How this tech founder keeps his company afloat with workers in a war zone


When Jacob Udodov, an entrepreneur from Riga, Latvia, founded his team collaboration software company Bordio in late 2019, he purposely built an international team across Europe. While it was a great way to hire top talent, the downside of the strategy fully manifested on February 24, 2022. That was the day Russia invaded Ukraine and its small team of 20 people, made up of six Russian and six Ukrainian employees, among them – met their match – and put the technology start-up company in compromising positions almost daily. –As told to Rebecca Deczynski

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My wife woke me up on the morning of February 24 and told me that Russia had invaded Ukraine, and I went straight to my work chat. Team members from different parts of Ukraine – Kharkov, Kherson, Poltava and Kiev – had sent reports of hearing explosions. There were also messages from Russian teammates sent in support of their Ukrainian colleagues; they said they are ashamed of their country’s actions and asked what they could do to help.

The events of the day were dramatic, but not entirely surprising. One of my Ukrainian employees lives in the Donetsk region of Ukraine, which has been occupied by Russian forces since 2014. So I started following the news when on February 18, Russian separatists announced that residents of the region were to evacuate to Russia. At that moment I understood that something big was about to happen.

Shortly after the invasion started, I wrote to my Ukrainian staff and told them not to worry about work – they were free to take paid leave and do what they had to do to move west and be safe. to stay. Some of them have moved, including a developer from Kharkiv who, after the city was attacked, said it was the best decision he’s made in his life. [Editor’s note: Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, has been one of the most-targeted regions by Russian forces. It is still under attack, and at least 500 civilians have been killed in the city.]

After a few days, some of my Ukrainian staff started working again, only for a few hours a day. In addition to the shock and emotion of the experience, there are difficulties, such as Wi-Fi outages and bomb sirens signaling them to take shelter.

I asked my other employees if they were willing to put in some extra help, which they were more than willing to do. I also contacted former employees, who left the company in the past year, to get temporary help from them. Now we are in a better place.

One thing that remains a challenge is finding a way to pay our Russian employees, which is controversial. The bank we used had banned payments to Russia and it took us a while to find another bank that would allow us to successfully pay these employees. Even though our Russian teammates are totally against the actions of their government, they are still being hit by sanctions.

It’s a terrible thing to say, but we’ve gotten used to the war in a way – it’s the reality we live in. I’m glad my team was fully united in our support for the Ukrainians, and we will continue to be supportive until this is over.

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