Every year the biggest tech event of Eastern Europe is being held in L'viv, Ukraine. We went around to meet up with the organisers IT Cluster. We wanted to find out what their vision is.
IT Cluster is founded to strengthen the IT-sector in Ukraine, create more facilities for employees and students, and to improve the international image of Ukraine. When one thinks of Ukraine, pictures of the civil unrest, Crimea and a crashed airplane spring to mind. This is not the daily reality though for most Ukrainians. The image western companies have of Ukraine complicates business deals.
In the prelude of our trip we saw a negative travel advise of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certain parts of Ukraine including Odessa. Fair to say: it made us a bit nervous. There was nowhere a negative adviser on L'viv, so we kept packing our bags. During our visit we didn't see any tensions or trouble. Only thing I saw was a military control post at the edge of the city centre.
Brand new facilities
IT Cluster takes improving the image and the region very seriously. L'viv is supposed to take a leading role in IT, not just for Ukraine, but the whole of Europe. To take that role, proper facilities are needed. At the moment there are already close collaborations with the local university. Students get help acquiring internships for example. In the next few years there should be a new university, a campus, more student housing, shops and a completely new hotel in L'viv. They already started construction on site.
Ever since 2014 the tech event IT Arena is being held in Arena L'viv Stadium. Every year it becomes a bit bigger. Last year during three days there were 97 speakers and 2300 visitors. Most presentations are about new technology, start-ups and innovative practical applications. Some of the talks this edition are ‘blockchain in IT', ‘jet packs, iron man suits killer underwear, transforming human capabilities' and ‘how to scale a service business'. IT Arena is the biggest tech congress of Eastern Europe and an ideal spot to network.
Listening to talks and networking can be tiring. That's why every year there is also Futureland Festival at the venue, where you can unwind on dance music. In the past internationally famous DJ's like Netsky and Cassius were headliners. This year DJ Juicy M will throw her electro-house-beats at the crowd. For the 2018-edition over 5000 party people are expected to come. Of course you can also skip IT Arena and just come for the festival.
As you can imagine, compared to Western Europe Ukraine is cheap. A roundtrip is less than €200,- and L'viv has AirBnB and Uber for cost conscientious travellers. There are spots uptown where prices are similar to the Netherlands, but you recognise those soon enough. For just under €10,- you get a sumptuous meal with a beer downtown. You can feel rich with little money in L'viv.
Not everything is sunshine and rainbows of course. Most youngsters speak English, but not everyone is gifted. Personnel in shops can be less service oriented than what you are used to. Also, avoid ‘official taxicabs' and stick with Uber. Let's just say: it's cheaper. Last but not least, not all ingredients in restaurants are as carefully documented. People with a food allergy like gluten, have to be extra careful.
IT Arena is from the 28th until the 30th of September. A standard ticket is just short of €140,- with access to Futureland. There are also Senior and Executive tickets for those with higher demands or the wish to meet the mayor of L'viv. Saturday the 29th of September is Futureland Festival.