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April 4, 2024

Lenna Koszarny, Horizon Capital: “This is the moment when Ukrainians need help the most”

Lenna Koszarny, Founding Partner and CEO of private equity firm Horizon Capital, and her team recently raised over $300 million in funding from international investors. Now Koszarny explains how the role of women in Ukraine’s economy has only increased since the start of the war, and what it’s like when air raid sirens sometimes interrupt work.

“In January 2022 we leased 50 rooms in the city of Lviv in western Ukraine and, in mid-February we told our people that now we have to leave,” says Founding Partner and CEO of Kiev-based private equity firm Horizon Capital Lenna Koszarny via video link.

From the capital, the firm’s employees and their families, “with cats and dogs”, travelled west for safety. Shortly after the call to move, on 24 February, Russia launched a full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine.

“Of course, people’s safety was the number one priority,” says Koszarny, recalling the feelings of two years ago. In a country under an aggressive attack, it was also quickly realised that the economic wheels would have to be kept turning in order for Ukraine to defend itself against Russia.

The economic wheels have certainly been turned by Koszarny and her team.

The fund has raised 350 million US dollars from international investors in the middle of the war. Horizon Capital Growth Fund IV (HCGF IV) invests in Ukrainian companies, particularly in the technology and export industries.

Horizon Capital usually acquires a minority stake in its investment targets. In total, Horizon manages more than $1.6 billion in assets.

Finnfund also invested $15 million in Horizon Capital’s growth fund last year. Horizon’s major funding round was signed at the Presidential Administration with the in-person participation of President Volodymyr Zelenskyi.

Work continues, sometimes in the basement

Two years after the start of the war, almost the entire Koszarny team has returned to Kiev. “We need to be close to our business,” she says. “We can’t let this stop us.”

By “this”, Koszarny of course means the Russian invasion and Ukraine’s struggle for its future. Few things in Ukraine have stopped because of the war. For example, as many goods and services are being exported as before the war. The share of female-led businesses and IT companies has multiplied. “Digitalisation has taken a giant leap forward. The technology sector is crucial for Ukraine,” says Koszarny.

While life in the capital is largely unchanged, the war is present at almost every moment. Sometimes work is interrupted by an air raid siren, and Koszarny and her team descend to the basement shelter. Their laptops go with them and work goes on.

“In December, the sirens were blaring every day,” she says.

“I have a vision”

Lenna Koszarny was born and raised in Canada in a family of Ukrainian origin. The young woman first arrived in her family’s newly independent country with her grandmother in 1993.

“Kiev was a very different place then, but there was hope here, people were hopeful,” she says, recalling her first contact with her current homeland.

Koszarny has since built a successful private equity firm from scratch in a previously backward-looking country, which for the past two years has been the target of an insane attack by its aggressive eastern neighbour. How on earth she managed it?

“I’m an ambitious risk-taker with a vision,” she begins, and goes on at length about Ukraine’s future. Ukrainians are brave, creative and hard-working people who deserve to see their country flourish.

According to Koszarny, thousands of new jobs have been created in the wake of the war. Companies have grown their business and paid their taxes, which has kept society running and the army’s soldiers able to continue fighting on the front lines.

One of Horizon Capital investments is Viseven, Leading Global Pharma and Life Sciences MarTech Provider

The role of women in Ukraine’s economy is growing, according to Koszarny. This is also the aim of the fund she heads, which aims to ensure that at least half of its investments go to companies run and founded by women.

“Get the money moving now”

When the war ends, Ukraine will be a completely different country from the one Russia invaded. A country of over 40 million inhabitants, Ukraine is on its way to EU and NATO membership. The country is already a much more integral part of the Western community of values than many dared to think before Russia’s full-scale invasion.

But before reconstruction is even worth talking about, it must win the ongoing war, says Koszarny.  She points out that the country needs capital and other resources right now.

“This is the moment when Ukrainians need the rest of the world’s help the most. Get your money moving now,” she urges.

Koszarny is very grateful to Finnfund for its investment. The decision to invest will help Ukrainians to help themselves, she says.

According to Sarita Bartlett, Senior Portfolio Manager – Fund Investments at Finnfund, the $15 million investment will act as a catalyst and help to turn the wheels of the Ukrainian economy. The investment decision was supported by Horizon’s successful investment history and Koszarny’s highly experienced team.

“We anticipate that the fund will be highly impactful, but we also anticipate that the fund will provide competitive financial returns,” says Bartlett.

Read more:

Finnfund’s 15 million USD investment in Horizon Capital Growth Fund IV provides growth equity capital to Ukrainian technology and export-oriented companies

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