Jean-Christophe Bonis: “As soon as this crisis is over, you have a bright future”

Jean-Christophe Bonis

When the war started Jean-Christophe Bonis was in Ukraine. And he is still staying here with his team to help Ukrainians.

Tones of humanitarian aid, hundreds of evacuation buses, 3D villages for thousands of dislocates Ukrainians, countless chances to find safety and start new normal life for those who fled their homes because of the war. And plenty of love and admiration. That is how French entrepreneur, investor, Tech influencer, innovation coach and a futurist passionate about Ukraine is supporting Ukrainians in face of the war.

Team4UA is a tech-savvy humanitarian coordination team securing the move of refugees, and providing essential aid by organizing goods, food and medical supplies into the heart of Ukraine. Jean-Christophe loved Ukraine since his first visit to the country twenty years ago. And he believes Ukraine will for sure find peace and Ukrainians will succeed standing as a Creative Nation in global community. We were talking with French futurist on how long it may take while he was working in his office in Lviv…

 - Team4UA initiative applies the innovative methods and solutions of a start-up to facilitate the flow of supplies and aids between Ukraine and the European Union. What are the main goals of the project?

   I’m very often in Ukraine since last twenty years. At the beginning of the war, I was just helping my friends and Start Up team in Ukraine. But very fast I understood the need of coordination. So, I created the Foundation called Team for Humanity and within it there is a program dedicated specifically to Ukraine called Team4UA. Team4UA has been already operating for two month focusing basically on couple of programs. The first one is dedicated to provide humanitarian aids – medical supplies, food, hygienic supplies – for people all over the country using available channels. One of them is my private network of contacts worldwide. People are sending us pallets with different goods by earth channels of logistic and our function is to ensure that humanitarian help would be delivered these last kilometers to our partners in Ukraine.

The second program of the Team4UA is launched together with the United Nations Agencies and its goal is to provide the essential needs in Ukraine from abroad and to ensure the optimal efficiency for the logistics. We’ve already delivered four thousand of tones since the beginning of the war. I hope soon we will be able to provide more than two thousand tones by week everywhere in Ukraine and firstly, of course, to cities like Mykolaiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro and others where the needs are vital and highly important.

Besides this we have a lot of programs behind. We have a program to help displaced woman and children in link with the local authorities of the city of Lviv. We will start also a program for ladies coming from occupied territories which were raped to assist them in both issues of healthcare and in legal part. We’ve created an Information Centre in Lviv to be able to provide qualified information to the refugees and displaced people on one side and also to the NGOs on the other side to be able to connect everyone.

And now we are launching a new program that we are very interested in. In fact, in Lviv we need up to seventy thousand places for living for the displaced people. But I’m not talking of shelters or something that is not relevant. So we’ve started the program of printing on 3D-printer houses for building collective villages inside the city of Lviv or around the city of Lviv for this population financed by international donators. And all of that is leaded by my team and me personally.

 - Can you reveal some details on the project of 3D-printed villages?

   That is one of my Foundation’s projects called Hive. Why hive? Because bees build together the house like that and then form a strong community in it. We have a need of ten thousand houses for people who came from East and South of Ukraine. Let’s be serious, it’s not possible to stay for a while in shelters where five people, mostly women with children, share one room of ten square meters. Using my personal network of connections worldwide I’ve launched the Hive project with only one goal – using 3-dimensional printers to build villages suitable for normal living in long term period. Using Hi-tech I want to connect people together and to give these people very fast solutions of decent homes, appropriate education for children and possibility for women to start small businesses by microcredit or coaching as it was done in India and Bangladesh. I want to create communities inside, to have coworking spaces inside to have technologies or software for startups which want to go in. And to create community of people living on East and people living on West of Ukraine by connecting these people together. It’s only question of connecting people and being able to provide coordination, organization and lead necessary to link everyone. And that is the mission of Hive Project. And that is my job.

