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Leonid Bershidsky

Ukraine's Failed Tech Revolution

Snapchat's acquisition of a local startup is another reminder of what could have been.
A can-do spirit.

A can-do spirit.

Photographer: John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday, Snapchat users got a new feature to play with, called Lenses. Now they can modify their photos and short videos to show themselves with altered facial features, cartoonish eyes or rainbows coming out of their mouths. They can thank the biggest deal involving a Ukrainian tech company.

Ukrainians are known for their tech prowess. Ukrainian-born Silicon Valley icons such as WhatsApp founder Jan Koum and Max Levchin, the former chief technology officer of PayPal, are models for kids in Kiev, Kharkiv and Lviv. There's plenty of excitement on the darker side of the business, too. There was a Ukrainian in the group of techies,  whose Russian leader Vladimir Drinkman pleaded guilty to hacking charges on Tuesday,  that was accused of breaching NASDAQ, Carrefour and Jet Blue. Last year, a Ukrainian-run outfit almost cornered the Bitcoin market.