INPUT SOFT is a Ukrainian startup that creates software for airports. It digitalizes all the processes that are still based on Excel spreadsheets, including passenger and airline services.

These are difficult times for everything related to civil aviation. Having managed to recover from quarantine restrictions in 2021, Ukrainian civilian skies were completely shut down on February 24, 2022, due to Russia's invasion. And the outlook is still clouded.

Liga.Tech spoke with INPUT SOFT co-founders Anastasiia Smyk and Andrii Smyk about the digitalization of airports and the challenges the industry may face when civilian skies open.

LIGA: How did you come up with the idea for the startup and did you have any personal experience in this area?

Andrii Smyk: The idea for the startup actually came up during COVID. All of our co-founders – me, Anastasiia, and Valentyn Zavadskyi – worked in aviation. When COVID started, the aviation industry simply locked up the airports. There was a huge recession, the biggest recession in the history of aviation, and no one knew what to do at all.

This Ukrainian startup digitizes airports, with software adoption lined up in Ukraine, EU
Photo: Lev Shevchenko/

We conducted market research, talked to civil aviation people from different regions. It was South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. And we were told that the biggest problem would be planning and securing resources on the ground after COVID, when traffic starts to recover. We came up with the idea that we should create something that could help aviation recover. We already knew from our own experience that there was a certain problem with resource planning at Ukrainian airports. And we came to the conclusion that it would be a good idea to interview airports around the world, and that's how we found out that the problems are very alike.

In total, our team has over 20 years of experience in this field. Anastasiia worked at five airports in Ukraine, where she developed manuals for staff on how to service aircraft and passengers. Valentyn started 13 years ago at Swissport as a staff planner (the company is now an end user of one of our solutions).

I also have some experience at an aviation regulator. And so we decided that there is indeed a problem with resource planning at airports, it exists and will continue to exist.

What is the problem with the existing software? Are there any solutions that are already in use? And what should yours change?

Andrii Smyk: The recovery process is characterized by the fact that flights change, their number increases and decreases. And we need to be flexible in terms of planning. The number of people directly depends on the number of flights.

There are indeed solutions, there are competitors, and resource planning is not a new notion, but we have come up with a more creative way of doing it. Our main competitor is Excel, because many companies still plan their resources there. And Excel lacks many necessary functions. For example, optimization algorithms to reduce the number of working hours.

And if we are talking about software solutions, they were usually written quite a long time ago, about 15-20 years ago. And they have, firstly, an outdated interface, and secondly, they lack some important functions. They plan resources for a week. But for an airport, it is important to plan for a month, six months, a quarter in order to understand how many staff will be needed and whether the number of people they have now is enough.

Our other big advantage is that in our product, planning is reflected immediately on the schedule. Our competitor only plans changes, and then the planner has to create schedules and add people based on personal experience and knowledge, but our platform automatically creates it. And in addition, it has a better User Interface and User Experience. We worked directly with people, planners who have 15 years of experience in resource planning. We actively let them test the platform from day one and collected feedback from them and implemented it.

Finally, we are integrating satellite data. In 2017, we certified a satellite provider of real-time aircraft location data. We integrate this into our platform so that we can change the load on resources in real time. After all, flight schedules can change, meaning delays and so on, and this affects work shifts.

Did you have time to work before the airspace was closed? And in general, how long have you been working?

Anastasiia Smyk: We officially started our work in 2021. We started with the business model, with some basic developmental things, and then we started to receive the first recognition – the first grant from the Ukrainian Startup Fund. So we hired developers using it. In 2021, when people started traveling again, there were delays with airplanes and luggage. The whole of Europe and the United States suffered tremendously, losing millions of dollars because companies were not prepared for the resumption of traffic. Our solution was created to solve this problem.

This Ukrainian startup digitizes airports, with software adoption lined up in Ukraine, EU
Photo: Lev Shevchenko/

In 2022, we started as part of Techstars, an American accelerator and investor, which gave us funds and we went through the Torino Cities of the Future acceleration program in Italy. Then we tested our program with three companies in Ukraine. These are the ground handling department at Odesa airport, as well as ground handling in Kyiv’s Boryspil and Zhuliany airports.

In Odesa, we had already tested our prototype program, communicated with both employees on the platform and management. The most tragic part is that our last meeting with them was on February 23, after which, unsuspecting, we returned from Odesa to Kyiv. Then the war broke out.

What is the current situation with your clients?

Anastasiia Smyk: "Interestingly, we continue to communicate with almost all Ukrainian market players, including airlines and airports that are currently operating in 'safety mode', and we also cooperate with various airports around the world.

In July, we released a beta release of the program, and this summer we started selling it – we expect the first revenue from customers by the end of this year. We are negotiating with companies from the US, South America, Europe, and the Middle East. Neighboring countries such as Poland and Romania are also interested, including airports, ground handling companies, and airlines.