Why am I doing this? Certainly, firstly I want to provide the solution for these fifty or seventy thousand people who fled their homes because of the war. But secondly, I want to show the world that in Ukraine we are able to propose fast and effective ways of building, ways of adaptation in the worst conditions ever. Now we have the best engineers joined our team and we are working together. That is my vision of how high technologies meet humanitarian course to be able to immediately solve the needs of population and at the same time to be relevant in a long time range of ten or fifteen years.

 - I hope soon people dislocated from their native homes will find safe and decent place for living in such villages and would build strong communities to be able to return to normal life in peaceful Ukraine…

   And that is also the way to show how we can rebuild the country when the time comes.

 - That would be also the way to show how humanity should use innovations and modern technologies – to create new possibilities and build better life but not to destroy or damage…

   That is exactly the goal of my Foundation.

 - Was it easy for you to find the volunteers in Europe eager to help Ukrainians?

   To tell you the truth, people were in need of coordinational leadership since the beginning of the war. A lot of people wanted to help but they didn’t know how to help. And the only thing I was doing at the beginning is just coordinating people and telling them: You do this and you do that; and if you want to come with a convoy of aid you need to bring that, that and that and you go to that place.

As soon as you begin such coordination you will find a lot of people willing to help. Now the wave of volunteers is going down comparing to the days when the war stated. I have more than one thousand people working between Ukraine and Poland because I created my Foundation in Poland to be able to organize all of that. International will to help Ukraine is huge. I have people from Southern America, from Asia, from the States, from Canada who took a plane on their cost and came to work for me for couple of weeks to help inside the Foundation I’ve created.

 - Team4UA has been supporting Ukrainians since 4 March 2022. You’ve managed to match the generosity of volunteers and contributors with the needs of Ukrainians, contact the decision-makers with local authorities and communities both in Ukraine and Europe. Can you share some experiences and stories that impressed you most within these two months with our readers?

   Firstly, let’s get back to the numbers. We directly sent hundreds of buses from Warsaw to all over Europe. And all these buses were always matched with local authorities. We are not sending anyone anywhere without finding for people a solution of hosting and even sometimes of employment. Directly we’ve helped let’s say around ten thousand people. But indirectly we touched by the Informational Centre, by the moving or evacuation and by the hosting one hundred thousand people. That is first thing that is very important – hundred thousand families were helped by the programs that we’ve launched. Concerning the food for example we delivered ten million meals in Ukraine. And that’s where the story is great.

Unfortunately, due to the war sometimes we have problems with delivering. And I have a lot of NGOs, partners, some people from my team who use crazy and unbelievable ways of transportation just to have work done. One person of my team used boats to deliver tone of goods by the Dnipro River. We are sending buses in Kharkiv for evacuation of civilians and as they are empty, we are packing some buses with food, with pampers for babies, medications and all of these things.
I think we made thousands of convoys and each convoy is different for good and for bad sometimes. Sometimes people have so much good will to help they don’t think. One farmer sent me one tone of tomatoes. At the same time I have farmers from France and Spain who provide sugar and potatoes by trucks. That’s an amazing match of good will in between population and in between countries somehow. That’s something coming not only by the civilians. That’s important to understand.

 - I had to leave Ukraine with my children. It is still hard to believe that there is a war in the Centre of Europe. Was this war predictable or was it a Black Swan? After all the years we were repeating “Never again!” it is actually happening now.

