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How does young Ukrainian startup ZibraAI adapt to work during wartime?

Published as is from April, 21st, 2022.

On February 24th, Russia launched a full-scale war against Ukraine. In the months leading up to this, Ukrainian media actively published news of a possible invasion. Businesses contemplated over what to do in case the worst happened. IT companies were making investments in the military sector and thinking about a potential relocation. Nonetheless, no one was 100% ready for the war. Our startup Zibra AI, which develops technological solutions for the gaming market, also had plans in case of an invasion. Many of these had to be changed on the go. This is the story of how Zibra AI faced the news about the war, adapted to life under martial law, and what our company is planning to do in the future. Spoiler: Zibra AI promises not to leave Ukraine and do everything to strengthen the country’s economy.

Zibra AI is a Ukrainian startup created in 2020 by a group of developers who decided to use revolutionary AI approaches to accelerate game development. Namely, improve games graphics, optimize performance, and reduce the overall size of 3D content. This startup is part of the technological ecosystem formed by Roosh. 

Currently, our project has a team of over 20 employees, who are working on several products simultaneously. One of the products which is already on the market is the Zibra Liquids plugin. It uses neural networks to create realistic real-time fluid simulations. Other products are being developed as we write this.

The majority of our employees usually work from an office located in the heart of Kyiv. However, after the war began, the team had to adapt to the new realities.

In the months leading up to the war, Zibra AI repeatedly discussed the threat of a possible Russian invasion. From the beginning of February, when more and more information about possible aggression began to circulate in the Ukrainian media, our company leadership organized regular meetings with its security department. They provided employees with up-to-date information on the situation in the country and an action plan for each potential scenario.

We considered the aggravation of the situation in the Joint Forces Operation zone (in Eastern Ukraine) to be the most probable turn of events. A full-scale Russian invasion was considered a more distant, unlikely, and almost apocalyptic scenario. 

Nevertheless, Zibra AI offered everyone the possibility to relocate to safer regions of the country. Most of the team decided to stay in Kyiv and worked there until the beginning of the war. On February 23rd, our employees left the office with plans to return the next day. On February 24th – they woke up to explosions near their homes and reports on media and social channels that the war had begun. 

Adapting to this situation wasn’t easy. On the first day of the war, there was a terrible panic in Kyiv. 

However, the company’s management was able to get themselves together and make some critical decisions. On February 24th, the company paid all employees in full and provided additional financial assistance to those who needed it. 

Simultaneously Roosh began to activate its evacuation plan for all employees, adapting where necessary to the quickly changing picture of reality. There was a group of employees that were responsible for the relocation; getting in contact with all the teams, finding transport for those in need, and a safe place to stay.

Starting from February 25th, our team gradually relocated from the capital to safer regions. Some employees returned to their parents’ homes, whilst others rented accommodations or hotel rooms in safe locations. 

In the last few weeks, most of our team moved to Western Ukraine. Around 8% of employees decided to stay in Kyiv.  Everyone has been trying to find their purpose, whether it’s in territorial defense, volunteering, launching informational campaigns, or putting in as much effort as they can into their work to support the Ukrainian economy. 

Now Roosh is considering creating several local hubs that would allow all of its projects to set up workflows. The company is in search of premises in Western Ukraine.

War has left its mark. In the first month, the pace of work on the first Zibra AI product, Zibra Liquids plugin, and other projects became somewhat slower. Our company has had to move back a couple of deadlines. 

Our priority is people and their safety. We resumed our work only after ensuring that everyone was safe and had the minimal comfortable conditions to continue working.

Alex Petrenko, CEO and Co-Founder of Zibra AI

But eventually, the team began to gradually return to routine. Now we resumed work in full capacity and continue to actively improve our flagship product. This month, Zibra AI released a new version of the Zibra Liquids plugin, supporting the Unreal Engine 4. Now everyone can apply for early access completely free of charge. Work on Android, VR, and AR support is also underway. 

In their free time, our team is pushing several volunteer initiatives. Members of Zibra AI work on information campaigns, particularly on how Ukrainians should behave abroad, coordinate humanitarian aid to the Territorial Defense, and work on other projects. 

Despite the war in the country, Zibra AI continues to grow. Financial indicators are getting better, and the number of customers increases every day.

In regard to customers, we see positive dynamics. This is mostly because our target audience has wide geography – we sell to the whole world, except for one country.

Kostyantyn Tymoschuk, Head of Growth at Zibra AI

After the beginning of the full-scale Russian war against Ukraine, ZibraAI ceased to deal with Russia.

Even in these trying times, our team strives to take care of its clients as much as possible. Customer care is one of Zibra AI’s core values.

“People working on the company’s products are very fond of the technologies they create. They dedicate their free time apart from product development to communication with our clients. This initiative comes from them. The company supports and recognizes this approach at the level of the strategic vision. However, this attitude is primarily based on the employees’ personal values.”

says Kostyantyn.

We have a Discord community. It consists of 2500+ members from around the world. In this community, members of our team communicate with customers, help them solve specific technical issues, receive feedback, and discuss ideas together.

For example, in the first days of the war, developers Dima Bulatov and Mykhailo Moroz answered questions about the work of the Zibra Liquids plugin from the bomb shelter. 

It is currently difficult to predict precisely how the war in Ukraine will unfold and when it will end. However, no matter what happens, and wherever the company’s offices will be in the future, our team will continue to help the country in all possible ways.

ZibraAI has already found a balance between volunteering and work and resumed all operations, hoping that it will help strengthen the Ukrainian economy and assist the county in these trying times.

After all, business is the future of the country’s economy, and it needs to evolve and maintain the country’s defense capabilities, among other things.

Roman Mogilny, COO of Zibra AI. 

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