“The world should stop it.”
That was the call on Tuesday from an executive of a Marin County tech company with personal and business ties to Ukraine, reacting to overnight news that Russian President Valdimir Putin has ordered troops to visit the separatist provinces and recognized their independence.
This action triggered immediate sanctions from major economic powers.
Nataliya Anon is President, CEO and Founder of Svitla Systems Inc., headquartered in Corte Madera. With revenues of $44 million last year and an estimated revenue of $60 million for 2022, the company started with software development teams in Ukraine and has expanded globally.
” I am very worried. We have extended our offer to relocate employees to the western and southern regions of Ukraine, or allow them to move to Poland or Montenegro,” she told the Business Journal on Tuesday.
Last week, she told the Journal that Svitla (“brilliant” in Ukrainian) had 500 employees in five Ukrainian cities, including the capital, Kiev. The company has more than 800 employees worldwide: Costa Rica, Mexico, Montenegro, Poland and 20 in the United States.
Feedback from workers there so far indicates that the office is still operational. She added that the company had five new people in Ukraine to serve a client.
Personally, she has close family members here in the United States, but cousins and other relatives are still in Ukraine.
Calling Putin’s actions ‘heinous’, she said she believed Russian troops were already in Ukrainian provinces, which the insurgents call the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, long before the announcement made in the middle of the night by the Russian leader.
The actions he has taken already make it clear, Anon said, that “Putin is a maniac and a dictator who lost his marbles.”
She is happy to see banks freezing Russian assets as well as countries banning travel from Russia to the UK and France and banning young Russians from continuing to attend schools in Europe.
“Nowadays, it is so critical to see what this situation means for Europe as well as for global security when it comes to preserving world order,” Anon said.
She added: “It’s hard to believe this is happening.”
Germany has frozen the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project in response to Russian parliamentary agreement to trigger a major escalation of the crisis by sending troops to Ukraine. This was approved by more than 100 members of the Duma.
None of Svitla’s trading networks were hacked. The company has a secure encrypted computer system and a distributed network that spans the globe. Spare equipment was moved to other locations to provide redundancy and backup so that company data is not lost, according to Anon.
Anon was born and raised in the Lviv region of western Ukraine.
As a teenager, she attended the Moscow Financial Academy and, at the invitation of an American professor visiting the academy, accepted an offer to come to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. She took advantage of other connections to enter the University of Kansas where she earned a master’s degree in accounting and information systems.
She received her second master’s degree in 2001 from Stanford University. In 2003, Anon started its current business with organic internal funding. Svitla specializes in custom software, website design and development, and information technology consulting.
This week’s events in her homeland have convinced her that the global response must be clear: “The world must stand up for Ukraine and act now.