EU Today exclusive: an interview with Volodymyr Nosov, founder and the СЕО of one of the largest European crypto exchanges, WhiteBIT.
For more than a year, Ukraine and Ukrainians have been fighting for their independence. The country’s economy has suffered significant losses — at the beginning of the war, almost every second business stopped working, and GDP declined by almost a third. Today, the shock of the changes has passed. The Ukrainian people, the government and entrepreneurs were united by the common goal — to bring the victory closer. The relations between Ukraine and the West have changed and matured — they went beyond realpolitik and focused on humanity and eternal values.
The business of Ukrainian entrepreneur Volodymyr Nosov, the founder and the СЕО of one of the largest European crypto exchanges, WhiteBIT, had also experienced a significant transformation. However, despite the war, he continues to implement the company’s mission — mass adoption of blockchain technology.
During our conversation, Volodymyr Nosov repeatedly emphasizes his gratitude to the western partners for invaluable help to his country, but it also immediately becomes clear: Ukrainians and Ukrainian business do not just let the grass grow under their feet and wait for help from the West, but take a proactive position themselves, develop business, help Ukrainian defenders, volunteers and fellow citizens and, moreover, they are determined to rebuild their country after the victory.
Last year, in February, one of the first cities that experienced the Russian invasion was your native Kharkiv. How did you feel those days?
“It was a mixture of feelings: including anger. Despite the fact that a full-scale war has been going on for more than a year, it is still impossible to get used to the horror that is happening in my hometown and throughout the country. However, all these emotions come into order when you start acting. God has no hands other than human hands. So, if not you, then who? Behind me was a team of several hundred people. No employee was set adrift. I had to personally make sure that my team and their families were safe.
“At the same time, we did everything to ensure that none of our clients experienced disruptions in the stability of the exchange with the start of the war. This was the main goal – to maintain stability, despite the circumstances. And we succeeded. Notwithstanding the war in Ukraine, WhiteBIT brand with our Ukrainian roots has been expanding all over the world this year.
“What else can I remember? Immediately, in the very first hours of the war, we decided to completely exclude russia and the ruble from any business processes and strategic plans. No matter how promising the market of the russian federation seemed to some international corporations, which never dared to say “goodbye” to moscow, we did it on the very first day. This is a matter of principle and the words are unnecessary here. This is the same case when behind the words “nothing personal, just business” are thousands of human lives.”
At the same time, we know that some technology players are giving Ukraine a lot of support…
“Yes, indeed, there are many friends who do not stand aside. Many of them perceived the war in Ukraine as a personal tragedy and had begun helping due to the efforts of the Ministry of Digital Transformation. The first thing I remember is that the Microsoft allocated significant sums to support the government and business, the Amazon canceled commissions for Ukrainian entrepreneurs and provided space in the cloud to state agencies and universities. We gained Digital Education Grants from the Google. This is only a small part of the donations received by the Ukrainian state and business.
“However, Ukrainian entrepreneurs had also helped ,and continue to help, the country and people, support the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Ukrainian business sends billions in order to support its country. This is the only opportunity to win this war.
“How will Ukrainian business develop if Ukraine is occupied? It is a matter of survival. Who will produce and buy goods, if our people become refugees or, even the worst of all, remain without army’s protection. That’s why we don’t just help fundraising platforms and foundations. We transfer our own funds to help Ukraine and, by our own example, we show that it is necessary to help, and this is the humanity and meaning of the business existence: it’s not only in making money, but in the opportunity to help people. It’s no matter how successful businessman you are, first of all, you have to remain a human being.
“Every week there is something new to tell about projects related to the aid for Ukraine. Recently, as a part of the fundraising platform United24 project and the encrypted publication of the national NFT-collection of the UACat Division, we have bought 250 NFTs, which in conversion amounts to $25.000. This money was used to collect a fleet of maritime drones for Ukraine. By the way, we transferred all NFTs to Ukrainians. Not so long ago, we donated the same amount of money for the collection of drones for the Armed Forces of Ukraine.”
