Ukrainian startups join UArizona Center for Innovation through Department of State partnership

Feb 13, 2023
UACI team members and Ukrainian startup founders gather for a group photo in front of the UACI logo
Standing, from left: Oleg Sheremeta, SorbiForce chief business development officer; Eric Smith, UACI executive director; Anita Bell, UACI director; Casey Carrillo, UACI assistant director; Mykola Zomchak, chief technology officer. Kneeling, from left: Gnat Panok, EQ.APP chief production officer; Yaroslav Samoiliuk, Zeely chief operations officer.


Four technology startups from Ukraine are calling the University of Arizona Tech Park home for six months. During that time, the startups – which focus on areas including emotional intelligence, remote meeting transcription, green energy storage and online commerce – will have opportunities to make connections and explore market expansion opportunities in the United States, with support from the University of Arizona Center for Innovation startup incubator.

Representatives from the companies arrived at the University of Arizona Tech Park at Rita Road in December. They are scheduled to stay through May and then return to their country.

The startups were selected through the U.S. Department of State's Global Innovation through Science and Technology initiative to take part in the Center for Innovation's Global Advantage Soft Landings program, which offers business coaching, mentoring and other resources to help international businesses enter the U.S. market.

The State Department's Global Innovation through Science and Technology initiative, or GIST, engages with science and technology innovators and entrepreneurs in emerging economies around the world, connecting them with established business incubators, such as the UArizona Center for Innovation, that can provide training and resources to help build successful startups.

"Sustaining homegrown Ukrainian businesses, even during a time of war, is critical for the Ukraine economy now and for the country’s prosperity in the years ahead," said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "We are happy to welcome these startups to the United States and to Tucson and to provide them support through the university's Center for Innovation, which has a proven track record of engaging international startups and fostering their success."

The Ukrainian startups joining the UArizona Center for Innovation, or UACI, are:

  • EQ Production, developer of an emotional intelligence app designed to help users form sustainable skills in managing emotions, produce desired emotional states and influence the emotions of other people.
  •, an artificial intelligence-powered assistant that transcribes Google Meet and Zoom calls and generates summaries.
  • SorbiForce, the creator of a sustainable, cost-effective and safe carbon battery made from renewable raw materials, with the goal of helping the world transition to clean energy.
  • Zeely, a mobile-first web store and ad builder that helps small-business owners start selling online.

"It is amazing for us to be here at the UA Tech Park with the University of Arizona Center for Innovation and we are thankful for the mentorship," said Oleg Sheremeta, founder and chief business development officer of SorbiForce. "We are in a professional environment and in the heart of the startup community, learning how to build a startup for the global market. The U.S. market entry is very important for us."

"It is one thing to be a Ukrainian company working out of Ukraine, trying to make a splash in the U.S. market. But now that we are physically in this market, it is a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, form industry-university collaborations and find new investment opportunities," said Gnat Panok, co-founder and chief product officer of EQ Production.

The startups will also receive logistical support from VentureWell, a U.S.-based global nonprofit organization and partner of the GIST initiative.

"We are committed to supporting Ukrainian science and technology innovators in accessing the resources and network they need to be successful," said Mark Marino, vice president of growth strategy and development at VentureWell. "UACI's extensive track record and capabilities as well as the vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem in Tucson make an ideal partnership for the GIST Business Incubation program."

UACI and city leaders say Tucson's growing innovation ecosystem, combined with the strategic advantages of the region, make Tucson an attractive entry point into the U.S. market for international companies and startups.

"I am thrilled to welcome our Ukrainian guests who are building their dreams right here in Tucson," said Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. "Tucson is a hub for innovation, but more importantly, we are a community who cares about our global entrepreneur network. Thank you to the U.S. State Department and VentureWell for choosing Tucson as the backdrop for this important work."

UACI was recognized as the 2022 Soft Landings Designee of the Year by the International Business Innovation Association. UACI is one of only 50 entrepreneur support organizations in the world named as Soft Landings designees for ensuring that international companies experience a supportive foundation when exploring doing business in another country.


About the UA Center for Innovation 

The University of Arizona Center for Innovation (UACI) is a startup incubator network with outposts across the Southern Arizona region. For nearly two decades, the program has directly served over 225 companies and impacted thousands of entrepreneurs. This is done by providing access to people, programming, and places that help entrepreneurs take their companies from idea to market. Startups go through a structured program that takes them through a continuum of education provided by mentors, advisors, and community collaborators. Entrepreneurs utilize various physical spaces that include offices, wet and dry labs, meeting rooms, a prototyping center, collaboration areas, and the infrastructure to support these spaces. Tech Parks Arizona directs the UA Tech Park, the UA Tech Park at The Bridges and the University of Arizona Center for Innovation. 

About VentureWell 

VentureWell is a nonprofit organization with a mission to cultivate a diverse pipeline of inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and create lasting impact. In 27 years, VentureWell has helped bring scientific and technological advancements in the fields of energy, agriculture, water, environment, and healthcare to millions of people in more than 90 countries. 15,000 innovators have been trained and supported by VentureWell, who have created over 3,000 businesses that have gone on to raise over $3.5B in private and public investments. VentureWell’s large network of partners span the fields of higher education, research, government, and industry, and includes many leading private and public partners including the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of State (DOS), The Lemelson Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.