’s best incubators. Some time ago the University suddenly found itself to be in 9th place of the global ranking as to the ability of its graduates to attract venture capital

During the next 5 years startups of Tel Aviv University entered the list of top 25 world’s best incubators. Some time ago the University suddenly found itself to be in 9th place of the global ranking as to the ability of its graduates to attract venture capital. There are some “unicorns” among them.

On November 24, Elena Donets was among the experts, who gathered around the round table to discuss the issues of entrepreneurial culture and startup ecosystems in the universities. The event was held as a part of Innovation Market International Forum and was organized by YEP, network of academic business incubators, with the support of the Embassy of Israel to Ukraine. His principal result was the commencement of works on the roadmap for the creation of startup ecosystems within Ukrainian universities.

Risk culture

When it comes to Tel Aviv University, it shall be noted that, like the rest of Israeli universities, it was in luck to some extent. The way Israel and its citizens live is the risk, and the state shall primarily rely on itself. Such a risky way of life is the excellent tool for the startups development.

“When you rely on yourself, you become more creative and innovative,” – yet another member of round table discussion, Tal Catran, Founder of TC Holdings platform (Israel), said. As a result, his country manufactures almost everything, except for the cars.

Members of round table discussion – both from Ukraine and from abroad – unanimously declare that students have enormous potential and they may create startups no worse than Israeli students do, for instance. The ticket to success that centers around “noninterference”, proposed by Elena Donets, will also prove to be useful for them, but, perhaps, tomorrow. On this very day they need help.

From cheap services to innovations

According to Tal Catran, freelancers from Ukraine shower letters upon him every day – they offer one or another service. Their prime market advantage (according to their own conviction) lies in the fact that they are “low-paid manpower”. And what about “smart manpower”? What about “innovative manpower” or “assiduous manpower”? Mr. Catran said that Ukraine does not offer this, and this is where our problem lies. It is time to forget about rendering of services as the main goal. We shall turn to creation of innovations, creation of new products. This is not happening yet.

One, but not the only obstacle, is the lack of links between higher education institutions and industry. As a matter of fact, system of higher education has very dim idea of what and how many experts the economics need today.

Сharles К. Whitehead, yet another member of round table discussion has told what cooperation of companies and university may turn into, as exemplified by Cornell University (the USA). From 2012 onwards this is the workplace of Cornell Tech – catalytic environment combining the opportunities of university, big business, and entrepreneurs.

Potential of universities

As of today Ukrainian higher education institutions have about 1.5 million students. Year by year about 350,000 are graduated. Andriy Zaikin, Founder of YEP network of academic business incubators, also took part in round table discussion and showed simple calculations based on the experience of Singapore. If to look at these calculations considering the Ukrainian statistics, we may see that over 30 thousand of our students may have the natural propensity to entrepreneurship. This gives us promise that every year we will get about 750 graduates having own startups.

Ukrainian higher education institutions may annually launch several hundred startups

Source: YEP presentation

Sure thing, these are the calculations of the potential, but the real state of affairs is quite another matter. Mr. Zaikin believes that even the level of awareness about startups in Ukrainian higher education institutions is very low. Therefore, at the first stage students shall be informed about the very possibility of startups creation. And those, who will sooner or later be ready to take the risk and to launch own startup, shall first be told how this shall be done in a proper manner.

Ukrainian higher education institutions may annually launch several hundred startups

Source: YEP presentation

Andriy Zaikin said that within 2-3 years Ukrainian universities may become the center for startups creation. To achieve this, we need personal interest and hands-on involvement in administration of higher education institutions, teachers, Ministry of Education and Science and students themselves. Moreover, we shall develop the infrastructure, since, according to Mr. Zaikin, it is much harder to create startups in modern coworking platforms, than in well-worn lecture halls with old school desks (and this is one of the points that makes us take the critical look at the ticket to success, offered by Ms. Donets for the real life in Ukraine).

In the next one or two months YEP is going to collect proposals for the creation of startup ecosystems within the universities prior to the formation of roadmap, which will be discussed with the Ministry of Education and Science. YEP invites everyone concerned to join this process.

Feel free to send your proposals to YEP email: info@yepworld.org.