   I fully understand all people who are trying to be safe abroad. As for me I took a decision to be in Ukraine, I’m presently in Ukraine and most of my team is in Ukraine, because I need to lead the operation from Ukraine. And when the war began, I was in Kyiv. Being true, we were not expecting it. We knew something was happening but nobody was expecting the war, nobody could think it might happen.
Where is it going on now? It’s not a question of two countries starting war for the reason of territory. It’s a question of the new blocks and the old blocks in geopolitical map, and unfortunately the territory of the war is Ukraine.
But when you see the country and you know it well, you have two countries in nowadays. Here, in Lviv, and even in Kyiv you don’t have alert every minute. Of course, we have periods when we can here air raid alerts for several times a day. But it’s totally different from what meets the population living on East or South of the country, where the war is taking place on ground. Mykolaiv has no water anymore, part of Kharkiv is severely damaged, Mariupol is totally destroyed. I took the choice to be presently physically in Ukraine to help the population and to lead the operation but I’m living totally normally on West while people are under bombs on East.
Unfortunately, I think Ukrainian population got stuck in fighting not between two leaders but in fighting between two blocks for question of power and of new balance in global world.

 - The Russian attack on Ukraine changed the European and Global security formula, changed our reality and our future. Is it possible to make any predictions what the new page of World history will be our future. Is it possible to make any predictions what the new page of World history will be?

   I’m not able to tell you the future. But we can understand some part of the consequences. As you know, Finland and Sweden will join the NATO block. That is something that by definition makes huge change in international politics. I’m afraid that on the ground and air it would be prolonged conflict in between two countries because I don’t see the things evolutionating very fast. And at the same time, you have a strong support from people in Europe. First main point of consequences is your geopolitical position. You are the part of a new block now. World leaders are talking together and they were not talking together before, they are able to work very fast together to try to build new security formula. That’s something new.
The second point is that world population is impacted by the war. Prices are growing very fast, inflation rate is getting very high, there are big problems with energy. Germany and other countries can’t afford to get the gas from Asia and without that they are not able to run factories and thus provide economical and social needs. That means that soon there will be the restructuration in whole Europe of economical extend in between the different countries inside and from outside to inside Europe.
The third important point is that 6 million Ukrainians are now living abroad waiting for this war to stop. Most of these people will integrate inside the economy and will create new jobs or will take jobs we were not able to provide before. Part of these people will come back to Ukraine after war finished but by definition it will also provide a lot of dynamic inside the economy.
So, the changes are geopolitical, political, economic and technological - as it’s my expertise. Europe now have amazing developers working with us. We have a lot of startup people, young people able to do significant development in technology and science. It's good for everyone – definitely for Europe but also for Ukraine that we are able to match our both populations together.
But in the terms of prediction that comes from my little presence for the moment I see something that will be longer instead of something that will be short.

 - Some experts are warning Russian war against Ukraine may provoke the Third World War. But even today you can hardly find country not involved or influenced by this war in certain way. What impact does war actually have on today’s world and in Ukraine?

   We have half of the world engaged somehow. It’s not a world war because the fights took place only in territory of one country so we can’t say that this is a global war happily. But people worldwide are engaged in terms of value and in terms of conviction on one of the sides. That’s exactly what was wanted at the beginning because by the credit you are recreating huge blocks between population that differs from the blocks that existed before. These things are dangerous because in this kind of confrontation even people abroad make choice in convictions of the good side and the bad side, between the evil and angels. But at the end of the day people don’t know what is happening here. And there are also a lot of countries which manipulate population with information that is absolutely uncreditable. When you read news in some countries you are frustrated because you are in the ground and you see what is actually happening here. And some things stand just as a war of communication.
What is the big problem in front of us? You are in a confrontation between the blocks. And if block is getting engaged more directly, one of the countries inside Europe is getting engaged, momently we are to face something that is more global. In that case it would be the huge problem for the world. I’m comparing that to what was happening in Afghanistan thirty or forty years ago when different states were providing a lot of guns to commander Massoud. But nobody is interested to have more people or more countries engaged because we are not in the same time that we were before. Otherwise we will be less safe worldwide.

 - The future is not somewhere you go – you create it. The technology developments may drive the change, but humanity defines how we use it. If we are not careful in the effort to become superhuman we will downgrade ourselves. I heard you said in the interview for Connecting Women project that people sometimes act like monkeys having modern technologies. In your opinion what should be the main lessons of this war? Is it possible for humanity to acknowledge the risks of the war in a world of high technologies?

