With a little help from e-Residency, Alexander Storozhuk founded PRNEWS.IO, an online marketplace for distributing sponsored news content
There are now over 4,100 Ukrainian e-residents in the e-Residency ecosystem. They make up a large and active part of the community, offering a wide range of services in information technology, media, software, and more. They also currently hold the highest number of Estonian companies by country of origin, with nearly 950 companies held by Ukrainian e-residents. See more statistics at the e-Residency dashboard.
Advantages of e-Residency for Ukrainian entrepreneurs are numerous: it’s much easier to do business with foreign partners through an Estonian company than through a Ukrainian one.
More specifically, e-Residency is a good choice for Ukrainian entrepreneurs because it:
- provides access to helpful, specialised service providers and more options for business banking and payment gateways
- improves access to the EU market and new customer possibilities
- lowers the cost and shortens the time of opening a company
- simplifies reporting, accounting, and taxation
- allows privileged access to Estonia’s trusted data security and cybersecurity capabilities
Read more about the benefits of e-Residency for your business and apply here:
I recently met one such Ukrainian e-resident, Alexander Storozhuk, along with his business mastermind and wife Natalia Storozhuk, at UMA Workspace Maakri in Tallinn, Estonia to speak about their business PRNEWS.IO, which is revolutionising the world of sponsored content distribution.
PRNEWS.IO — marketplace for PR is an online marketplace for distributing sponsored news content. Businesses can directly purchase spots for their native format articles in 22,000 well-regarded news websites. Using automation, PRNEWS.IO has removed the need for a middleman, simplified the process, and improved responsiveness when compared with traditional news distribution methodologies. A wealth of audience metrics from across its marketplace of news websites is built into its automated system. Accordingly, while it is not a traditional PR consulting or management firm, PRNEWS.IO can suggest media options to customers based on analysis of this data, who can opt for longer term campaigns or one-off spots.
PRNEWS.IO also offers different payment options and packages, thereby making the niche, often expensive world of sponsored content marketing accessible to a wide range of companies and entrepreneurs no matter the size of their business or where they are located.
Through automation and inclusive service offerings, PRNEWS.IO is disrupting the existing market of distributed news and content marketing by allowing traditionally expensive forms of news and content distribution to be more affordable and attainable by smaller businesses.
Its offering is especially useful for lean startups wanting to save costs of long-term public relations campaigns. They can take advantage of the advanced data analytics and expertise available to PRNEWS.IO to make independent, measured choices in their marketing strategies.
PRNEWS.IO is also keen to help fellow e-residents raise awareness of their brands. Read more at their dedicated landing page for e-residents here:
Since launching in late 2018, PRNEWS.IO has helped over 1000 customers from 65 countries gain mentions in online news media, which helps their brand awareness and drives traffic. Learn more here.
Why did Alexander choose e-Residency?
Alexander originally heard about e-Residency in early 2015 but it was not until late 2018 that he applied. At that time, it had become increasingly difficult to operate in the Ukrainian business environment. He faced challenges in accessing business banking and payment solutions like Paypal. Alexander realised that it would be impossible to grow his business internationally as long as it remained in Ukraine.
A chance reading of an article about a successful e-resident online reminded him of the programme and so Alexander took the plunge and became an e-resident in May 2018.
Alexander had a great experience applying for e-Residency and picking up his documents at the Estonian embassy in Kyiv:
“I applied and received e-Residency within a month. This gave me the opportunity to establish a company with a few clicks within an hour.”
PRNEWS.IO OÜ was born on 9 November 2018. It took less than hour to create his Estonian company online.
He also received a VAT registration number in only a few hours. Alexander confesses that as a Ukrainian used to government bureaucracy and red tape, the ease of applying to and the responsiveness of the Estonian tax authority were quite surprising!
Although PRNEWS.IO handles most of the business’s administrative needs, Alexander has on occasion used e-Residency Marketplace service providers and praises them for their good support, especially in relation to their help with the share capital transfer and business banking.
