Skylum is known across the world for its innovative and AI-powered photo editing software, but perhaps less well known is the fact that it was established in Ukraine.
The company, which was originally founded in 2008 as Macphun Software, may have since spread out beyond its base in Kyiv since the releases of products like Luminar AI and Luminar Neo , but a significant number of its employees still work there.
As we approach the third week of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the lives of many Skylum employees have been upended – some have moved to different parts of the country, and some further afield.
For others, working from air raid shelters where there’s poor internet access has become the new normal – a new normal that no-one wanted.
So how do you run a successful software business in a country being ravaged by a land war? We reached out to Skylum’s CEO, Ivan Kutanin, to find how the invasion of Ukraine is impacting the company and its employees…
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How are you and your employees coping with these terrible events, Ivan?
When the invasion started, I was on vacation with my family in Europe, so hopefully my family and I are safe for now.
The situation in Ukraine is difficult, of course, because our Kyiv office has about 120 employees and so far only 20 per cent of them have been able to leave Ukraine for countries in the European Union.
Many of our Skylum colleagues are still in Ukraine and for most of them their lives have changed: some moved to other regions of the country and they are working from air raid shelters.
How do you run a global software business under such awful conditions?
It is definitely challenging. Covid-19 helped us a little because we changed all of our processes when the pandemic started and became more spread out, working in small teams.
As a result, we are still delivering value to our customers. The next update to Luminar Neo will be delivered next week – I joke that we’ll be able to call it the ‘Update from a shelter’.
When we have meetings, some of the team say, “Sorry, we need to go to the shelter – there is an air raid alarm in our city.”
So they go to the shelter with their laptops and try to join the meeting from there. It’s very hard for some employees to work all day in conditions like that.
But all our other offices are working as planned – our business team is spread all over the world, so our business relations and partner relations are working as usual.
Many of our other employees are doing a lot of volunteer work, and we support them by asking them to do as much as they can.
It’s good to hear that you’re managing to carry on as a business despite such extremely challenging conditions…
Everything’s challenging at this time, not only in Ukraine but all over the world. Every country is worried about its own security and how to avoid conflicts like this.
But we can see that our customers and our users support us a lot… I would like to express our thanks to them for participating in our voluntary projects. Based on that, I can see that our business is working properly right now.
What impact will the invasion have on your immediate development roadmap?
We’re still planning to do everything we need to develop our products. We’re still hiring, we’re still trying to expand our team, so we hope that in one to two months we’ll be able to get back on track in terms of the company’s capacity.
Right now we can see that there will be some delays in our roadmap, but not critical delays – maybe a one-month delay for some projects, but not more than that.
You have just released Luminar Neo. Has it gone well so far?
When the war started, Luminar Neo had just gone on sale, and we had prepared lots of updates and lots of improvements.
Some of them will be released next week and some of them will be released two weeks after that. We hope that Luminar Neo will become better and better and that our users will love it.
So anyone coming to the Skylum brand for the first time can buy your products with confidence…
Our brand is stable and it will grow. Whatever might change with our politics with Russia, and we closed down all our sales in Russia, we are totally focused on our Western markets, just as we were before the invasion.
The values of our products are still the same, and we will continue to develop them.
We do not store any customer data in Russia, we do not use Russian technologies for security, all of our customer data is untouched and is protected so all Skylum customers can rely on us to handle it with care.
Get involved and help Ukraine
What can the Digital Camera World audience do to help Ukraine?
I believe that the truth is a really powerful weapon, and that everyone has this weapon. My wish is for everyone to use the weapon of truth to help Ukraine.
Spread the word about the situation in Ukraine – a full-scale war within Europe, with thousands of innocent people killed and which was started for no reason.
Use these hashtags on your social media channels: #StandWithUkraine #SaveUkraine #StopRussianAggression
I also ask our community – our photographers – to help Ukrainians, to host some Ukrainian refugees, and to make a donation.
And we are inviting photographers to donate their camera drones, to help ensure the safety of Ukrainian civilians.
More than 136 people have already agreed to donate their drones. Please get involved by visiting our website.