Courtesy: Alex Iskold
A little over a month into Russia’s assault on Ukraine, Alex Iskold is trying to reckon with the reality in his homeland while lending a hand the best way he knows how.
Iskold, who immigrated to the U.S. from Ukraine at age 19, is a venture capitalist and managing director of 2048 Ventures in New York. He’s also a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of the 1K Project, a nonprofit that allows anyone to donate $1,000 directly to a Ukrainian family.
So far, the project has raised more than $3.5 million and helped 3,500 families. But Iskold, now 49, knows the crisis ahead for Ukraine, a country of 44 million people, is poised to deepen no matter when the fighting ends.
More than 4 million Ukrainians have fled to neighboring countries, with more than half entering Poland, as the Russian military has pounded population centers. Millions more are certain to lack basic necessities far into the future, and will need money for food, medicine, clothing and transportation.
“There’s a lot of ways you can donate, but when you donate direct relief, you know one family is better off because you helped them,” Iskold said in an interview.
For a family of three to four, $1,000 lasts only about a month, he said. With more than 70,000 families already waiting for support and more applications coming in by the hour, the project needs individual and corporate sponsors to keep contributing.
“This is a strong call to action, because companies could make a significant difference, and we’re confident we’re the right vessel for delivering the aid,” he said. “Hopefully companies can step up and help us get to more families.”
The concept behind the 1K Project is simple: An individual donates $1,000, which gets sent directly to a Ukrainian family.
Iskold launched the 1K Project for a different purpose. He and Chrysi Philalithes, a fellow entrepreneur and start-up investor, created it in 2020 to assist Ukrainian families during the Covid-19 pandemic. Iskold revived it when Russia invaded Ukraine.
“For me, the 1K Project is an outlet, a coping mechanism,” said Iskold, who left Ukraine in the early 1990s to escape antisemitic persecution. “I could be sitting on the couch watching television for hours, or I could help in a different way.”
The 1K Project team consists of more than 50 volunteers, many working 10 hours a week, from across the U.S. as well as in Latvia, Ukraine, France and Kazakhstan. The operations team, responsible for reviewing family applications and responding to sponsors, includes some high school students and Iskold’s own children. Engineers come from such companies as Techstars, Yahoo, Mozilla, Venmo and Citigroup.
“We have the best engineering talent I’ve ever seen,” Iskold said. “They’re moving at the speed of light.”
The group needs it because “the engineering challenge is immense,” Iskold said, adding that his experience with distributed systems helped him to build out the technology. The team, meanwhile, collaborates using software such as AirTable, Slack, Notion and Front.
“It’s just this incredible combination of code and people we use to get the job done,” he said.
To apply for aid, families fill out a single form. They need a bank card that accepts the local currency in order to receive aid. Of the applicants, roughly 40% are still in their hometown in Ukraine, 20% are refugees outside the country and 40% are displaced.
Once a volunteer reviews an application, that information gets passed to a sponsor, who then sends the money through Wise, a multicurrency money transfer service. The money is directly deposited into the family’s bank account so the funds are accessible even if they’re on the move.
Courtesy: Alex Iskold
“We willed the system into existence and constantly wrote code as we are funding families,” Iskold said. “We are close to 100% automated wherever possible, including checking of applications for basic errors. Still, support emails and SMS for families and sponsors keep us busy.”
Cryptocurrencies can also be donated. When that happens, they’re sold for cash, which is sent to the families using Wise and converted into the Ukrainian currency, hryvnia. A partner organization called Open Collective accepts donations over $1,000, whether through cash, stocks or cryptocurrency.
People have taken advantage of the crypto option in creative ways, Iskold said. Meta Angels, a community of people working on digital art in the form of non-fungible tokens, created a set of unique NFTs and sold close to $50,000 worth for the 1K Project.
Iskold said there’s widespread sense of responsibility that people feel toward helping Ukrainians. Many are watching the war unfold and seeking ways to help.
Ukrainian officials have pushed for a cease-fire agreement and a resolution to the humanitarian crisis sparked by the Kremlin’s invasion. At peace talks in Istanbul on Tuesday, Russia claimed it would reduce its attacks on Ukraine, but military forces have continued to carry out strikes around the capital city, Kyiv.
Iskold’s efforts can’t keep up with the devastation, but for some families it may be all they have.
“The 1K Project is a bridge until affected families can get back on their feet,” he said.
IMF hikes global growth forecast as inflation cools
The IMF has revised its global economic outlook upwards.