   No. Sorry, I consider that human beings unfortunately are not learning from the past. That’s a question of ego, that’s a question of power, that’s a question of money. But people are doing the same mistakes again and again and again. Because we are not teaching enough the new generation to make difference between the information you read and the truth. We are not teaching enough the next generation that there are many ways to manipulate with what is truth and what is false. The first one who said something is able to impose the idea inside the mind of people. For them to vote, for them to pay, for them to buy. And this mega world of consumption, this mega world of speculation where everyone is interconnected is very dangerous. If you don’t teach the generation of young boys and young ladies the concept where you have information and you have truth but you are not supposed to take information for truth it may be very dangerous. Just think, ask questions. If you don’t ask questions, by definition you are worst than a monkey because you are not thinking and a monkey is thinking.

 - That’s a main problem raised by the era of information. We are overloaded with information and we can’t recognize the difference between truth and fakes. And we still lack correct and creditable communication to tell global community what is really happening in Ukraine.

   It’s not only about what is really happening in Ukraine. Why do you think I’m launching the Information Centre in Lviv? What is my goal? The difficultness to have the good information is unbelievable. I’m sending hundreds of buses since the beginning of the war everywhere in Europe. Now I’m sending buses for evacuating people from East of Ukraine. It’s impossible to be able to have just a good information every day of which bus is going from where to where under what condition. It’s impossible either for refugees or for displaced people to know where to find food or something else needed that is centralized. When you are giving the information for women saying “How to act if there is an air raid alert” you should regard type of shelter. Because half of the shelters here are not shelters, they are just underground places with only one exit meaning people are blocked under this condition.
You see, information is killing information. We have too much information. It is exactly the same as with alcohol. When you have too much alcohol in your blood you are totally out, you don’t understand what is happening, you don’t care anymore about what is happening. That is what very important: not so much to give information, but to give something that is considered as creditable information. And this creditable information to be able to target the people in need of such information. That’s why I have this Information Centre for refugees but also for all NGOs or people willing to help. They need this information to be able to take good decisions. Don’t forget I’m a businessman first. And thus, my first reaction is that I can’t take good decision if I don’t have enough relevant information.

 - Ukraine is extremely well positioned, we are really good in technology in terms of development, either in software or in hardware. And when we talk about the power of technology to support disruptive innovation, I believe that Ukraine has huge opportunities. Could war change this? Which factors, in your opinion, should provide Ukraine a breakthrough into the global innovation ecosystem?

   I think you are already there, you have already taken your place in amazing community of Tech-guys. But I’m not speaking only about Tech. What you are extremely good in is creativity. I see restaurateurs, I see designers, I see developers who are amazing in the way of adapting and creating.

 - Few years ago, I made an interview with Joel Lion, the former Ambassador of the State of Israel to Ukraine. He said then that Israel and Ukraine had a lot of in common – complicated history, not friendly neighbor state and talented people. All these issues helped Israel to become the leading global Startup Nation. Do you think when the war is over, we could set the ambitious goal for Ukrainian nation? Could we be the Talent Nation or Creative Nation?

   You already possess all these. You are a nation of innovative people ingenious in their mind and able to adapt. But you don’t recognize it yet. That is why it is also important to have international leader able to push you a bit, able to help you a bit to have a better exposure of what incredible things you do in daily base. For me it’s obvious that Ukrainians have everything to stand as Creativity Nation. I’m French and eating in restaurant in Lviv I will have better meals than I have ever tasted in most of the restaurants in France. Because your chiefs are creative and they love what they are doing. And all of that is Ukraine.
To answer your question, community and leadership are important. It’s like a mayonnaise: you mix all the ingredients together and then in one moment of time you feel the mayonnaise is stating. You have all the ingredients. What you just need now is a bit of patience and some leader able to guide all these people willing to create more and to be adaptative. You need more leaders in different fields like in art or design able to show the road and to give an example to next generation, to teenagers. They are already full of ideas inside this creative world and they just need a leader to find the tools and to make their ideas come true by themselves.