Alexander’s entrepreneurial journey from remote worker to global business owner
Alexander’s fascinating entrepreneurial journey is the result of over 15 years of hard work and his determination to turn an innovative, disruptive business idea into a global business.
Back in 2004 during his second year of University, Alexander was working remotely as a content editor at a content aggregation company. He wrote regular expressions for a parser that collected news headlines from thousands of news sites around the world. While undertaking this work, he realised that if there are monitoring systems for news aggregation, then there should be systems for their distribution.
After researching more, he learned about the existence of large multinational news distribution businesses such as PRweb, PRNewswire, BusinessWire, which mostly served big corporate clients. It got him thinking about how he could adapt the business models of these big news distributors to suit smaller businesses and entrepreneurs.
Little did he know at the time that his idea would eventually grow into a global business that would transform sponsored content distribution. And what is even more incredible is that his idea came at a time when sponsored content marketing was
still a fairly new phenomenon.
In 2005, Alexander took this idea and turned it into B2Blogger.com, a website to distribute press releases in Russian markets. After a brief period running it as a side hustle, he realised that he was earning enough money from advertising and clients to support himself. He quit his job and set about expanding his business.
Alexander hired people he knew and trusted and who believed in his vision and strategic plan — and to this day they continue to work together as a team. In fact, Alexander and Natalia attribute their success to this hiring model. Now 15 years later, PRNEWS.IO has thirty five employees across Ukraine, Russia and Estonia, with more on the way.
In 2014, nearly ten years after launching his business, Alexander was ready to expand his business into international markets. At the peak of a startup boom in Ukraine, there was also a huge opportunity to help clients expand into overseas markets, such as in Europe, Turkey, and Africa. Alexander started working with international distributors to advertise Ukrainian startups and attracting clients wanting to distribute in Ukraine and Russian-speaking markets. The work further diversified into mediating contacts between clients and media outlets in other foreign countries.
Business was going well but the shift in focus to new markets created challenges and revealed new needs, including a new website and brand, taxation structure, payment systems, and a model more suited to an international business.
“In those days we faced really difficult challenges: like finding the right business model and staffing structure, rebranding, website redesign, banking and payment logistics for clients and suppliers, tax planning, and marketing activities. Even though we were new to these markets and our previous experience set to zero, we took a leap of faith and began to develop our business as a global marketplace project.”
In order to expand and grow, Alexander needed to change the way he did business. The work was very labour-intensive and required 24 hour communications. As the intermediary, there existed a real need to streamline each business transaction. Over time, he transitioned his company to a more automated model, which allowed a lot of room for growth, new clients, and new markets.
It was around this time that he moved his business to Estonia with the help of e-Residency.
Alexander became an e-resident like so many other Ukrainians. Find out why e-Residency is so popular in Ukraine in this previous blog post (in Ukrainian):
At first, Alexander became an e-resident to gain access to PayPal and open business bank accounts with fintechs. But he soon realised that opening an Estonian company could also help implement the long-term strategic goals of his business via the healthy startup ecosystem and potential for investment capital that exists in Estonia.
And so, it was not long into his e-Residency journey that PRNEWS.IO was given official startup status by Startup Estonia, paving the way for Alexander and Natalia to actually move and settle in Tallinn in mid-2019.
Learn more about Estonia’s Startup Visa here:
What’s next for Alexander and PRNEWS?
With the help of e-Residency and Startup Estonia, PRNEWS.IO has found its niche in the global market for sponsored content distribution.
While it continues to develop in the spirit of a startup, Alexander also has big plans for business growth. So far PRNEWS.IO has not needed any outside investment as it has successfully sustained its own natural growth. Now, Alexander is exploring models of external investment and crowdfunding to allow loyal customers and investors to become co-owners of the business.
Despite no longer being an e-resident, Alexander continues to be a big fan of the e-Residency program and, along with business partner Natalia, is a greatly supportive member of the community and a big fan of Estonia. They have encouraged many friends and business acquaintances to become e-residents and set up their companies here and continue to be enthusiastic and active members of the startup scene in Tallinn.