Norberto Duarte | Afp | Getty Images
The International Monetary Fund on Monday revised upward its global growth projections for the year, but warned that higher interest rates and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would likely still weigh on activity.
In its latest economic update, the institution said the global economy will grow 2.9% this year — which represents a 0.2 percentage point improvement from its previous forecast in October. However, it said that number would still mean a fall from an expansion of 3.4% in 2022.
It also revised its projection for 2024 down to 3.1%.
“Growth will remain weak by historical standards, as the fight against inflation and Russia’s war in Ukraine weigh on activity,” Pierre-Olivier Gourinchas, director of the research department at the IMF, said in a blog post.
The Fund turned more positive on the global economy due to better-than-expected domestic factors in several countries, such as the United States.
“Economic growth proved surprisingly resilient in the third quarter of last year, with strong labor markets, robust household consumption and business investment, and better-than-expected adaptation to the energy crisis in Europe,” Gourinchas said, also noting that inflationary pressures have come down.
In addition, China announced the reopening of its economy after strict Covid-19 lockdowns, which is expected to contribute to higher global growth. A weaker U.S. dollar has also brightened the prospects for emerging countries that hold debt in foreign currency.
However, the picture isn’t totally positive. IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva warned earlier this month that the economy was not as bad as some feared, “but less bad doesn’t quite yet mean good.”
“We have to be cautious,” she said during a CNBC-moderated panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The IMF on Monday warned of several factors that could deteriorate the outlook in the coming months. These included the fact that China’s Covid reopening could stall; inflation could remain high; Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could shake energy and food costs even further; and markets could turn sour on worse-than-expected inflation prints.
IMF calculations say that about 84% of nations will face lower headline inflation this year compared to 2022, but they still forecast an annual average rate of 6.6% in 2023 and of 4.3% in 2024.
As such, the Washington, D.C.-based institution said one of the main policy priorities is that central banks keep addressing the surge in consumer prices.
“Clear central bank communication and appropriate reactions to shifts in the data will help keep inflation expectations anchored and lessen wage and price pressures,” the IMF said in its latest report.
“Central banks’ balance sheets will need to be unwound carefully, amid market liquidity risks,” it added.
Most Adani shares continue losses; founder loses $28 billion in month
Gautam Adani, chairperson of Indian conglomerate Adani Group, at the World Congress of Accountants in Mumbai on Nov. 19, 2022. Founder Gautam Adani, the richest man in Asia and once second only to Elon Musk, fell out of the world’s top five richest to rank seventh on the Bloomberg’s Billionaire Index.
Indranil Mukherjee | Afp | Getty Images
Shares of most of Adani Group companies continued to see sharp losses for a third consecutive trading session as the company attempted to rebut short seller firm Hindenburg’s report, which accused the conglomerate of stock manipulation and an “accounting fraud scheme.”
Adani Enterprises erased earlier gains of up to 10% and last traded flat in Mumbai’s afternoon trade after the group published a lengthy response of over 400 pages to Hindenburg’s report over the weekend, saying that it will exercise its rights to “pursue remedies” to protect its investors “before all appropriate authorities.”
Adani Enterprises’ stock price remains more than 25% lower in the month to date, Refinitiv data showed. It proceeded with a secondary share sale worth $2.5 billion, which were overshadowed by a rout that wiped out a total of $48 billion as of last week’s close.
His net worth fell $27.9 billion year to date, the index showed. It peaked at $150 billion on Sept. 20, 2022, before falling to to $92.7 billion as of last week’s close, according to the index.
Despite small gains seen in Adani Enterprises, other affiliates of the Adani Group continued to plunge.
Adani Group said Hindenburg’s allegations were a “calculated attack on India, independence, integrity and quality of Indian institutions, and growth story and ambition of India,” in the response it released over the weekend.
The group’s chief financial officer Jugeshinder Singh said in an interview with CNBC-TV18, an affiliate of CNBC, that the value of Adani Enterprises has not changed “simply because” of share price volatility, adding it instead lies in its “ability to incubate new businesses.”
He added that he is confident Adani Enterprises‘ follow-on public offering will be fully subscribed, calling Hindenburg’s report “simply a lie” and the timing of the report “malicious.”
Hindenburg on Monday morning described the group’s response “bloated” and claimed it “ignores every key allegation” against the conglomerate that it raised.
“Fraud cannot be obfuscated by nationalism of a bloated response that ignores every key allegation we raised,” the short seller titled its response to Adani Group.
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