As many people know, I was born in Moscow in what was then the Soviet Union. I met my wife in Odesa more than 30 years ago while visiting family in Ukraine. Odesa is a beautiful city, steeped in a rich and cultured history, situated on the Black Sea, and in the years since our marriage, it has become a second home to our family. We have close friends and relatives there, and we’ve amassed decades of memories there.
In early 2020, when it became apparent that the COVID-19 pandemic was more permanent than any of us had originally anticipated, I suddenly had the rare and privileged opportunity to stop traveling for business and settle somewhere for an indefinite period of time.
As a family, we chose Odesa.
Like the rest of the world, I was shocked and devastated when I watched the country of my birth attack the country that had been my home for the past two years. Since that day, the atrocities taking place inside Ukraine have only grown more heart-wrenching and incomprehensible. Perhaps I should have seen this coming. An eight-year-long proxy war in Eastern Ukraine might have given it away. I did not, and it did not.
When I founded IPONWEB twenty-two years ago while living and teaching in the UK, the world’s biggest companies were just waking up to the potential of the internet as a channel for transformation, value creation, and innovation. I wanted IPONWEB to be a global technology company that could play a foundational role in that shift.
I have always been proud of my Russian heritage. My university years there overlapped with those when many of the world’s leading theoretical physicists were teaching and working in Moscow. The Cold War had ended, the world was opening up, and I could envision a bright future where Russia played an important part in advancing important areas of study in math, science, and physics.
When thinking about where to establish an R&D center for my growing company, Moscow was my first choice. In the twenty years since, that office became an undeniable center of excellence for ad tech innovation; and the team, talent, and culture we built there never ceased to amaze me.
At the same time, operating any facet of a business inside Russia comes with certain complications, which is why we insisted on maintaining engineering offices in multiple locations globally; why we avoided working with customers inside Russia; and why we never located computing infrastructure, data, financial operations, or Intellectual Property within Russia’s borders.
But now, operating an R&D center in Russia has gone from being complicated, to being completely untenable for a global company like ours.
So today, with the heaviest heart, I am announcing that IPONWEB will be winding down its remaining operations in Russia. With this decision:
- We will expand our Berlin Tech Office, which will continue to be our European product and engineering hub; and we will actively relocate and hire more product and engineering talent to this location;
- We will continue to support the work-from-anywhere policy that was successfully implemented over the past two years, while living through the pandemic.
It is our intention to offer all of our Moscow-based employees the opportunity to continue their work with IPONWEB outside of Russia, and we will offer relocation assistance to all current employees and their families to support this. We will equally offer the above options to future hires to ensure we can continue to attract the best talent while enabling global flexibility and reliability.
My first priority as a CEO has always been the safety and wellbeing of IPONWEB’s employees. Since the start of the war, our teams have worked diligently and behind-the-scenes to protect and assist our colleagues as they look to relocate and navigate the complexities of establishing a new life in a new place. Already, 30% of our Moscow-based employees and their families have relocated to other countries, and we have plans in place to offer similar services to all remaining staff over the coming weeks.
I cannot end this letter without also stating how much my heart grieves for the senseless suffering and human tragedy that is taking place in Ukraine. Ukraine is a beautiful country, and Ukrainians are a generous, welcoming, and resilient people. Like the rest of the world, I hope desperately for the violence to end quickly and for peace to be restored. Until then and well after, my family – and my wife especially – will remain committed to helping those forced to flee Ukraine with resettlement support.
Despite these changes, the future for IPONWEB as a global company remains bright, and this is entirely due to the dedication and passion of our people. We will continue to drive technical innovation and value for our customers and the advertising industry at large. And we remain committed to providing all employees with challenging work, professional opportunities, and a chance to participate in the modern world, now from wherever they choose to do so.
To our clients and partners, our commitment to you remains unchanged – to continue to provide you with exceptional service and technical innovation to help power your business.
I thank you all for your continued support.