Attorneys at law “Bachynskyy and partners” provide legal assistance and consulting to foreigners from almost 85 countries of the world. Lawyers do not only provide their service professionally, but are interested in the lives of their clients, as well. Because they can tell a lot about their countries and its inhabitants – their traditions, rules of business, politics and laws. In addition, it’s always interesting to find out why successful businessmen and employees from other areas move to work and live to Ukraine. That’s why AL “Bachynskyy and partners” decided to create a video blog “Expats in LVIV blog” and to communicate on these topics with guests of our city from other countries.
The fourth guest of our blog – Aaron Fust, cofounder of “Lion City” LLC, real estate & technology start-ups investor from the USA.
He will tell us whether Lviv is comfortable for business and investing, and whether any foreigner can feel safe in our country. And also – a few words about his Ukrainian roots and gastronomic preferences.
Lviv is the most comfortable city for doing business in Ukraine due to its geographical proximity to Europe and its large business community. Moreover, it is often called the cultural capital of Ukraine, – says Taras Bachynskyy. – However, it is difficult for foreigners to get used to the Ukrainian lifestyle. On the one hand, they are annoyed by local transport, old buildings and local bureaucracy. On the other hand, a lot of foreigners are delighted with the low prices (comparing to Europe and the USA), with the number of entertainments existing here.
Thus, we are going to discuss all this issue with our client and friend of ‘BK partners’ – Mr. Aaron Fust. You have been living in Ukraine for the last year, but when you entered Ukraine for the first time what was your first impression of Ukraine and Lviv – do you remember it?
Aaron Fust: My thoughts were very positive. I liked it by the way, especially Lviv. It is a great city, very friendly and easy to enjoy. I was surprised how beautiful it is.
T. B.: What was the most surprising for you in Ukraine when you came to the city for the first time?
А. F.: It is so well preserved and tourist-oriented. There are so many cafes, shops and restaurants everywhere. There are lots of old cities in Europe, such as Prague, Krakow, which are very similar to Ukraine. In the USA we get a really different impression, and we are told certain things about Ukraine. But then we get here and we have an opposite of everything that we were told. That is a real surprise!
T. B.: If you compare Ukrainian cities and residence here with the same in the USA, what are the differences?
А. F.: Surprisingly for me, there is no crime here, the crime rate is so low. You can walk the streets day and night anywhere in the city. In the USA crime rate is high. There are some ‘bad neighbourhoods’. There are no ‘bad neighbourhoods’ here, in Lviv. That was the big, surprising thing.
Another thing is the center of old history. In the USA we do not have a lot of the history of USA. Your city makes a lot of work to preserve your history and make sure that people will enjoy it.
T. B.: I agree with you. But, when Ukrainians are coming to the USA their first impression is connected with the very simple things. It is very strange for them that even in the restaurant they everytime get cold water, that the shower is fixed and you could not just take it and make your hair wet. What was surprising for you in Ukraine? What about English-speaking people in Lviv?
А. F.: I think the language barrier is definitely an issue. It took me a while to develop the group of professionals and friends that speak English well and who helped me to navigate the system because it is still not that coming for English-speaking people. Day-to-day stuff is not so bad, but details of doing business are so useful to find people that know English well to get business done.
T. B.: Is it complicated for you without an English-speaking person in your everyday routine, for example, to call a taxi, to make the order in a restaurant? How do you feel when you want to get from A to B?
А. F.: That is not a problem. The Uber works great here. All you need is to push the button and you go where you want to go. There is no need to talk with a driver. The technology takes a language barrier out. He (driver) knows where to go. It works great. The prices are incredible! In the restaurants and others there is somebody who speaks elementary English, so you are not going to starve to death because of the language barrier, especially in the city center, full of many international tourists. I have just read in the morning that about 1.5 million of the international tourists come to Lviv. Obviously, they speak English.
T. B.: You told me that your ancestors originated from Ukraine. What did they tell you about Ukraine? Did you maintain all Ukrainian traditions, such as Christmas Eve сelebrating? What did you hear about Ukraine before visiting?
А. F.: The Soviet Union was a country about which you did not have so much information, that is why we really did not have much detail. But the culture is still transplanted into Pennsylvania. The churches, the religion, and food are all the same there. And then you come here and you can get a certain special occasion in every restaurant. It is a kind of getting me back to my roots and definitely feels like homecoming in some prospects.
