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Refael Yukha: I’m amazed how many talented people there are in Ukraine

The creative director of the “Platform” coworking space on the future of anti-offices in Kiev

Refael Yukha, the creative director of the alternative work space “Platform” located at the “Platform Art Factory” told JewishNews about his grandiose plans to develop the “class of creators” in Ukraine.

Refael’s experience is like a romantic film. He arrived, fell in love, and stayed. He arrived in Ukraine in August 2014. He fell in love with the country, the people and his work. He stayed to carry out a grandiose project of commercial real-estate in Kiev – the “Platform Art Factory” creative space, with a total area of 65,000 square meters.

As soon as we met, Refael invited me for a walk, so that I could appreciate the scale of his creation with my own eyes. Gigantic brick boxes of the former Darnitsky combine are scattered over an enormous territory. Like many factories, the combine closed in the mid-1990s.

For 20 years the factory was abandoned. Until in 2008 a new owner came along, the Israeli Ofer Kertsner [the owner of the adjacent “Darynok” shopping center and the City Capital Group developer company, and from 2003 the honorary consul of Ukraine in Jerusalem]. The new owner, who by that time had already realized a number of successful real-estate projects in Kiev, began to look for a sensible use for the industrial zone. The solution did not come immediately. The concept of the large-scale creative space was only presented in 2014. The project was named the “Platform Art Space”.

For the sake of the project, Refael moved from economically stable Israel to turbulent Ukraine. The creative specialist from Israel discusses the future project with great enthusiasm, which aims to develop the creative economy cluster in Kiev. He believes that Ukrainians have enormous intellectual and creative potential. But the main problem is that many of them prefer to realize it outside the country.

I’m amazed how many talented people and creators there are in Ukraine. They lack support, a feeling of being needed among their ‘own people,’” says Refael.

In order to give the creative class a roof over its heads, he developed the idea of the largest coworking space in Kiev within the “Platform Art Factory” space. His managing company plans to create an eco-system based on the principle of “cooperation vs. rivalry”. The ideologists of the “anti-office space” believe that it is much easier for small businesses to develop next to each other, sharing expensive competencies from other startups of a similar kind. Ideally, the eco-system will not require resources from the outside. All the necessary resources and people will be an integral part of the “creative factory”.

Despite the “magical” feeling of the project, it is a business, not a charity. The project plans to earn money primarily from rent. Clients can rent a workspace in an open space zone: a shared desk for 1,800 hryvnia a month or a dedicated desk for 2,200 hryvnia a month. A private office can also be rented for 3,000 hryvnia a month. The cost includes the full range of office services: an administrator, meeting rooms, office equipment (printers, scanners, projectors), rest zones, hot drinks and snacks.

Over time, it is planed to open a hostel and several catering facilities at the “Platform Art Factory”, which will work 24 hours a day. Thus, the initiators want to provide the full range of services, so that the tenants of the co-working space can fully concentrate on their work. The first coworking space is planned to have a capacity for 80-90 people, with a new space with a capacity of up to 700 people appearing after a year, and potential to increase to up to several thousand tenants after the next couple of years.

Another source of income is holding educational and networking events. “We planned to hold the largest Hackathon in the world [a forum for developers where specialists from different fields of software development work together on solving a certain problem – author’s note]. We also plan to launch the Kyiv Filmmaking Camp for everyone who wants to acquire knowledge and practical skills in the film industry,” Rafael says.

The organizers will not only be welcoming hosts, they will also b active participants of the entrepreneurship industry. Refael says that the company plans to invest in a number of IT-startups, which will operate at “Platform”. The company is currently carrying out active “recruitment”, with the help of partners – the AVentures company and the BizSpark Microsoft project for startups. The sum of the planned investments is confidential.

Rafael finds many similarities between Israel and Ukraine. “The only things that Ukraine can boast about are the agricultural sector and technology. We’re similar in this way,” he says with a smile. In recent years Israel has been in the top 5 most technological countries in the world. It is now time for Ukraine to take its place in the sun.

The organizers are not worried about the coworking boom in Kiev: “In Tel-Aviv, coworking is one of the most economically profitable formats of real-estate. The first develop of ‘anti-offices’ was the municipality, which for a long time held a monopoly. Now new platforms open every year – there is a demand for them.” “Platform” not only provides a place to work, but creates a closed eco-system, and this should become a competitive advantage of the project.


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