Ukrainian startup Mevics has secured USD 500,000 in funding from UK-based investment company UB Tower for an innovative health device designed to monitor the spine and improve posture. The deal, finalized in December 2016, will now position the Odesa-based startup for US and EU market entry in 2017. It is the latest breakthrough for the Ukrainian startup scene as the country’s booming IT sector continues to mature and expand beyond its traditional focus on outsourcing.
Smart student startup
The Mevics startup is the work of students from the Institute of Computer Systems at Odesa Polytechnic University. An early prototype of their device was first presented in spring 2015, when it took first place at the “IT-Eureka! Ukraine” contest in Odesa. The technology was subsequently showcased at a range of IT forums and conferences across Ukraine, attracting the attention of numerous potential international investors. Negotations with UB Tower began in summer 2016, leading to December’s public announcement of the London-based investment group as co-founders of the project.
The product they hope to take to European and North American markets is a miniature device that monitors the position of the user’s spine and synchronizes via Bluetooth with the user’s smartphone. If the user starts to slouch, the device vibrates to indicate the need to straighten up their posture. In other words, it is ideal for people who spend their days sitting in front of computer screens. The device is unobtrusive and virtually undetectable beneath clothing, with a product overhaul by design agency Ganzel giving it a funky and contemporary appearance. The Mevics team is now focusing on further research and product development, with the first product shipments to Kickstarter backers penciled in for August 2017.
The progress of Mevics is no fluke. From the very beginning of the startup’s existence, the young Mevics team stood out for their motivated and strategically savvy leadership. Co-founders Victor Laushtan and Vlad Morzhanov put together a strong team and invested significant resources in order to create the right balance for a competitive startup. Their success reflects the growing confidence of the Ukrainian startup scene and the increasing international attention it is generating. Long known as one of the leading outsourcing destinations in the international IT industry, Ukraine is also beginning to earn a global reputation as a startup center.
Odesa IT innovators
Mevics is one of numerous similar success stories to emerge recently from the Odesa tech startup scene. Many have attracted considerable media attention, such as the USD 1 million investment into Odesa’s Augmented Pixels, or the USD 2 million that Odesa-founded global product company Clickky attracted from iTech Capital. Meanwhile, even non-techies may recall the sensational 2015 deal that saw Odesa’s Looksery purchased for USD 150 million by Snapchat. Other recent Odesa startup breakthroughs include AgriEye, which managed to raise USD 150,000 in angel investments.
The Odesa IT scene benefits from the cross-cultural synergies of the city’s unique IT ecosystem. This ecosystem has evolved organically thanks to the presence in Odesa of a wide range of different IT service providers and product development companies such as the brilliant Readdle and KeepSolid. The city also boasts various popular meeting points and hubs that allow startups and software developers to interact, such as Terminal42, iQSpace, and ThelmpactHub.
Ambitious plans for 2017
The coming year looks set to witness the further evolution of this vibrant Black Sea IT scene. Terminal42 founder Sergey Petrenko and Karina Lapina, the founder of the Experiment42 pre-acceleration program, recently visited Amsterdam in search of new ideas and received inspiration in the form of the “City of Startups” project. These two Odesa IT innovators are now actively preparing their plans for the coming year and will be sharing their experience with the wider tech community. Meanwhile, iQSpace will host a Battle of Startups in 2017. The next generation of startup superstars will also be a key focus of the city’s 2017 IT activities. The IT Cluster Odessa initiative is developing a new concept called ITStudWay that will provide undergraduate students with product development experience during the course of their university studies, with the aim of introducing them to the commercial realities of the startup world.
About the author: Yulia Sulimova is founder and director of IT Cluster Odessa