Specialist employment and travel platforms are stepping up to help those fleeing Ukraine, from cryptocurrency payments to fast-tracking recruiting in new countries.
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As the refugee toll passes one million people, remote work platforms are figuring out ways to help Ukrainians fleeing the war — as well as those who can’t.
These platforms grew in popularity during the pandemic, as they helped companies employ people in new destinations, as remote work took off following the closure of offices around the world.
They now join relief efforts alongside airlines and accommodation companies.
“It’s absolutely terrible, and we’re doing everything we can,” said Job van der Voort, CEO and co-founder of human resources platform startup Remote.com.
The company, which raised $150 million in funding in July last year, already had an initiative in place for refugees, which launched at the end of last year. This meant companies who wanted to employ someone with refugee status would not pay any fees. “We don’t make any money, we actually lose significant money,” he added.
The company has evacuated its own employees out of the country, and now is prioritizing refugees from Ukraine, so they can quickly receive money from neighboring countries, for example. It’s also actively working with governments to streamline visa application processes.
Van der Voort said he envisioned problems with payrolls. Companies including Mastercard, Visa and Swift have halted some payment processing in Russia, for example, as part of sanctions. Remote.com uses international partner banks, which suffer less from these disruptions. “If all fails, we’ll fall back on something like crypto, but it’s not always possible, and something that you’d want,” Van der Voort said. “We’re warning everybody to ensure they have alternative ways to get paid.”
It’s Not a New Situation
Despite the atrocities being carried out, mass movements of people are not a new phenomenon, whether it’s refugees crossing borders or other migration trends. “We see a lot of people that are not native working from different countries, and people moving a lot. It’s more a way of the world,” Van der Voort said. “Of course, (Ukraine) will drive some degree of that.”
One outcome is that countries have shown they’re able to swiftly ease the restrictions when offering working visas. The European Union, for example, is reportedly granting Ukranians residence permits and access to education and the labour market.
On Wednesday, global talent mobility platform Topia launched new dashboards to give customers greater visibility into where their employees currently are, whether on permanent or temporary assignments. In Europe, it tended to offer location information based at a country level, for tax purposes, but is now working on offering city locations to further help clients pinpoint where staff are.
It’s also providing guidance to non-customers when it comes to relocating to new countries, offering free in-depth city guides, detailing cost of living or how the transport system works. “We’ve been discussing internally, as folks cross borders, and settle into new locations, what can we offer for free,” said Steve Black, co-founder and chief strategy officer.
Off the back of visa waivers, he said Topia was exploring how it can better pair together citizenship issues and working opportunities, and wants to integrate its technology into jobs boards and recruiting systems.
“Immigration regulations have changed,” Black said. “More countries will now effectively grant work permits to Ukrainian nationals. With a flip of switch we can make that accessible, so as our customers are assessing candidates it gives them the right logic.”
Meanwhile, growing numbers of travel companies are continuing to offer assistance. French rail operator SNCF will provide free rail travel for Ukranians, chairman and CEO Jean-Pierre Farandou said on Twitter. Wizz Air is also offering 100,000 free tickets to refugees.
The UK government on Tuesday revealed a new visa sponsor route, called the humanitarian sponsorship pathway, to allow British businesses to bring Ukrainians to the UK. However, the co-founder of an organization that helps prepare refugees for the global workforce has voiced concerns over some of the media coverage of the crisis.
“While our intention is not to deflect against the suffering Ukranians are currently going through, and we will do all we can to support Ukranians with remote work, we want to emphasize the rights of every refugee regardless of what country they are fleeing,” said Lorraine Charles of Na’amal.
“The current media narrative of ‘good’ refugees versus ‘bad’ refugees is a harmful one and one with no substantial grounding. Saying that Kyiv was a “civilised European city,” yet failing to acknowledge Damascus and Aleppo were fantastic cities, as “civilised” and wonderful as any European city,” she added.
The first international cohort of the “In The Black” program will bring about 20 US-based startup founders to Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa later this year. They’ll stay for eight weeks, where Remote Year will be provide participants a “full cultural immersion” in South Africa including private local accommodations, co-working space, access to local experiences, community programming and social impact projects.
The program will focus specifically on Black and minority founders of startups that are focused on the future of work, as well as the travel and hospitality industry, providing them with weekly training and mentorship on how to grow their businesses.
Applications for the program close May 15.
Entrepreneurial workshops seem a logical fit, and the partnership follows Selina’s Co-Live division branching out into recruitment. “We believe that the rise in remote work is here to stay and has already shifted the ways in which businesses fundamentally operate and adapt. With this partnership, we’re putting the best and brightest minds internationally to creating solutions for the future of work,” said Keenan Beasley, founder of Venture Noire.
Remote Year said up to 20 percent of the cohort participants will be locally based in South Africa, as part of its commitment to driving a positive impact in the communities in which it operates.
10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up
Travel Software Developer DataArt’s Relief Fund
DataArt, which has built software for companies including Travelport, Skyscanner, Travelzoo and Apple Leisure Group, has set up a Humanitarian Relief fund to direct millions of dollars to help its staff in Ukraine, as well as those who have left to rebuild their lives elsewhere. The global software engineering firm is headquartered in New York, but employs a large number of programmers in Ukraine, where it has the highest concentration of research and development centers, across Kyiv, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Kherson, Lviv and Odesa. It has also stopped all investment, hiring and business development activities in Russia, where it worked with private companies. It does not have any contracts with the Russian government.
Salesforce Opens New ‘Collaborative’ Office
Software company Salesforce has opened a new floor at its Salesforce Tower Atlanta, and announced plans to open new towers in Tokyo, Dublin, Sydney and Chicago over the next two years. The new “‘Ohana Floor” in Atlanta is open to the local community, as well as employees, customers and partners. The flexible space is designed for people to collaborate and connect with each other, and follows the launch of its Trailblazer ranch in Scotts Valley, California.
Expense Startup Ramp Launches Travel Booking Tool
New York-based expense platform Ramp has launched a dedicated travel platform. The startup, which raised $300 million in August last year, said Ramp for Travel was an artificial intelligence-assisted travel solution that enables employees to book anywhere, and gives finance teams an “unprecedented level of insight and control over travel-related spending policies, and data.” All its existing customers will have access to historical data on travel booked to date on Ramp cards with the free solution.
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