T. B.: Did they tell you some stories about Ukraine? Did you know much about this country before coming?
А. F.: No, not a lot. It was covered with an Iron curtain and it was shut off for generations. It was a mystery what was going on in the old country.
T. B.: It was a rough time when you entered Ukraine. The war has started and is still going on in Ukraine. Now it is even on a more active faze. Did you worry about that? Did your friends tell you that Ukraine is a dangerous country to visit?
А. F.: I was very concerned about security of myself, and I did as much research as I could to see the situation in Ukraine. Also when I got here doing business researches I immediately called and visited the USA Embassy to ask about security. They made it clear that only 3% of a country has trouble, but the rest 97 % of the country is safe according to the US Embassy. They say that is definitely conflict, but apart for other territory is free from the restriction. There are no warnings besides that 3% of the territory. Of course, keeping eye on the situation and news it seems to me that situation is more stabilizing than is getting worse.
T. B.: Did lots of your friends worry about the situation? Did they warn you not to come here?
А. F.: I have friends that have never been to Ukraine, why will they warn me about something they do not know? The reality is not what we see on the news. Ukraine has been so poorly branded in the US press. So, you think that Ukraine is a crazy, lawless place with the Russian tanks rolling down the streets. But, it is a safe, organized and beautiful place. Lviv is much safer than any city I have been in the USA.
T. B.: As far as I know you graduated from MBA. Can you share your experience? What the school it was?
А. F.: It was the University of the Fenix. It was great! I was a practicing chiropractor in three clinics I did not do any formal business training. I went to night school and got all the classes I needed to understand the business better. And that dramatically helped my ability to managing to grow clinic system comparing my peers. It was late 90’s. For the rest my career having the technical business understanding certainly set me apart from my peers who have never had such classes. It was the best decision I have made in my life! It was totally worth it!
T. B.: Also, as far as I know, you have been making an investment in real estate.
А. F.: Yes, I did real estate investment. Also, I am doing some healthcare work with medical tourism bringing patients from around the world to be able to get excellent medical care here at a great price. Of course, we are providing them with Air BnB apartments for them to stay in. That is an advertisement for Ukraine.
Another thing is an IT outsourcing along with the medical staff; starting a digital marketing business in the group and expending the whole real estate brokerage to bring the North America capital.
T. B.: There are top-3 economic branches that are developing very fast in Ukraine, such as agriculture, IT-sector etc. We know that IT-sector is developing rapidly in Lviv. We have more than 300 IT companies.
As far as I remember you have somehow a connection with IT Park, and what is your thoughts about it? Also, I have seen an article on your website about it. Do you think that IT Park will become the new Silicon Valley in Ukraine?
А. F.: One thing that really surprised me about Lviv is how tech- and IT-outsourcing-oriented it is. IT-outsourcing and business process outsourcing – that is one of the big hubs in the world that is growing. And this is amended with human capital here for IT outsourcing.
I have been involved since a week I have actually arrived in Lviv in IT industry which keeps me, in a relationship, getting familiarized with the option that is. I guess there are 20 000 official IT workers and even more people in universities who are leaning engineering and computer programing.
I saw several of the presentations of the IT Park. It is smoothing along and it looks like financing place for it, actually it breaks grounds soon. I think, it is very good chance for Lviv which can become major IT city as the industry continues develop. A lot of international companies are starting offices here; they have already done business here.
T. B.: If we are talking about business, nowadays you are in somehow with IT-business, with the digital market, with the medical tourism and other kinds of tourism, because you are attracting people from the USA and other countries to Ukraine (and Lviv in particular), and with the real estate business. So, could you give a piece of advice to your business colleagues abroad, and name top-3 business models with the high rate of investment, which you would recommend?
The solar systems are the new branch of economy developing very fast, and the investment can be returned in near 6-7 years, that is very good indicator. So, what business is the best in your opinion to do in Lviv? Maybe a restaurant, HoReCa or outsourcing, because we have lower wages compared to the USA?
А. F.: You can do anything because here you have smart, hardworking people. The wages are so low compared with any other country on Earth. So, anything you can do capitalized is a good idea. It can be the manufacturing of goods, export, agriculture because the resources are huge here.