Which regions of Ukraine are currently in the focus of attention of the WhiteBIT volunteers and benefactors?
“It all started from Kharkiv and the region. This is our home, here after a few handshakes you know almost every family. We helped those who needed it the most – people who lost a roof over their heads in one day, those who lost children or parents. It is difficult to remember old people who were left alone and lost their families. We bought the most necessary food and medicine, sent it by passenger trains, and delivered it by bicycles.
“Most supply chains to trading networks or pharmacies were destroyed. There were constant attacks, people died while standing in lines for food. Those were extremely difficult times. When I say that due to the business,Ukraine avoided famine in February-March,I am not exaggerating. Then we were close to the families in Chernihiv, Hostomel, Bucha, and supported immigrants from Mariupol. Usually there was up to two thousand grocery sets every week. We were buying generators for maternity hospitals. The children were sent to rehabilitation. Now they have started building houses for the displaced people.
“Apparently, this is not very big amount of aid, considering the fact that the number of internally displaced persons in Ukraine is reaching 5 million people. These are those who have officially registered. But you see, today every Ukrainian entrepreneur, every team does its best. During this year, we all became like a family in Ukraine. The contribution of each of my compatriots, each ally of the country to the common victory is invaluable. If it weren’t for the mutual help of Ukrainians and the help of the Western partners, it would be impossible to maintain it. It would be simply impossible for many people to survive.”
You are talking about substantial amounts of aid. Have you calculated how much the WhiteBIT is donating on aid?
“I think we have transferred about $11 million of our own funds during the full-scale invasion. The aid was provided to volunteers, defenders, and Ukrainians directly.”
These are very significant donations…
“Yes. But it is important to understand that today it is not just a matter of social responsibility, but a matter of survival. And if there is an opportunity to do something that will help to bring the victory closer: financially or with resources, we will do it.
“It’s really not just about the systematic donating. Ukraine is being rebuilt and it can be said that it has already become the digital hub of Europe. After the victory, these rates will increase. Understanding how important digital skills are, we are actively involved into crypto-literacy and blockchain educational projects. Recently, we have completed one of such projects on the basis of “Diia. Digital education” from the Ministry of Digital Transformation and other important players of our industry. And there is still room to move on. Ukrainians have been receiving education and knowledge about advanced technologies and have been applying them in practice during the war. Can you imagine it? It’s just a miracle.”
Not so long ago, Turkey had experienced a devastating earthquake, and immediately proactive crypto companies asked the authorities to make an official wallet for crypto contributions. I heard that the WhiteBIT have also provided assistance to four Turkish foundations. In Ukraine, at the beginning of the war, was the crypto industry also given the opportunity to join?
“Indeed, it turns out that when disaster knocks on the door, people immediately think of the crypto. The blockchain is a simple technological solution to the problem of transferring money by benefactors from all over the world that traditional financing cannot offer. And this was taken into account when launching the global fundraising platform United24 of the President of Ukraine. Its ambassadors are such stars as Liev Schreiber, Imagine Dragons, Barbra Streisand, Mark Hamill and other prominent artists and sports figures from around the world.
“At the United24, our crypto processing solution Whitepay was used as a tool to collect donations in crypto. The crypto community is also donating to the other funds. You have probably heard about Turkish drones, “people’s bayraktars”? During the day, people had collected money for two “Bayraktars”. After another two days – for already four UAVs. And later, the Turkish “Baykar” announced that it would provide Ukraine with drones for free. You say that when ordinary people in Turkey are in trouble, both the WhiteBIT and Ukraine are near. But could it be otherwise?
The whole world admires President Zelenskyi. Many of your soldiers are becoming cult figures…
“Yes! We are proud of our President. He is leading the country in the most difficult time. The European Commission holds a meeting in militarised Kyiv, the USA President comes to express his support in person, world stars and leaders – all of them give us support. It has never happened before.
