We talked to Dominique Piotet, CEO at UNIT.City, about the first innovation park in Ukraine, and this is what he said about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Dominique Piotet: Like many families, we are dealing with the crisis in the best possible way with our 7-year-old on and off from school with the lockdown. It’s definitely a challenging time for all of us, but we are supporting each other, and we have a great community of friends and colleagues. That really helps.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you joined UNIT.City.
Dominique Piotet: I am an entrepreneur at heart. I created a few companies, had one successful exit, and I have business both in California and in Ukraine. I am also an LP on a Fund with 52 startups in the portfolio. And I am involved in a few important non-profits. I moved to Silicon Valley in 2004 and decided to join UNIT.City, in Kyiv, as the CEO of the company in August 2019. I was invited to visit Kyiv and UNIT.City and basically never came back to Silicon Valley! The level of energy and the ambition and vision of UNIT.City is definitely something that can convince any entrepreneurial spirit to consider it.
How does UNIT.City innovate?
Dominique Piotet: In everything we do! Innovation is in our DNA, and I always tell our team and people around us that if it has been already done, it’s not for us! We are an Innovation Park, and we will be the largest in Europe with more than 30 000 people working and living in UNIT.City, in the center of Kyiv. Our situation is pretty unique as we can really build a smart city and an innovation ecosystem. Our mission is to be “the place where ideas come to life,” and we really embody it in everything we do.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Dominique Piotet: We had to adjust a lot of our contracts with our residents but overall, we came back on our growth track quickly. Today, we are at almost full capacity, and we are above our expectations. We are in a fast-growing IT market in Ukraine, and we are the platform for growth for many companies, so in many ways, we are the solution. So, our finances are doing ok, but we are in a deep investment phase, and returns are still in front of us.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Dominique Piotet: We were lucky enough to be able to keep our entire team. We all made salary sacrifices during the first 3-month lockdown, but we are back on track with a growing team in a growing business. People and team are absolutely key in building our ecosystem, and we did everything we could to keep people on board. We also realized how strong and close to each other we are as a team. That actually really helped us moving into online work and staying more than on track with all our tasks. We value the culture of the company, and this culture is actually very strong. We are all very passionate about UNIT.City, our shared mission, and we decided to spend more time working and defining our values. Because at the end of the day, this is what makes us work together with joy.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Dominique Piotet: We are very close to our customers that we actually call residents. We build our community together, and we don’t have just a monetary relationship with them. We do use a very advanced CRM that we actually build ourselves to provide a better service to our residents. And we also are developing a very cool virtual assistant based on AI and ML to provide personalized automated services to the residents. Overall, we are pushing the boundaries of the smart city infrastructure to reach the next level of efficiency in anything we do: from energy management, security, service.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Dominique Piotet: No, we didn’t receive any support from the government.
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