 - The last Kyiv International Economic Forum was devoted to the topic of creating the national idea as a driver of Ukrainian national economic development. What is Ukraine? What makes us unique? How does the world see our country? What national idea will enable our country to succeed? There was a discussion but there were not any solutions or suggestions. Do you think the war in Ukraine forced shaping the country’s image in the global community? We can see all the world is now standing for Ukraine…

   It’s a difficult question. I think Ukraine impressed the world. By your courage, by your fearless, by the way you are able to adapt. Couple of days ago I saw some bombs arriving, and you know people just were working again after. And that is impressing people worldwide. I love this country but now I’m first of all a leader for humanitarian aid with my Foundation and different programs. So, I need to be able also to explain the world what should be done, to help the world to find programs to assist the ones in need.
I was running a center in Warsaw where we were welcoming refugees to help them to proceed in other European countries. And those refugees were also working for the Center. They have just fled from occupied towns or came out from the bombs two days ago and they were giving all their art to other refugees to make them calm, to explain them everything. With passion. I’m not sure that everyone can react in the same way. The way you are reacting and the way the country is reacting is impressing the world. And that is shaping the big image of Ukraine. The same was as your President was facing death couple of weeks ago, when Kyiv was surrounded. And that is the heroism you can read about in books by Dostoevsky, Stendhal or Remark and other outstanding writers of the past.
And besides your high spirit you have your values and your ability in creativity and in technology. Name me any other country having that. You don’t have to think about shaping your country. Your country is shaped and shaped in a good way. You are having everything. Of course, international population is supporting you, because what is happening is so terrible, it is a war zone. So, besides what you have as a country you won your place as a dignity nation in global community.

 - We were talking about the leader and how Ukraine impressed the world. Few weeks ago, when we had really difficult situation in Bucha, Irpen, Borodyanka, I remember The Washington Post issued the article called “Ukraine’s Zelensky: how former comedian became a war hero”. So, Ukrainian President gave an example of a success story which Ukraine created within two months of war. Probably Zelensky also didn’t plan to be such a tough leader in such a difficult situation. He hadn’t necessary experience neither in politics and diplomacy, nor in economy. But he had to adapt himself. He had no chance.

   Nobody is ready of war. Even the politicians which are in politics for decades would not be ready of war. Your president Zelensky discovered himself by the situation and he took a part that is a part of a state politician and of a state person who inspires the population to fight for the nation. I’m not speaking of who is right and who is wrong. I’m just speaking about someone who just did the job. And besides that, he gave also this energy for the fighters and for the people to react, to act and to show even if there were ten against one. What was done by Zelensky we needed on the ground for this population. You need people acting like him. In different fields to inspire new generation on going somewhere with value, with self-respect but also with ability to be modern enough not to get back to the past. You have everything for the moment. I see here people doing incredible things on a daily base and it’s impressing.

 - What was your idea about Ukraine when you first come here? Did your expectations meet the reality?

   The first time I came here was more than 20 years ago. I was backpacking and I arrived here to make a big tourney inside the country and to go to a well-known music festival. Of course, I knew I was coming to ex communistic country. But I didn’t know what to expect exactly. And I met incredible people able to take care of others when we totally lost these things in Western Europe. Your people are taking care of others in case of problematic, men are defending women. It means you have a real consciousness of a society; you have a real consciousness of being a part of global society. While in West you have people that are very independent but you can die on the corner and nobody would take care of you.
That is what I met twenty years ago when arrived in Ukraine. Since then, many things happened and changed but I still can see this kindness and ability to take care of others. My volunteers and people working in my team are doing that on a daily base. They are not all Ukrainians, but that’s the main part of the job. If you have a problem, you ask for help and immediately you have a solution. Your people are always willing to help.

 - How did Ukraine change within last two months in its spirit, goals, mentality?

