He soon founded Mesto (Russian for place), a non-profit social network for entrepreneurs, hoping to revitalize the startup market in Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. He signed up with a team of artificial intelligence engineers spread across Russia, starting his new startup, Duplicat, with the goal of identifying scams in the non-fungible token market.
He has also invested in several Ukrainian startups. One of them was Reface, an AI company recommended by Mr. Podolyanko. When meeting with other companies and colleagues in Kyiv last summer, the two attended a boat party hosted by a group of Ukrainian engineers and investors. Mr. Podolyanko brought along his girlfriend, a Ukrainian financial analyst named Stacy Antipova.
Russia-Ukraine War: Major Developments
Now it was a journey to look back on with a tender heart. Russia invaded six months later.
After the invasion, Mr. Antipova left Ukraine and flew to Tijuana, Mexico, where he was able to cross to the United States as a refugee. She now lives in DobryDom. “When she first went down for breakfast, she didn’t know what to say,” Doronichev recalled.
Antipova, sitting in her backyard with her new housemates on a recent afternoon, wasn’t sure what to say either. “I had no intention of moving that far so quickly,” she said. She said, “I’ve left the rest of my life behind, so I’m just fixing my life to understand what I want to do.”
Across the table, Dasha Kroshkina, another Russian-born entrepreneur, explained that she was working on moving employees out of Russia and Ukraine and was busy resuming the company’s service, StudyFree, in Africa and India. When the war started, many customers (students looking for scholarships and grants at universities abroad) were in Russia.
“We all feel trauma,” said Mikita Mikado, another DobryDom resident who immigrated from Belarus. “But each trauma is different.”
Mikado and Doronychev are currently working to move employees from Russia to European and Asian countries that accept Russian citizens without a visa, but not all are willing or able to leave. Both entrepreneurs will sever ties with the remaining ones.