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Ukraine Equity Fund CEO: Now is the Time to Invest in the War-torn Country

Lenna Koszarny is CEO of one of the largest private equity firms in Ukraine. On this second anniversary of Russia's invasion, she says: "Come and invest now." 



Horizon Capital CEO Lenna Koszarny and JICA's Senior Vice President Mikio Hataeda sign an agreement at the JICA offices in Tokyo, on February 19. (© Horizon Capital)

The Japan-Ukraine Economic Reconstruction Promotion Conference was held in Tokyo on February 19-20, and participants are already evaluating the initiative as a success. 

Organized by the Japanese government, the event brought together the public and private sectors from Ukraine and Japan. It aimed to facilitate international cooperation and ultimately foster investment by Japanese companies in Ukraine. With Ukraine's postwar reconstruction in mind, it covered a variety of sectors, including manufacturing, infrastructure, and sustainability. 

More than 56 agreements were signed between representatives of the two countries. Deputy Minister of Economy of Ukraine Volodymyr Kuzyo spoke to JAPAN Forward on February 20 at a satellite event. There, he told us the conference was "the most impressive bilateral conference between Japan and Ukraine." 

To learn more about how Japanese investments will affect the Ukrainian economy, JAPAN Forward spoke to Lenna Koszarny. She is the founding partner and CEO of the private equity firm Horizon Capital. Her company focuses on financing projects in the tech and export sectors. It received a $20 million USD investment commitment from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on February 19. 

In an interview in Tokyo on February 21, Koszarny explained the situation in her war-torn country. She also shared her perspective on the bilateral conference and her hopes for Ukraine going forward. 

Lenna Koszarny, founding partner and CEO of the private equity firm Horizon Capital based in Ukraine. (© Horizon Capital)

Recovery Amidst War

Since Russia's invasion on February 24, 2022, Ukraine has suffered vast losses and devastation. The destruction has rippled through the economy, with the national GDP shrinking by almost 30% in 2022. 

As someone working in Ukraine for over 30 years, Horizon Capital CEO Koszarny says that the impact of the war has been felt widely. In a survey published by Ernst & Young and the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine in June 2023, 32% of businesses reported an employee killed in the war, Koszarny points out.

Against this bleak background, Ukrainian enterprises have been resilient. Approximately 97% of businesses operating in prewar times have resumed their activity, the Horizon Capital CEO highlights. "Ukraine never stopped working," she explains. 

Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa (front left) offers prayers at a memorial within church grounds that became a mass burial site. January 7, Bucha, near Kyiv, Ukraine. (©Kyodo)

What Japan is Doing

Japan's stance has been to continue to support Ukraine in its long-term recovery. On February 19, the Japanese government announced an additional $106 million in funds for Ukraine's reconstruction. That was on top of $10 billion in financial aid provided earlier. 

While international support is helping to sustain the war effort and the economy, questions about long-term support remain. To delve deeper into this theme, the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) and United Nations Development Program brought the public and private sectors together for an event exploring "Inclusive Economic Growth and the Role of the Private Sector in Ukraine's Reconstruction." This took place on February 20 in Tokyo. 

Participating businesses learned about Ukraine's economy and considered strategies for fostering economic resilience. Deputy Minister Kuzyo explained to the Japanese audience that access to finance in Ukraine has been a hurdle. That has been particularly true for small and medium enterprises, he emphasized. 

There are a variety of ways in which Japanese organizations are contributing to fostering international ties. JETRO highlighted one example. It is a business matching service called e-venue that is designed to facilitate links between Japanese and Ukrainian companies. 

Japan-Ukraine Economic Reconstruction Promotion Conference with Ukraine's Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal and Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. (©Pool Photo)

The Case of Horizon Capital

Among the Japanese initiatives, JICA's pledge to Horizon Capital offers a way to promote sustainable financial growth in Ukraine. It focuses mainly on technology-related companies. These, both sides analyze, would be less harmfully impacted by the damage to infrastructure from the war. 

Koszarny explains that Horizon Capital has a track record for bringing results to people in Ukraine. The private equity firm prides itself on being one of the largest investors in the country. She says the company has invested in 170 companies and attracted $2.4 billion to Ukraine. Horizon supports "visionary entrepreneurs with an already proven growth model," says Koszarny. Therefore, rather than offering venture capital, it aims to support companies that are already working and growing. 

She gave two examples of investment success stories, both in education technology: Preply and Viseven. Preply is an online tutoring service. Viseven is an enterprise focusing on marketing solutions for pharmaceutical firms. 

Koszarny says providing support to existing companies like these is crucial as access to capital is "almost non-existent in the country." She also hopes that investment in these enterprises, among others, will bring more resources to Ukraine. 

"There are those who come to Ukraine, invest, then move people out of the country. We say the opposite: We want to see high-quality jobs created in Ukraine," highlights Koszarny. 

Ukraine's Deputy Minister of Economy Volodymyr Kuzyo at the "Inclusive Economic Growth and the Role of the Private Sector in Ukraine's Reconstruction" on February 20. (©JAPAN Forward)

Supporting IT and Women's Empowerment

Part of Horizon Capital's mission is its focus on women's empowerment when investing in companies. Koszarny says that among the companies the private equity firm has supported, half the employees are women, and 40% of the enterprises are women-owned. In fact, one of the companies that Koszarny highlights as a success, Viseven, is led by a woman, Nataliya Andreychuk

"Our visions aligned with JICA," she highlights. JICA aims to increase the number of projects that incorporate gender mainstreaming ("gender projects") to 40% by 2026 and 80% by 2030, according to its November 2023 report. 


Another reason Horizon Capital chooses to invest in tech companies is due to the wealth of qualified staff in Ukraine. "Forty-two percent of the [Ukraine] service exports are in IT," says the Horizon Capital CEO. IT services account for 5% of GDP. As a backdrop, Koszarny points to the wealth of technically prepared workers in Ukraine and government investment in technology. These are additional headwinds for the investment in the field. 

"We understand our investors are interested in a high-growth sector. [Thanks to this trend] Ukraine is seeing investment in US dollars. It's a win-win for everyone," she concludes.  

Japan's Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa, right, and Lenna Koszarny, founding partner and CEO of Horizon Capital, left, shake hands Women, Peace and Security WPS session as part of Japan Ukraine Conference for Promotion of Economic Growth and Reconstruction at Japan Business Federation Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Tokyo. (© Pool Photo)

The Future of Japan-Ukraine Collaboration

Looking to the future, Koszarny says that there "is no better time to invest in Ukraine than now." She expresses hopes that visa procedures will be made easier for Japanese businesses wanting to invest in Ukraine.  

Koszarny also hopes that the deal with JICA will encourage others to follow suit. 

"I hope that other Japanese institutions and companies see this and see that you can find a trusted partner," she says. The aim is to contribute to "Ukraine's economic resilience" She then adds that there is potential to "really make an impact now, when Ukrainians need the resources the most."


Author: Arielle Busetto

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