I have colleagues in the solar industry. They are putting a lot of dollars for growing the solar projects here. Subsidies are enough for the next 10 years to make a solar investment apparently. I am keeping eye on what is going on in that industry. I think IT outsourcing and business process outsourcing are going to be huge here, creating products and technologies here.
T. B.: Let’s speak about Ukrainian cuisine, what dishes are your favorite?
А. F.: All the food here is amazing! Of course, I would say the traditional dishes – varenyky and borshch. It is something unique to me. You think you could get tired of it, but you do not. You can eat it all day long.
T. B.: If you compare American food and Ukrainian food, is it easy for the US citizen to stay on Ukrainian cuisine diet?
А. F.: Very easy. I had a great hamburger last night. When I traveled abroad I tried a good hamburger. Everywhere there is a hamburger place, so I can buy a hamburger. That is amazing. It is as good as in Los Angeles. So, you can get everything from burgers to sushi.
I got a friend who is Japanese diplomat here, and he loves a particular sushi bar in town, it passes his test. So, anybody who comes to Lviv, they cannot have eating problems. There is such a variety of good food.
T. B.: Now we are going to speak about some legal issues, because somehow it happens that I am your attorney.
It is very hard to compare Ukrainian legal system with the USA, because we are on the different stages of development. However, all of us know that legal system of the USA is very good and law is kept by the citizens. So, what is necessary to do to reach the level of the USA legal system? Is it only about the law and order?
А. F.: Well, now Ukraine is going through reforms. The legal system has to be created from the scratch and unwinding a lot of the old policies, putting in the new ones that are more internationalized. It makes sense. I keep up today on the reforms that you are doing in the country and all of them are moving in the right direction, for example, immigration, LLC, banking, and things like that paralleling the things that work in the USA and instituting it here. Everything has to take time to get done and done right, but it all is going in the right direction.
T. B.: You have gone through some business legal issues, immigration issues. You have registered your business here. Also you have done your immigration status. So, compared to USA what was the most difficult for you? Is the system bureaucratized?
А. F.: Yes, it is a lot more bureaucratic. A lot more stamps, notaries and paperwork. But you made it easier! Definitely using you for all my legal work made my life a lot easier. I could not do it on my own. Finding a good law firm that can actually get the paperwork done takes a lot of the stress and mystery out of it. It was surprising how many copies of my passport and translations of my passport were needed, how many times I had to go to the notary office and sign or stamp the documents. So much paperwork. Ultimately you have somebody handling it. Your stuff would take me to the offices I needed to go to and handle everything, navigating through the language barrier. It was pretty painless, just time and paper work.
T. B.: Our city mayor, Andrii Sadovyi, says that Lviv is very open for investors and investments. Is it true? As a local investor, what can you recommend it to other investors?
А. F.: When I came here it was kind of exploratory mission for the summer to see if I really can start the business here. But then after being here for three months, I understood that city is really an opportunity. Moreover, after over being here I still feel the same. There is a lot of opportunities in Lviv and in the country in general. Lviv is definitely opened for the business. It sounds hard to believe and where is the catch. The catch is connecting this culture to us, language barrier, but it is a very easy place to live and do business. I keep feeling that it’s surprisingly a lot easier here than I ever thought. It seems to me that this city is very oriented to business. Also very much developing is tourism and IT. So, the city is a great hub for that.
T. B.: Finally, could you say a few words about our law firm, your impressions about working with us.
А. F.: My experience has been very positive, it made my life a lot easier. Your stuff always was so helpful and I think that it is great. I had to do a lot of paperwork and go to various offices. Even when I got my residency I had to get a medical exam and other stuff, which, I guess, you don’t have to do now. But they went with me, they offer transportation, navigated the system very effectively and made my life a lot easier. And I also did some real estate work with you too. You do the diligence reports on various properties I am looking at. The bilingual reports are very professional, on time, good advice …
T. B.: … and great negotiations
А. F.: You had a deal gone through that you would make more money, but you advise me not to because it was not in my best interests. That is always good to know, that you can trust a firm to give you good advice that is not even necessarily in their best interests monetarily, but in the long run, they build a relationship that obviously keeps me coming back. Is there anything specific about the firm that you would like me to answer. My experience is great! A professional environment, and a great stuff. I recommended you to my friends and colleagues.
T. B.: Thank you very much for your interview, for your recommendations. I wish you a great business in Ukraine, especially in Lviv.