Today, AllStars-IT Ukraine features in the Top 10 of best IT employers in Kyiv, according to a DOU.ua annual ranking. The company specializes in software development services for clients across industries as diverse as cybersecurity, healthcare, Fintech, telecommunications, media, and many more.
Kyiv IT Cluster caught up with Solomon Amar to discuss AllStars-IT’s evolution, its national and international clients, and the positive influence of the company at a local level.
Kyiv IT Cluster: Tell us about your company
Solomon Amar: The company has been operating in Israel since 2004. Apart from our delivery offices in Ukraine and the CEE region, we also have front offices in Israel, UK, Germany and over the last 24 months, the company has gained a foothold in the American market. The relationship with many of our Israeli clients has existed since the company was first established, back in 2004. We have a long career behind us, almost 17 years now.
KITC: Tell us more about your client portfolio
Solomon: We work with some of the biggest names in the startup and high-tech sphere:
- Spot.io (recently acquired by NetApp for $450m)
- Monday.com ($2bn cap) are one of the biggest startup unicorns in Israel
- Varonis Cyber ($6bn cap - NASDAQ)
- Abbott ($207bn), a global healthcare leader from Chicago that has its R&D centers in Israel.
We also work with startup unicorns like Taboola ($2.6bn cap on NASDAQ), and companies like Bolt, a market-leader in insurtech. We have business relationships with some of the fanciest names in the industry.
KITC: How about social responsibility? That’s a very important issue.
Solomon: There is a big financial gap between IT people and others in Ukraine. I believe we have to hold responsibility for taking care of those who do not have the same opportunities. We organize and initiate different charity projects and our employees take an active part in them. For instance, the last one we arranged for elderly people in the villages around Kyiv. Our staff helped with buying warm clothes and different goods which we brought to the villages for elderly who cannot afford anything but necessities.
Helping others is key to conscious social responsibility. Our staff understands that principle, and they're joining our CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) project, which we launched in 2020 to support the community.
KITC: What does your company offer to its many clients?
Solomon: One of our driving principles is the creation of strong and resilient software development teams with the help of the most talented programmers here in Ukraine & the CEE Region. This is very beneficial to the local economies for many reasons: it creates jobs, of course, but it also stimulates competition for talented programmers in the local IT-markets. So what we do is create more interesting opportunities to the ones software developers can find in the local market. We have become a good opportunity for talented Ukrainian & CEE Region professionals. I am passionate about bringing many high-skill jobs to Ukraine & CEE in order to increase the range of opportunities, in the end, opportunities create needs, and this supports the evolution of these IT-markets. I can say that I am so proud of the Ukrainian spirit and the ability of Ukrainians to learn fast, to close knowledge gaps and to follow new technologies. I thought that spirit only existed in Israel, but it totally exists here too. The next step for the Ukrainian talents is to start taking more risks and challenge themselves harder while becoming entrepreneurs.
KITC: Between 70-80% of offline meet-ups are about communication between people and networking, you had great meet-ups before covid.
Solomon: I couldn't agree more. Meeting each other after work is like a breath of fresh air, an influx of very positive energy. That's why we have regular tech meet-ups at our Kyiv office, we want to build a great community of people. It is that energy, that positive atmosphere that attracts so many good people to our educational events. People who attend our meetups say that it's a very relaxed and rewarding experience. This is very important to us. I can't wait for these events to come back to life.
KITC: The mindset that everyone has to work from the office has changed forever. Do you agree?
Solomon: Absolutely. And I'll tell you something else. Those who do not grasp that paradigm shift will be unable to meet the challenge in the coming years. I believe that advanced technologies will dramatically change people's attitude towards the work environment. Be a leader and make the required changes with the era or become a dinosaur. Creating a worthy physical office-work environment is very important, and a short tour in our Google-Like offices at our Guliver-BC location assures that to any visitor, but this is the the past, the future is in remote work and the new worthy value is L&D and we are passionate pioneers in Ukraine & CEE in leading this change, and I am sure while we do that other will follow. (to learn more about our L&D program check our social media)
KITC: Life after Covid, we will emerge stronger than before, because everything that both workers and clients were afraid of will be over. What's your opinion on that?
Solomon: We are AllStars-IT, tech ambassador of Ukraine and CEE in Israel, UK, Germany and US. Before the pandemic, when we met with the largest companies in Israel for example and tried to promote the Ukrainian and CEE IT-market, oftentimes we got feedback that they have some concerns about remote work, even if all of the programmers worked onsite in our offices. But they still considered it as remote work, because it was not near to them. This created a strange psychological barrier.
Now, these kinds of concerns are gone hence everybody is working from home. Full time remote work is already a new reality. What would you do if you were not able to work remotely these days? You would not work at all! And bearing in mind that there's a huge demand for talented programmers in Israel,UK,Germany and US why wouldn't you work with people who live in Ukraine, for example? Geographical distance is no longer a concern when it comes to productivity, so that psychological barrier should no longer exist. Besides, people in Israel for example understand that there's a lot of great talented programmers in Ukraine, perhaps even more than in Israel itself! The quality of education in Ukraine is as good as Israel’s. In my opinion, the only thing that distinguishes the Ukrainian and the Israeli IT markets is the willingness to take risks. And, of course, the market's age. In the case of Israel, the IT market became a reality in the 1990s.
