The COVID-19 pandemic taught the world how to work from home, but Russia’s war in Ukraine has taught workers at Delfast, a Ukrainian e-bike startup, how to work from air raid shelters, while on the move and under threat of violence.
A startup’s usual priorities — raising venture capital, researching and developing new products, finding a suitable product for the market — haven’t exactly been put on hold, but are now much lower on Delfast’s to-do list. Since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in late February, Delfast’s top priority has been to safely evacuate the Ukrainian team of 30 from the most dangerous parts of the country.
Without focusing on sales, marketing, R&D and customer support, Delfast’s smaller team of seven employees, based in Los Angeles, has pleaded with US politicians and the European Commission to supply Ukraine with anti-aircraft missiles and fighter jets that could help Ukraine reclaim some of its resources. control its airspace, and hopefully end this war.
Delfast co-founders Daniel Tonkopi and Serhiy Denysenko say they have always believed in securing the future. When they founded Delfast in 2014, originally as a delivery company, Tonkoply and Denysenko knew that providing couriers with green transportation options would be critical to the company’s business.
The most important thing for an entrepreneur, and in general for any leader, is to protect the team and be completely honest with them during a difficult time. Daniel Tonkopi, co-founder of Delfast
The founders quickly realized that a bike with the power, range and battery life their couriers needed didn’t exist, so they started building one. In 2017, backed by a Kickstarter campaign that raised $165,000, the startup began producing a bike that met its needs — one that quickly won the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest distance traveled on an electric motorcycle on a single charge.
More recently, the Delfast Top 3.0 e-motorcycle won Forbes’ fastest e-bike of the year in 2022 after the company serious vehicle upgrades during CES†
We spoke with the Delfast co-founders to discuss what it’s like to run a startup during a war, how the startup is considering breaking into new business verticals, and the importance of always having a plan B. have.
The following interview, part of an ongoing series featuring founders building transportation companies, has been edited for length and clarity.
Note: Serhiy Denysenko’s answers were translated from Ukrainian by a member of the Delfast team for MovieUpdates.
TC: Serhiy, you are on the ground in Kiev. What does your day look like?
Denysenko: Every morning starts with a check-in on Slack with all colleagues. It’s important to keep in touch and know that everyone is fine, or as nice as possible right now.
In addition to my work as COO, I’ve helped volunteer, get supplies and medicines for people, and this is something that pretty much every Ukrainian does now. I have moved my family to Hungary so I feel more or less safe, and I just try to work as much as possible and do my best in every area I can be it supporting the business or supporting Ukraine in general.
How are you leading your team through this crisis? What has changed?
Denysenko: We have become accustomed to working remotely in times of Coronavirus, which is why we have our task tracker, where everyone can see their task. Every Monday we have an online Zoom meeting. We used to have these meetings only at the executive level, but now during the war we all come together, just to see each other’s faces and ask how they are doing, how everyone is feeling. Just to talk to everyone.