How A Ukraine Company Keeps Screens On And Content Fresh In The Middle Of A Hot War

April 10, 2023 by Dave Haynes

Imagine trying to keep screens running and content fresh under the steady threat of artillery shells and missiles raining down on your and your projects?

That’s been Andrey Kravchuk’s life for more than a year now, running a digital signage solutions company out of Kyiv and covering much of Ukraine. He’s the co-owner of DS-GO, which designs, implements and supports a variety of digital signage projects around Ukraine and beyond its borders.

I’ve seen some nice work done in Ukraine, via Linkedin, even as the war has raged on in that country. Kravchuk and I have traded messages, and I asked him about doing a podcast with me to talk both about his company and his experiences since Russia invaded. He was eager to chat, but worried about his speaking abilities in English. So we settled on what is a good compromise – an email Q&A.

Tell me about your company … what it does, where it is active, how long in business and where operations are based?

Kravchuk: Innovative DMC (Innovative Digital Media Communication) was founded in May 2013. Our head office is in the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv city. We also have a partner office in Astana, in the Republic of Kazakhstan.

We do several things … We develop or own digital signage software and hardware solutions for the B2B and B2C sectors. We have a studio for photo, video, animation, and production. We do system integration, including the sale and installation of digital screens, monitors or video walls, structural cabling and commissioning, as well as full technical support. And we have consulting services in the implementation and monetization of digital signage solutions.

What is the main market you serve?

Kravchuk: Ukraine and the CIS countries have been our key markets since the company was founded. The release of a new version of our software,, at the beginning of 2021 led to the decision to enter the European market. The priority markets are Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Spain and the Baltic countries: Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia.

Since spring 2021, the first project for the implementation of software and hardware solution have been implemented in Prague and London (UK), in hotels, restaurants, and catering. The next successful stage in the company development was the entry into the UAE. Despite the active stage of the war in Ukraine, at the beginning of 2023 a partnership agreement was signed on the development of the OAU market. In the medium term, we plan to go to the Canadian and US markets.

The company has been developed on its own so far, with no external investment and has developed mainly through reinvestment. Ee are considering the option of attracting third-party investments, with the purpose of implementing our ambitious plans and the operational development/growth of the company. We are actively negotiating with both private investors and large venture funds, discussing the most favorable terms of cooperation or partnership.

At the moment, the main deterrent for Western investors is the ongoing second year of full-scale war, and the restrictions associated with it. However, we are confident in our success in the nearest future, and this faith, as well as the faith in the speedy and unconditional victory of Ukraine, motivates and moves us forward more than ever.

How has business been affected by the Russian invasion of your country? I can’t imagine you can use the phrase Business As Usual, can you? Has it been a challenge to stay in business?

Kravchuk: Talking about the digital signage business in Ukraine, without exaggeration it can be divided into two stages: BEFORE and AFTER February 24, 2022 … the day when the worst happened – a full-scale invasion of Russian troops into the territory of Ukraine. In fairness, it should be noted that information about the likelihood of the war start had been discussed in the business community since the end of 2021. However, at that time hardly anyone could imagine the scale, horror, and consequences.

Obviously, the war has had a negative impact on all spheres of the Ukrainian economy. The reduction in GDP in 2022 is estimated at 30.4%, which is a serious challenge. However, this is a better indicator than what was envisaged by previous forecasts of economists.

Fortunately, our company was able to withstand this situation. Moreover, in the period from May to November 2022 we implemented several major projects in food and retail. By the summer of 2022, the hotels and restaurants resumed operations, but activity was down by half. These are all serious blows and a deterrent to investment.

The most sensitive in this situation were small and medium-sized businesses. As soon as the company had just began to recover and show positive growth dynamics after the restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a new much more serious challenge for our population and economy occurred. According to the UN, more than 4 million Ukrainians were forced to leave the territory of Ukraine. Mostly women, children and the elderly.

First of all, this provoked a shortage of qualified employees on the market. The situation is aggravated by the mobilization of men aged between 18 and 60, who voluntarily went to the war or were called up as a result of mobilization actions approved by the government. The damage caused to the business amounts to millions of dollars.

To understand the extent of the damage I’ll give two examples of partner companies that have been using our software and hardware as well for a long time, and whose facilities were seriously damaged during the war.

Ecosoft Water

The first example is “Ecosoft” company, which is a part of the Austrian holding BWT. The head office, training center and manufacturer of the company are located in Irpin city, Kyiv region. From the end of February to the beginning of April 2022, this small cozy town surrounded by forests was under occupation. Terrible photos and videos of the evacuation of children, women and the elderly under the crossfire of Ramzan Kadyrov’s militants, crossing the Irpen River under the blown up bridge in early March, spread around the world.