KITC: Let’s talk about the local IT community here in Ukraine. AllStars-IT Ukraine is one of the founding members of Kyiv IT Cluster. What value do you see in the community? What does the Kyiv IT Cluster community mean for Kyiv city and for Ukraine in general?
Solomon: One single individual can do a lot. We have seen this time and time again through history, how one person has changed the world. Sometimes for the better, other times for the worse.
But with unity comes strength. When people unite, they become stronger than the individual. Establishing a community comes to people naturally, humans are gregarious in nature. A community helps people achieve their goals, and raises hopes about future growth. A community like Kyiv IT Cluster should reflect what the Kyiv IT professionals want to achieve.
I guess what's needed is to survey deep into the Kyiv IT ecosystem, to find out that common thread among all participants, and discover what or how they think the future will look like, what kind of goals they should strive towards, and the ways to deliver this hope and turn these dreams into reality.
KITC: Pension funds for IT professionals, tell me about this initiative of yours
Solomon: This is a crucial issue. Creating a pension fund is probably one the things furthest from the mind of young programmers in Ukraine and CEE today. Perhaps some are thinking of buying real estate, or changing their local currency savings to dollars, some might tuck gold or diamonds under the floorboards, that's how people may care for their pension.
All pension funds in Ukraine and CEE are funded by the Government. There are no private pension funds here. We do have such agencies in Israel, same goes in the States or Europe. I'm sure these private pension funds would be more than happy to arrive in Ukraine and CEE and provide their services, but there are many open questions about this.
For example, if someone in Ukraine wants to put his savings in a pension fund, let’s say in the States. Is that permitted under the Ukrainian law or the Bellarussian one ? Maybe yes, maybe no. Maybe they can, but might have to pay substantial taxes. And say that after 20 or 30 years of work, imagine this person has accrued $1m in savings. Can this amount be transferred to Ukraine? Is it subject to taxation?
I think that pension funds are one of the issues that a community like Kyiv IT Cluster should investigate soon, with the help of professionals like PwC, Ernst & Young, Deloitte, Axon Partners, and others. Then, they can share the results of this research with Ukraine's IT industry. Same needs to be done in all CEE Region.
I guess that young programmers in Ukraine and CEE do not think about their pension now, because, comparatively, they have higher incomes than other workers. They feel confident -carefree, even- but there is something that they forget, and I can give an example from Israel.
KITC: Switcher, or those who wish to change their careers
Solomon: In Israel, many IT workers are abandoning the industry after 20-25 years of work. Not because they want to, but because their knowledge no longer fits modern technology. So during their career, they might have earned high salaries, but one day, technology changes. This cohort remains very highly paid, but their contribution is negligible. So their employer approaches them and says: “Folks, we are sorry, but junior people know this technology much better than you and ask for half the money. So we have to let you go...”. This is sad, but it happens all the time. It's one of the worst facets of capitalism.
So many of these people are now looking to re-train in something else, to switch careers. They might become teachers, entrepreneurs, or startup owners. And while they might earn less than before, these people are now looking for satisfaction rather than income, because they might have built a house, paid the mortgage off, and their children have grown up already. So they're now free to slow down a little and choose what they want to do. And there's a very important factor in their lives, too: They have large pensions because they have been saving 10% or more of their salaries for like 20 or 25 years, so their financial future is secure. This “saving” mentality does not exist among young people in Ukraine and CEE, it’s something extremely important for the future of tech professionals.
KITC: The value of communities
Solomon: The value of communities lies in their ability to bring about change through teamwork. And I think that if the Ukrainian tech community comes together, they can make a very positive change to the pension situation. But a lot of people have to do a lot of work: Accountants, lawyers, pension and taxation specialists, etc. All have to do their research and come up with solid solutions to the pension issue and lobby that in the government.
KITC: Export license from Ukraine for the US
Solomon: I started exploring this issue about 2 years ago. The Ukrainian IT Association, the Kyiv IT Cluster, and other Clusters – all of us – should work towards obtaining an export license for the US. How many American clients cannot work here because of this limitation? Giants like AT&T for instance. Obtaining the license would mean a huge breakthrough for the Ukrainian market.
Some of the IT companies from Ukraine work via their international branches, not directly. I’ve faced many Israeli-American (meaning American companies who became owners of Israeli startups, while the development offices are still in Israel) who tells me (Even after the initial agreement with the Israeli side) that in order to start working “we have to consult with the Board of Directors in New York”. But then the people in New York become involved and say “No, you cannot work with Ukrainian IT service providers”. The Israeli asked, “Why not?”, and the answer is: “We are not allowed to do business with Ukraine, let’s go to Poland instead”. So Poland got more clients because of these political problems that Ukraine has. Still, the Ukrainian market is growing faster, and we will win this competition with Poland, that is for sure. Ukraine will have an export license in the end.
KITC: Let’s unite and let’s do this
Solomon: I would say this kind of thing will be great to implement, and Kyiv IT Cluster should deal with it because that will create a brighter future for the IT-industry in Ukraine.
Yes, there is much more to do.