Sergey Tokarev and the founders of Reface launch Pawa, a unique studio for ML startups


Pawa, the first venture studio of its kind that aims to provide complete support of AI and ML startups, was launched in Ukraine. The project will finance, consult, and manage ready-made ideas and developments related to artificial intelligence and machine learning. Moreover, it will also generate its own products. Sergey Tokarev, a co-founder of the project and IT investor, spoke in detail about the studio’s plans.

Pawa is a phonetic transcription of the English word “power”. According to Sergey Tokarev, this name is ideal to reveal the essence of the project. Pawa differs from other similar studios as, in addition to the classic venture studio, it will also include elements of a business incubator and accelerator. The ideas born and developed in the studio will get all the possibilities to succeed thanks to the full support.

Pawa experts will get acquainted with startups at the earliest stages. As a rule, it will happen at the stage of idea validation. Specialists will assess its potential on a number of criteria: relevance, compliance with market requirements, realistic technical implementation, business plan, team competence, and so on.

‘Further, if the product and its founder have passed the first stage of selection, we will help them directly with developing and testing MVP. In our project, we focus on people. We are ready to work with both entrepreneurs who have interesting ideas and developers. We are also open to potential co-founders. We plan to attract investors not only from Ukraine and Europe but also from Silicon Valley,’ Tokarev said.

Unlike in the Western countries, a venture studio is still a new thing in Ukraine. There is AI Fund in the US, Founders Factory, and other projects in Europe, while Pawa will be the first of its kind in Ukraine. The projects with investors being involved in the project management process more than usual have quite a specific feature: it is usually more difficult to share the income from the implementation of ideas.

‘Since Pawa is not just a venture fund, but a project that highly involves investors in the operational process of projects, the shares of income will accordingly be distributed flexibly. If investors assume the operational risks of the early stages of project development, their share will surely be a majority. The share of a co-founder and the author of the idea will, accordingly, depend on the level of their involvement in the working process. For instance, if they take on managerial responsibilities, CEO or CTO, then, obviously, their share will increase,’ Sergey Tokarev explained.

The co-founders of Pawa are a proven team. Together with Sergey Tokarev in the list of founders of the project, there are his colleagues on Reface Denis Dmitrenko and Kyle Sygyda. And Hanna Shuvalova takes over project management.

Back in the preparatory stage, Pawa’s co-founders got supported by a number of foreign experts, venture funds, and technology companies from the United States and Europe.

Today, Pawa is still assembling its team. At the initial stage, it will be about ten people, mostly ML specialists of every level, who will start the cycle of working with ideas. The studio is planning to run ten projects a year and pick up potential market hits.

For those who are already planning to submit their project to Pawa, the co-founders hint that preferences will be given to ideas related to the media, finance, health, and the gaming sector.

According to Sergey Tokarev, the long-term plan of the project is to improve Ukraine’s position in the world arena of artificial intelligence. The founders of Pawa believe that creating a center to support local AI and ML products is the first step for Ukraine to get rid of the label of an outsourcing country.

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