Originally from Ukraine, Illia Sytnyk is a 17-year-old student, currently based in České Budějovice.
Driven out of his country by war, he came to the Czech Republic with no money and no solid connections. Today, he helps out the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian people through his work with Starlink technology.
“Yeah, I came a year ago because of the war. Nobody really knew what was going on or where to go. So, my mom and I came to the Czech Republic, but we really had no idea where we were going or what we were doing,” says Illia.
Upon arriving in the Czech Republic, Illia realized the problem of connectivity among Ukrainian people, due to frequent electricity shortages and limited Internet access. But he quickly discovered a potential solution – Starlink satellites.
Starlink is an Internet satellite constellation owned by Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX. A kit consists of an antenna dish, a set-up base, cables, and a rooter.
Once installed, the weather-resistant antenna dish picks up on the signal from the satellites placed in low Earth orbit, thus enabling satellite-based Internet connectivity to places that have limited or no Internet access – the kind of connectivity needed in the blackout-stricken Ukraine.
“Starlink technology can play a strategic role in the war because the army usually doesn’t have access to an Internet connection. So, with this, they get the connection and they can use it to communicate, plan attacks, notice drones, and more things,” explains Illia. “But it can also be used for communication between civilians and families.”
Illia initially got involved with Starlink technology when his friend on the front asked if he could send him a Starlink kit from the Czech Republic. Illia sent him one, but quickly noticed not many people were taking advantage of this technology.
He then decided to explore the idea of selling Starlink units and sending them to Ukraine. He first bought a single kit, placed it on the online marketplace, and sold it minutes after.
Illia then asked his friends to invest in his new project, since he did not have enough money at that moment, and bought 30 Starlink kits from different European countries, such as Germany and the Czech Republic. He managed to deliver them to Ukraine, posted them on the OLX marketplace, and sold all 30 kits within a day, some to entrepreneurs, some to the
Encouraged by the initial response, he decided to develop the idea further. Currently, he is working with two friends.
“There are three of us, all my age. My role is to buy the Starlink satellites, get in touch with the driver who is crossing the border to Ukraine, and meet with him to deliver the satellites. My friends in Ukraine then pick them up,” Illia says. The Starlink kits are then delivered to their clientele. With time, Illia and his team built a trusted network of buyers. Today, they mainly get requests from foundations, private organizations, or directly from military brigades.
But Illia’s involvement in the project comes with certain difficulties. For example, it occasionally interferes with his studies. “Yeah, sometimes I have to skip school because I have to deliver Starlink kits to the driver. My friends often ask me if I am just skipping school because I don’t want to study. I tell them that I have to deliver the Starlinks because it’s very important. It’s like gold to Ukrainian people.”
Indeed, Illia’s primary goal is to help the Ukrainian people as much as possible.
“A lot of people think we are just trying to make money from the tragedy, but even the extra money that we earn, we use to find better drivers and better connections. I donated some of the money I earned to Ukraine as well,” explains Illia.
Along the way, the project caught the eyes of bigger investors. Illia currently works with a well-renowned computer manufacturing company, the name of which he could not share due to an agreement with his team. He became their provider of Starlink kits and takes great pleasure in knowing his project is expanding. However, he emphasizes nothing would be possible without the involvement of his team of trusted people.
On top of that, Illia is also working on a new idea: integrating Starlink technology with cars.
“We basically cut up the parts of the Starlink and use it as a magnet on cars. It’s a very new project and I still can’t say a lot, but the goal is to have Internet in your car, wherever,” says Illia. “It’s about experimentation and having fun, so let’s see what happens next.”
However, the initial goal remains the same: helping people in Ukraine. “I am very happy and grateful to be here in the Czech Republic and that I found this thing through which I can help the Ukrainian people from here. Any help we can get is excellent,” concludes Illia.
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