September 28, 2022

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Why the CEO of this Seattle tech unicorn will not do business with Russian companies

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Outreach CEO Manny Medina. (GeekWire File Photo / Nat Levy)

The CEO of Seattle-based Outreach is urging more tech leaders to take a stand against Russia and said his startup will not do business there, as companies across the US scramble to respond to the war in Ukraine.

“Like the rest of the world, I’ve been watching the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine closely. I cannot stand silently without taking action to support the people of Ukraine, ”said Manny Medina in a LinkedIn post. “As of today, Outreach won’t be conducting business with companies based in Russia.”

“While this is a small action, it is a principled one. We will not support a government that is trying to overthrow a democratic state, ”said Medina, who has close family ties to Russia. His mother is Russian and his daughter is fluent in the language.

Medina co-founded Outreach in 2014, after working at Amazon Web Services and leading Microsoft’s mobile division. Outreach has more than 4,600 customers and in June was valued at $ 4.4 billion.

Medina declined to reveal how many customers Outreach has in Russia and said his focus is on asking what he can do for his Ukrainian customers and their teams. “We are going to be working very closely with them to ensure they are viable businesses when this invasion is over,” he said in an email to GeekWire.

Medina issued his statement as newly-unleashed sanctions hammer the Russian markets and currency, and an increasing number of Western companies cut or pull back ties with Russia, including Shell, BP, Daimler Truck and Volvo. In Latvia, business leaders are raising EUR 5 million to support Ukraine.

“I wish more tech leaders will stand with Ukraine and take more action against Russia directly during this time,” Medina said. “The tech community has a lot of influence and can mobilize a lot of resources.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday similarly urged businesses to consider cutting links with Russia. He said the state is analyzing its contracts to identify connections with Russian state institutions and significant companies, with the intent of severing them. Several other states have announced similar measures.

On Tuesday, Seattle biotech startup Phase Genomics announced it is matching its team’s contributions to support the humanitarian effort in Ukraine. “I encourage others in the space to consider something like this,” said CEO Ivan Liachko, who grew up in Kyiv. in a tweet.

“This is personal for me,” said Phase Genomics data scientist Alexander Muratov in a tweet. “Most of my extended family lives in Ukraine and is currently hanging on for dear life in bomb shelters. Very proud of my organization. Glory to Ukraine. ”

Some US companies with workers in Ukraine’s burgeoning tech sector have made efforts to evacuate employees, and others are paying workers who are leaving their jobs to fight in Ukraine’s military. Men aged 18 to 60 are now barred from leaving Ukraine and military reservists have been called up.

Rahul Sood, CEO of Seattle gaming startup Irreverent Labs, has a team in Ukraine. Some members of Sood’s team are in Kyiv, which is being closed in on by a massive convoy of Russian military vehicles.

“Some of the best Unity developers are based in Ukraine – we pray for them everyday, and wish a quick end to this war,” Sood said.

Sood said he’s part of a network of CEOs affiliated with venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz who are sharing information and ideas about their Ukrainian teams. “We’re dealing with it one day at a time,” Sood said.

Redmond-based RBC Signals, which matches satellite operators who need communication services with satellite ground stations around the world, said it has suspended its ties with ground station partners and satellite operators in Russia. “We were able to accomplish this action with minimal impact to our customers,” RBC Signals CEO Christopher Richins told GeekWire in an email.

“I am in awe of the bravery the Ukrainian people have displayed in these terrible circumstances.”

Boeing says it has temporarily closed its office in Kyiv, where it has an engineering design center. It also has paused operations at its Moscow Training Campus. “We are focused on supporting our employees, customers and suppliers in the region, while adhering to all US and global laws and regulations,” the company said in a statement emailed to GeekWire. Update: Boeing provided an updated statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying it had suspended major operations in Moscow. In addition, “We are also suspending parts, maintenance and technical support services for Russian airlines.”

US tech companies have also taken steps to slow the spread of disinformation on their networks. On Monday, Microsoft announced measures to reduce the reach of Russian state-sponsored outlets RT and Sputnik, for instance removing RT apps from its Windows app store and de-ranking their content in search results on Bing. Microsoft is also providing guidance to the Ukrainian government on cyberthreats.

In an interview Monday, the former top Russia expert on the US National Security Council, Fiona Hill, said that by suspending business ties with Russia, “ordinary” companies can uphold “standards of good Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.”

Some world leaders say tech companies can do more. The prime ministers of Poland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on Sunday sent a letter to the leaders of Meta, Twitter, Google and YouTube with a set of proposals to “take a stand” against Russian disinformation.

Kira Rudik, the former COO of the Ukrainian operations of Ring, which is owned by Amazon, is currently a member of the Ukrainian parliament and remains in Kyiv. She posted on Twitter that she has learned how to use a Kalishnokov rifle.

“I am in awe of the bravery the Ukrainian people have displayed in these terrible circumstances,” Medina said in his post. “Our decision is a response to the Russian government’s actions, which I understand are not supported by all Russian people.”

GeekWire contributing editor Alan Boyle helped with reporting on this story.

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