Zahavi’s positive perspective on Shmotolokha’s role is shared by William Heegaard, operations director for the clean energy disaster response nonprofit Footprint Project. Footprint Project is usually focused on U.S. relief efforts.
“One of the only reasons we were able to activate quickly for Ukraine is because we had his friends and family on the ground,” Heegaard said. “We’re not sending stuff without clarity on how it will be used, and who’s responsible for it.”
“Having folks in-country that we trust is game changing,” Heegaard added, saying Shmotolokha had “put a ton of time and energy into it.” For Shmotolokha and Ukraine aid, Heegaard observed, “it’s close to home. It is home.”
Undeniably, some of the work is tied to NUE’s core business of portable solar power supplies. Yet the intensity and breadth of the other assistance appears to greatly exceed anything most businesses would — or would even consider — providing.
The overall support is in line with NUE’s corporate mission, Shmotolokha said.
“We have an amazing ability to contribute,” he said. “In our business, disaster and humanitarian response is our No. 1 use case. So I combine volunteer stuff with work stuff.”
And how does he balance the Ukraine relief coordination with the demands of being a startup CEO?
The initial, verbal reply in our interview is what you might expect from a driven co-founder faced with any challenging circumstance. “It’s just a lot of hours,” he said. “It’s a labor of love.”
A short while later, I unexpectedly received an email with a more specific, and perhaps more deeply telling, response to my question.
“Honestly, for the first 3 months after the war started I didn’t sleep a lot,” Shmotolokha wrote. “One has to have a feeling of fighting back in order to stay sane. The injustices are incredible.”