On the eve of the war, Ecosoft’s TOP managers developed several backup scenarios in case of an aggravation of the military situation – unfortunately none of them worked. Luckily, a pre-prepared production site in Ternopil city (in the West of Ukraine) made it possible to partially restart production in March.

“First of all, it was necessary to reassure foreign clients who were afraid of disruption of contracts. In this situation the Austrian partner BWT helped by providing €7 million, part of which was invested in a small production manufactory site in Belgium.  This ensured the stability of supplies,” said Andrey Mitchenko, the owner of the company.

Cooperation between Innovative DMC and Ecosoft began in October 2020. Together we developed and started scaling the largest digital signage project in Ukraine for the integration and implementation of DSGO software, and hardware solutions in the field of vending machines selling the purest water. A lot of vending machines were installed in almost all major cities of Ukraine. At the time of the outbreak of the war, the number of vending machines was about 500 pieces. They were installed in almost all major cities of Ukraine. However, a quarter of them have been damaged or completely destroyed during the war.

UPG Gas Stations

The second case is the restoration of two gas stations of the “UPG” chain, which were seriously damaged during active hostilities in Kyiv region. Productive cooperation “Innovative DMC” and the chain of gas station “UPG”, included in the TOP 5 innovative and most dynamically developing chain of gas stations in Ukraine, began in 2016.

From that time until the moment of the full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation into the territory of sovereign Ukraine, the chain of gas station “UPG” has grown to more than 70 new generation gas stations. Due to the number of advertising screens and digital menus, the “UPG” is the undisputed leader of the Digital Signage market in Ukraine. The total number of digital menu boards in the chain at the moment is 676 pieces. Also, we have implemented centralized management of audio background music and advertising messages. The entire infrastructure is consolidated into a single content management center from the head office of the company “UPG”. In addition to Digital Signage software, the chain uses hardware in the form of iDS+ media players by Innovative DMC.

At the end of February 2022, when Russian invaders from Belarus tried to enter Kyiv, one of the strategic directions of the offensive was the highway Kyiv-Lviv. 20 – 30 km from Kyiv, the Russian occupants face-to-face met with the territorial defense forces of Kyiv. Heavy fighting began. One of the innovative gas stations of the “UPG” is located in the village of Mila (right on the track) and was in the center of the battlefield. The building of the gas station was under crossfire and was almost destroyed. In total, two “UPG” gas stations were mutilated. A gas station in the village of Mila on the Zhytomyr highway and another one near the city of Bucha. Photos and videos of war crimes and the consequences of the terror of the Russian military in this locality of Bucha in March 2022 became known to the whole world.

How are you dealing with things like power outages and blast damage?

Kravchuk: The value of human life and the health of employees has always been and will be a priority for our company. Therefore, the main task from the first day of the war was the organization of security and the evacuation of all who wanted it.

Task No. 1 was the physical preservation of the lives of employees and their families. February 25 – April 2, 2022 (the date of the liberation of Kyiv and the Kyiv region) – was the most difficult and dangerous period. Systematic missile attacks and attempts to storm Kyiv and the capital’s environs from different sides – the most difficult period. A period when the biggest part of the citizens had to stay in bomb shelters or hide in Kyiv metro stations. All without exception (both adults and children) have applications installed on their smartphones that inform about the air raid alert and the status of what is happening both in a particular region and throughout Ukraine.

On September 1, 2022, the government approved a decree on the resumption of the educational process and implemented blended learning (online & offline). First of all, educational institutions (kindergartens, schools, and higher educational institutions) that have air-raid shelters received permission to resume the educational process. For integrators of digital signage solutions, from the first days of the war, the priority task was to integrate the air raid warning system, instructions, and explanations of what needed to be done, where the nearest bomb shelter is located, etc.

Separately, it is worth mentioning the energy issue. With the first frosts, the activity of rocket attacks throughout the country increased significantly. On some days, Russian occupants fired sixty or even more ballistic missiles toward Ukraine, and dozens of Iranian drones tried to reach the target (including Kyiv). The targets of the terrorists were mainly critical infrastructure facilities. Power plants, oil depots, railway stations, and places of mass accumulation of civilian people were subjected to massive missile attacks. A lot of problems with electricity all over Ukraine were caused by those attacks. Massive interruptions in the supply of electricity began, which provoked enormous demand, and as a result, a shortage of industrial and low-power generators for organizing the autonomous operations of businesses or private households.

But even in this critical situation, Ukrainians quickly adapted. Generators have become an integral part of the business in almost every company. The quality of mobile communication has become another problem. In many regions of the country, there were problems with mobile connection. Almost every Ukrainian has acquired several SIM cards from various mobile operators. But even in this critical situation, a solution was found. Starlink-types of equipment helped to achieve uninterrupted operation and complete autonomy of companies in such conditions.

What is the supply chain like?

