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Cape Town-based duo provide military cover for Ukrainian software engineers

A hastily cobbled together collective is matching the donated time and skills of software engineers around the world with jobs being left vacant by Ukrainians who have been called to war, ensuring they continue to be paid and have jobs to return to.

This genius and generous plan, the Ukraine Tech Collective, was conceived by Cape Town-based entrepreneur Emma Heap, who runs early stage start-up Sudor, and Maciej Szczepaniak, who originally hails from Poland but is also based in Cape Town.

Heap says Sudor’s development team, which is based in Ukraine, are brilliant and extremely loyal.

“The team built our whole platform from scratch, and have been insanely loyal to us,” she says. “They work weekends, evenings, even from a road trip when there was an emergency.”

When she heard that team members had been called up for military service she knew Sudor must find a way to keep paying them so that they could support their families. She adds: “As a start-up we knew we couldn’t afford to do this without having cover for business-critical roles”. 

Heap spoke to members of Sudor’s team in Ukraine as well as a friend who works for a European start-up with a team on the ground there and realised quickly that “there are a lot of people in need of military cover”.

Heap got in touch with Szczepaniak, who she knew as an investor at Seed9.

“Knowing how passionate Maciej was about helping anyone caught in this crisis (he had already offered his family home and transport to our team), I reached out and asked for his help to bring Ukraine Tech Collective to light.

This is the way they roll in the start-up world so the two of them quickly set about building a global collective that match-makes engineers around the world with companies in Ukraine that are in need.

The idea is that engineers around the world donate their time and skills on condition that the companies they assist continue to pay their team members while they go off to fight the war.

Soon the Collective got its first Ukrainian team member, Khrystyna Svarychevska, who Heap describes as “an epic product manager”. More about these three on the teams page on

Within 48 hours the three of them had recruited a staff of 20 volunteers, reached over 25,000 people on LinkedIn, got a website up and running and secured the support of some very heavy hitters in the tech world.

“We are proud to have the support of Google for Startups, as well as tech executives at Hellofresh, Groupon and Delivery Hero,” says Heap.

How it works is that a company in need pledges to support their developers in Ukraine by continuing to pay them and submits a request for cover. The Collective team matches the company with a volunteer engineer or engineering company that has offered temporary cover. The two are introduced.

An important aspect of the support is aimed at ensuring that workers returning from the war have jobs to go back to.

Heap concludes: “We hope that the war is over soon, but whilst there is a need we are here driving this initiative forward.”

Please share this article with everyone you know, especially people in tech who might be able to assist.

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