This Ukrainian startup digitizes airports, with software adoption lined up in Ukraine, EU
Kherson Airport and its director Vitaly Kucheruk. Photo courtesy of Kucheruk

How do you assess the situation with the closure of the airspace in general – in your opinion, how will it be restored under different scenarios? What should be done in this area?

Anastasiia Smyk: It's very difficult to say, because as we see, many airports have been affected. For example, take Chornobayivka airport in Kherson. Even though it had less than one percent of the total Ukrainian passenger traffic, it is now completely unusable.

It's not going to be like "today the war is over, and tomorrow we start flying". Aviation has a lot of different requirements and rules, both globally and in the Ukrainian airspace.

All staff must have qualifications that need to be maintained and updated every six months.

State-owned airports are constantly conducting training for their staff – we see this in the news and in reports. Boryspil security officers are now working at the Central Railway Station so that they do not lose their skills. We see that everything is positive – people are not losing faith, not everyone has quit, specialists have stayed in the country, materials and equipment have remained.

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What's being said in the news now is that there are periodic statements suggesting the airspace will open every few months. Unfortunately, according to all the aviation rules currently in place worldwide, especially within European airspace which we belong to, this is not provided for. Another question is whether airlines will be ready to fly and take risks when the war is not over. After all, each aircraft is insured, which is tens of millions of dollars. And there is, of course, the issue of passenger safety, which is the No. 1 priority, has always been and will be.

Security issues aside, is it possible to use the experience of recovery from the first air traffic lockdowns for the future recovery after the war?

Anastasiia Smyk: I think the same experience as with COVID will take place. There was also a huge drop in flights, not zero, but quite a lot. There were also layoffs, but now many staff have joined the army, some have gone abroad. When there was COVID, the planes were flying, and now for a year and a half, the aircraft have not been flying at all.

The problem will be that, if after the COVID, the passenger traffic increased slowly because at first they were allowed to travel only for work, then they were allowed for study, then after the opening of the airspace in this case, everyone will fly at once, because there will be no restrictions, because the [Schengen] visa waiver remains. And the problem will be that we may simply not be able to cope with such a flow of passengers, neither the infrastructure nor the staff. And, in fact, our program solves such problems.

What is your situation with financing and investments? Over the past few years, how many opportunities have you had to raise money? What kind of money do you have to survive on?

Anastasiia Smyk: Initially, like everyone else, we started with our own funds. Our first grant was 3,000 euros from the YEP accelerator, which we spent on a trip to the WebSummit. There, we met the director of Techstars, after which we received our first investments from venture capitalists.

In total, we have raised almost half a million dollars since the company's inception — about $470,000. This includes venture capital investments, Ukrainian investors, SID Venture Partners, Sigma Software Labs, Techstars, and grants, for example, we have a grant from the EBRD, the American GIST program supported by the State Department, and others.

2022 was a very difficult year, I think, not only for Ukrainian startups, but for startups in general, and for us it was several times harder. There were problems with attracting investments, because several times we heard questions from investors – how will you manage if you have a team in Ukraine. I had an offer from an investor to find new co-founders in Europe. We encountered a lot of misunderstanding about what the war is, how we live in Ukraine, whether we have computers, electricity, and light here.

When the first shock passed and we realized what we were going to do next, I decided that I was going to move to Europe and that's how we would continue to work and look for partners, clients, and investors. In 2022, I attended 12 different conferences around the world to attract investment and communicate with investors.

This Ukrainian startup digitizes airports, with software adoption lined up in Ukraine, EU
Photo: Lev Shevchenko/

At the beginning, when the full-scale invasion had just started, when the news about Bucha and Irpin came out, people abroad thought that we were all in the trenches. But then there was more information about how Ukrainians were fighting and holding on. After the Eurovision Song Contest, a lot of people changed their minds – if we are still attending the contest, then we are probably still alive.

I think, in general, before the full-scale invasion, there was little understanding of where Ukraine was located. And the situation really changed after the start of the full-scale war. People began to understand Ukraine – that it is one of the largest countries in the center of Europe. That's how Ukraine was promoted, that we have tech companies, that we have a lot of developers.

How many people do you have in your team? Do you have people abroad?

Anastasiia Smyk: We currently have 16 people in the team. Currently, the entire team, except for the accountant, is in Ukraine. Not all of them are in Kyiv – there is a developer from Zaporizhzhya, and there are internally displaced persons. We survived the last winter very well, with generators and Starlinks. It was even difficult to explain to investors and clients from abroad that the blackouts did not affect our work.

As for next winter, I have not heard any direct questions about whether we are going to survive. Our team is very driven and energized, everyone likes what we do.

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