Kravchuk: One of the challenges, especially at the beginning of 2022, was the issue of adapting logistics and equipment supply in the face of restrictions associated with war. First of all, this affected the rise in prices and delivery times. The main partner of digital signage hardware (commercial and professional webOS monitors) of our company has been LG Electronics for many years. The main “LG” hubs are located in Poland. Cargo insurance, huge queues at the Polish – Ukrainian border, additional costs for paperwork, etc.

About 30% of imports are occupied by iDS + 2/16Gb OS Android media players, which are developed and adapted specifically for our digital signage software. The partner factory where we order this equipment is located in China. Everyone knows that shipping by sea is the cheapest way to transport goods. In times of the war, deliveries, including media players, are 100% delivered by road, which significantly increases the cost for the consumer. A year after the war began, the market has adapted to these conditions, so deliveries continue.

Kravchuk: Is it a challenge getting trained deployment and support staff?

Having mentioned before, due to the martial law on February 25, 2022, the Government of Ukraine adopted the law that restricts the exit from the country for men aged 18 – 65. Especially those who previously completed military service or have military-technical specialties (including women). Directors of the companies with the aim to protect their staff from mobilization and obligations to military service must submit lists of employees to the military registration and enlistment office. Only after the submission and official consideration the information of each employee, the company receives official permission to grant a deferment (temporary exemption from the call of an employee).

The main problem for IT companies and not only, related to obtaining such permissions for highly-qualified employees. The backbone staff of the companies are developers, designers, testers, infrastructure architects, as well as project managers and installers. Some employees of our company left for Poland and still work remotely.

Fortunately, our company, like many others in Ukraine, managed to adapt to such conditions during the war. Moreover, we’ve already got serious plans to scale for the short-term future. We realize the fact that any plans can collapse overnight when war comes in your country, and that’s why we changed our focus to the side of European markets.

Kravchuk: Have customer demands changed in the past year, and by extension, what’s shown on screens?

Market demand for digital menu content has changed significantly since the start of the war. First of all, it is worth saying that Ukrainian people have never been so united before. The war affected the IT community and Ukrainians in general at the same time united them.

Therefore, a significant part of the content displayed on the screens (in various areas and spheres of business) is primarily associated with donations or fundraising to support the army of Ukraine. Despite the low level of the economy (compared to European countries), private Ukrainians, commercial companies, and charitable foundations actively use advertising screens and Digital Signage solutions as the most effective way of communication compared to traditional media (radio and television).

I’ve been impressed with the quality and breadth of some of the projects I’ve seen, notably in supermarkets and petrol stations. Is there a good understanding and support for using digital signage in the Ukraine business community?

Kravchuk: We were early in the Ukrainian market and we‘ve occupied a leading position. Therefore, we closely monitor market trends. Employees of our company regularly visit events and thematic exhibitions: Integrated Systems Europe and CINE in Barcelona, EuroShop in Dusseldorf, etc.

We can confidently say that the level of professionalism and quality of implementation of our company projects in such areas as a chain of gas stations, Retail, or hotels and restaurants, is the best not only in the Ukrainian market, but also abroad.

Our diversified advantage has always been flexibility, multi-functionality of the software, and our huge content development experience. Some functionality of the current version of the software is unique these days, which is the key point in decision-making on cooperation with our company. As previously mentioned, the customers and partners of “Innovative DMC” are a chain of gas stations, retail, hotels, restaurants and entertainment. We also do business with ad agencies, shopping malls, business centers, entertainment venues, fitness clubs, banks, pharmaceutical chains, etc.

Since the beginning of the war, our company, like many, actively supports volunteer projects, and also provides our software to defence projects for free. And most importantly, we managed to create a flexible, multifunctional, and at the same time easy-to-administrate digital signage software for the implementation of projects for centralized management of all types of content on various playback devices (both within a single object and projects on a national scale). We can confidently say that the Ukrainian digital signage market is actively growing and we are happy to be involved in this process. 

Kravchuk: Are there things you’d like the wider global digital signage community to know about what’s going on there?

I would like to sum up with an appeal to the whole world … In this war, Ukrainian people defend the democratic values not only of Europe, but of the entire civilized society. Tens of thousands of civilians have already died, hundreds of them are children. The losses of soldiers defending democracy from tyranny number in the tens, if not hundreds of thousands, and these numbers are growing every day.

For the second year, the people of Ukraine, under colossal economic and moral pressure, day by day find the strength to resist the many times greater force of the enemy. Each of you who read this article can help bring victory closer and stop the bloodshed.

Since 2014, our company has supported the fund We encourage you to join as any sum is important. Military and financial assistance is the only thing that can hasten Ukraine’s victory. A huge number of commercial companies and foundations provide humanitarian aid and assistance in various volumes. Indifference today can lead to the war in your country tomorrow.

Peace to all and a speedy victory for us. Glory Ukraine – Glory to the Heroes.


Leave a comment