01 June 2022

Denys Dovgopoly, MIM-Kyiv alum was at a loss in late February. But not for long. In early March he launched his offensive against international companies hesitant to leave russia. His wide international network of connections joined him. Besides, he raises funds for highly specialized military gear. Denys shared his economic warfare experience.


The Idea

When I was taking my family to the West of Ukraine I was at a loss because I could not understand how I could help. I was contacting my partners from venture cap business. They wanted to help. During my 200 calls in a week I outline my strategy on how to make russian money and startups toxic.

Then the influential Index Ventures published its statement of support for Ukraine. It helped isolate russian entrepreneurs and investors in the venture cap global market.

The Structure

We developed the technique of impacting investors’ and key corporate people’s decision-making. Then Blackrock, one of the globally-prominent investors issued its statement. It enabled us to apply our techniques to any international company operating in russia.

We are not alone in our activities. It took us 3 – 5 weeks to establish the decentralized structure with 50 – 70 independent groups that work autonomously. Sometimes we join forces. We have cut up to hundreds of thousand jobs in russia.

The Technique

We apply the “death from a thousand cuts” approach. People, businesses, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are hitting the targeted companies. You never know who did the last cut or what was the last push to exit the market. For example, we made two companies that maintained ATMs in russia leave. We also manage to shut 4 out of 5 plants that make bearing. As a result, armored personnel carriers’ maker does not work anymore.

If we cannot exert pressure on companies directly, like it was with the Decathlon, a family business, we target logistic services providers. In the case of Decathlon, they left the russian market because they could not operate.

We stopped counting the companies after our list exceeded 100 positions.

The Russian Market Risks

Business is very pragmatic. Those who followed the ethical values left from the very beginning. First of all, russian economy is shrinking. Secondly, auditors’ firms left russia and many companies are stuck because they cannot have auditors’ opinions on their financial reporting. Thirdly, russian market risks are growing. So, auditors strongly recommend companies have a special statement on russian operations. That usually results in a substantial reduction of those companies’ valuations.

The Pifalls

Recent research shows that companies that exited russian market suffer fewer losses because of the current crisis than those operating there. The “exitors” fixed the losses while those that stay cannot forecast them.

Exit is difficult because many companies invested a lot. For example, Nestle wrote off 10 billion.

Besides, after russian attempts to introduce criminal liability for the exit, top management who are mostly ex-pats are not safe there. They are risking a prison sentence.

Unannounced Exits

Many companies are leaving but do not announce the exit. They do not want to compromise their people's safety. For example, Google moved executives and most of the rank-and-file employees outside russia. Many companies start asking us to stop because we compromise their schemes. To check that, we need our people in headquarters.

It is easy to check. Those companies that decided to exit do not have budgets for russian operations.

Russia’s Decline this Year

I thought russia and the imbalanced economy as main threats. But I could not imagine the scale of the crisis. I was frozen. However, my partners supported me from day 1. We founded the startup support fund. People who do not want to contribute to military operations support businesses by providing access to funding.

The war is going to be long and costly both military-wise and economy-wise. I believe that russian economy will collapse this year. People from inside russian businesses tell us that the situation is aggravating. We need to press on and secure their isolation. Besides, russians ban a lot of things.

The Money that Cannot Buy Anything

We are facing a paradox. russia receives a lot of money as oil and gas payments. But they cannot spend them. Russian money is toxic to exporters and importers.

On top of that logistic chains are broken. Re-insurers do not insure cargos. The global strategy is simple: you cannot drink oil or eat dollars.


Even China boycotts russia. They have a difficult economic situation, so they avoid US and EU secondary sanctions. Their companies stop all projects. For example, Huawei stopped telecom equipment deliveries. They do not even answer the phone. russians can’t do anything about that.

Economic Special Forces

We were lucky to recruit some very influential people. They cannot help us directly but they are writing weekly to ask why the companies are still operating in russia. Those are people who nobody can ignore.

Activists Safety

All activists keep a low profile because of safety reasons. I am receiving tens of threats every day. Two months ago I received hundreds. Russians are trying to stop us. I am the only public person. All the rest avoid any kind of publicity.

If you think you can spare two hours a day to help us, join us. Or establish your group. We will help you with effective techniques.

For example, one of the small groups managed to paralyze the dairy industry because they stopped the import of food phosphates.

If you can spare an hour a week, join our Telegram channel to do something from time to time.

Ukrainian Economy Support

Our economy is suffering from the war. That’s why we do not raise hryvnia. Spend money in the country, and support local businesses. I do not have coffee at home. I buy my coffee from a shop next door. If you can afford it, eat out, buy things, etc. Our business needs deregulation and growth. I am not sure that our government understands that. Try to explain to them if you have access to them.