As rumors began to spread of power outages, cyberattacks and tanks rolling into eastern Ukraine, JustAnswer Chief Executive Andy Kurtzig convened his employees in the invaded country on a video conference call to put emergency plans in place.
Just hours before Russia launched its assault on Ukraine with missile strikes in Kyiv and Kharkiv reported by CNN, Kurtzig addressed some 260 employees on evacuation and first aid training.
“Things are so unpredictable and stressful,” Kurtzig told MarketWatch. “There is a state of emergency, with restrictions on travel, a ban on strikes. We are so worried about the safety of our people.” Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy later declared martial law and ordered “anyone with military experience must report.”
For Kurtzig, who runs the roughly 1,000-person online-advice platform from San Francisco, managing a 260-person workforce in Ukraine has been a harrowing experience. Sleep deprived for the past two weeks, he and his staff have worked on plans to protect employees while maintaining operations.
It is a scene being repeated at other technology companies with major operations in Ukraine. Officials at Google parent Alphabet Inc.
and Oracle Corp.
are confronted with the task of doing business during all-out war.
The geopolitical shock event has already ravaged markets, battering most stocks. Wedbush Securities analyst Daniel Ives, however, believes “top names to own on this sell off in our opinion are Microsoft
as well as core chip names which should be safety plays in this turmoil.”
That comes as little solace for smaller companies with significant investments in Ukraine.
“No amount of reassurance supersedes intrinsic fear,” Canvas CEO Kevin Stephens told MarketWatch. His app company, which employs a handful of contract workers in Kharkiv, saw the apprehension in a Zoom call. “I am concerned for their safety.”
JustAnswer’s four-point business continuity plan covers personal safety, through relocation of people and extended personal time off; infrastructure backup in the form of backup diesel generators, laptops and internet service in Ukraine; business as usual, in the event employees go off to war; and response to the escalation, through financial support and first aid training.
Kurtzig added that JustAnswer has contacted its bank in Ukraine, which was recently attacked digitally, to ensure its employees have access to funds.
Employers are encouraging staff to leave the country, if possible, with their financial assistance. Some, however, remain reluctant to leave.
“The majority still wanted to think about it,” Stephens said. “Why are they reluctant to leave? Their families are there, and it’s patriotism.”