“Our soldiers are heroes. What they do on the battlefield is a feat. We, for our part, are trying to help them with all available resources. By the way, we have already had about fifty thanks from the units of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. We systematically help, with food, armour, thermal imagers, drones, cars, medicines. These are ordinary, but very necessary items. Sometimes I’m even embarrassed to receive these thanks, but it’s not about the pieces of paper, but about the people behind them. I thank the military, the WhiteBIT and the entire Ukrainian business. We are one team. However, our economic front is not so merciless, and our losses cannot even be compared with the severe trials that the Ukrainian military is going through. “Glory to Ukrainian defenders” – these are not simple words for every Ukrainian. The main thing is the victory, so that the enemy would leave the territory of Ukraine as soon as possible and people’s suffering would come to an end.”
During the full-scale invasion, many Ukrainian businesses had been forced, if not to close down completely, then to reduce the amount of their activities. How has this year been in terms of business development for WhiteBIT?
“Of course, last year in February we were forced to review our product launch dates, our entering strategies to the new markets, our marketing activities, and etc. Everything was done manually. However, at the same time, today, we are one of the largest cryptocurrency companies in Europe and we have 8 offices in different countries and on different continents of the world. And we were able to reach these indicators namely last year, despite the war, crypto winter, relocation and all the crisis moments that had been happening.”.
There are no stories about the secrets of success, we know the main goal – the implementation of blockchain technologies and the expansion of the cryptocurrency community, and you systematically move towards it, accepting all the challenges.
“I am proud that over the last year, despite everything, we have signed several important partnerships with those who set the level in their fields. WhiteBIT has become the official crypto partner of football clubs, including the Turkish Trabzonspor, the legendary Barcelona and, of course, the National Football Team of Ukraine. Isn’t that cool? And we now continue to implement joint activities exclusively for users of the exchange. We proudly carry the name of Ukraine around the world, setting a high level.
“And, of course, I can’t help but mention the cooperation with Ukrainian state bodies, which might not have happened under other conditions or it would have taken much longer. The war had accelerated the changes and showed how the cryptosphere could integrate into other spheres. It was a powerful accelerator.
The confrontation between the government and business used to be traditional in Ukraine. Now you can constantly see complete cooperation between Ukrainian business and the government. This happens quite a lot. Has the situation changed, or am I wrong?
“No. This year has shown everyone that only by uniting the efforts of business, the government and people we have a chance to defeat the enemy. Mutual respect. Mutual aid. Cooperation. This is the only way we will win and have a chance for development. This rule works for the state. It works at the business level and for every family.
“Here is another example. Because of the war, millions of Ukrainians were forced to leave their homes and seek temporary shelters in the EU countries. This is a big burden for European volunteers and state authorities. In addition, this is a huge challenge for the employees of our Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They simply did not have the technical ability to provide consultations to a large number of our citizens abroad. The WhiteBIT decided to support the Anti-Crisis Center of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to help the 24-hour call-center. We have made consular services available for Ukrainians with hearing impairments. We bought consular suitcases, which provided employees of Ukrainian consulates abroad with additional mobility.
“Also, during the last year, I had a number of meetings with foreign diplomats, officials and representatives of the financial sector. We had been discussing on how the blockchain can change people’s lives and simplify their interaction with the authorities. I had received many questions about the situation in Ukraine and had talked about the economic front that holds Ukrainian business. And I felt that our Western partners needed this information firsthand. I felt that friendly communication and our understanding would eventually transform into even greater support for our country.
“How could we do all this without cooperation with the state authorities? How could the state bodies do this without people’s support, businesses and volunteers? All of us have a common goal. And we also have a common enemy. The level of responsibility of Ukrainian business and the government has increased in accordance with the severity of the challenges that we had to face. People’s lives depend on the actions of each of us. The fate and the will of Ukraine depends on the level set by the WhiteBIT, set by each of us.”