   You know when mother gives birth to a child she is linked to her baby with umbilical cord. And I see for couple of years that finally you have cut this cord between you as a country and your past. And within last three or four years you’re really willing for true independency and democracy. You are wishing Ukraine to be a modern country and to stand in the international organizations not as a part of the old block but as an independent country with the new generation of young leaders, designers, artist or entrepreneurs who are willing to be a part of this global world. What I see is that this balance is going towards West. But not West in sense of money, but West in sense of values. As you mentioned, Israel became a Startup Nation because they were able to give the high level of technologies worldwide when integrated with the needs of global population or clients. You are able to integrate yourself in global community for your creativity and for your spirit of freedom in human. And that’s obvious since couple of years.

 - I guess the will of freedom is a main national feature of Ukrainians. It’s running through the whole our history from the ages of Ukraine-Rus till modern days. This is our main motivation and our main goal. And I hope that we will win and nobody will ever dare to threaten our freedom. I believe Ukraine is currently fighting the absolute evil. And we have to succeed. What will happen then? What is your vision of Ukraine in five or ten years?

   You have everything. As soon as geopolitics is solved, as soon as this conflict is over, I am sure that the country will face very dynamic economic growth and will be able to become a part of something very creative. And the fact that the country needs to be rebuilt will top the economy and will help you to be on that way. And I will be definitely helping on these things. I believe you will succeed in providing your design, technologies and ideas abroad. You will be leading many activities and you will be able to have a chance to be leaders in this way. That’s really something I consider. The main problematic for today is the war. The politicians need to find an acceptable compromise to be able to stop this madness. But that will take time unfortunately. But as soon as this crisis is over, you have a bright future.

 - Do you have a favorite place in Ukraine?

   I have so many favorite places! Many years ago, I had a crush in Cremia. I was going to Crimea every summer, I visited so many places and met so many friendly people there. Now I’m in Lviv presently and I can say that the quality of life and food are amazing here. I love this ability to preserve the quality being innovative. For me that’s the essence of art. Odesa also impressed me much. Unfortunately, this Southern city will need a lot of help in next couple of months but anyway that is one of my favorite places in Ukraine.

 - What is your personal goal for standing with Ukrainians and helping Ukraine?

   I’ve traveled a lot in my life. I visited 87 countries in last twenty years, sometimes I was traveling few countries within one week. I never felt so close and so in peace than when I was in Ukraine. I feel like I was somehow Ukrainian or Slavic in my previous life. I’m learning Ukrainian language. Don’t test me because I’m still in process. You know I consider that you have much in terms of energy between your previous yourself in previous lives and some places you are crossing in your present life. That’s what happens to me. I consider Ukraine like one of my countries. I feel good here. I understand people, I love people here. I have this type of feeling. It’s totally unscientific. It’s only energy that I was living here in previous life. I’ve never experienced such feeling in other countries. In this sense my feeling to have Ukrainians as brothers and sisters makes me react like brother to them. When they are actually in need of help and even more – when I can provide this help by my network, I do this. But my inner, my personal conviction why I’m doing so much here that is because you’re my brothers and sisters.

 - What would you like to wish to Ukrainians?

   I would like to wish them the ability to find a peace. This is the most important part. And until then not to lose any trust in themselves. You know in the international community people will get bored about Ukraine and Ukrainian people in couple of months, because the war information is doing this. But in the end of the day we are in necessity of having you in a position of peace to be able to build your future.
And to make a final point I would like to use the opportunity and address people reading this story. My foundation is growing very fast. I’m in need of new volunteers in logistics, in design, in coordination. I need more people. I’m asking people to join me with their wills and their minds, because together we are able to do something amazing.


View More

On our site we use cookies (and these are not cookies), which make it more convenient for each user. By visiting the pages of the site, you agree to our Privacy Policy. For more information on the Policy and what cookies are needed for and how you can stop collecting cookies, click here.