Running a tech startup is a challenging endeavour under any circumstances. Imagine doing it under invasion with air raid sirens going off on average twice every 24 hours — and managing to grow 250% in the process. 

This is the story of OBRIO, a Ukrainian startup behind the successful astrology app Nebula. Speaking to TNW from his apartment in Kyiv just before the turn of the year, founder and CEO Alex Fedorov says that running a company during wartime is not exactly something you learn in business school.

Fedorov sees the process as twofold. “There was the initial one when the war first broke out,” he says. “Where you have to set up 24/7 communication channels with the team and stay connected as much as you can, so that you as a leader can support everyone whatever they may need.” 

Because of COVID, the team was already set up for hybrid operations — “at least something good to come out of that,” Fedorov muses. 

Meanwhile, there were other pivots to be made. In terms of business, the focus shifted to longevity and stability (to the extent the latter can be controlled when your neighbour is dropping bombs on you). 

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“We stopped all our R&D, because we understood that there was a lot of moral pressure and emotional pressure on our people,” Fedorov explains. “And also money wise — it brings a lot of risk. So we just focused on setting up a stable business.” 

It is a strategy that seems to have paid off. 

The Nebula app

There is much to say and highlight about the resilience of the OBRIO managerial team and employees, but let’s not forget that the company has also built a highly successful product. 

OBRIO’s astrology app Nebula counts 30 million users worldwide, and has earned the coveted title of the #1 lifestyle app on both the Apple App Store and Google Play multiple times in the US, Canada, and Australia. The secret to its success, Fedorov explains, is down to two main components.

“The first is the team. We have a very strong team of professionals, people who love their work and are very motivated, who understand the value of our product, and why we’re doing this. And the second thing is the niche. Our market is a big market. And we still have the potential to grow like four or five times.” 

Human fascination with astrology meets tech

Ever since the dawn of communities and culture, human beings have been fascinated by interpreting the will of the gods, reading the stars, and divining the future. 

Some of the earliest evidence of astrology as a practice dates to the third millennium BCE, so indeed, it is an evergreen topic. In addition, the global astrology market size was valued at $12.8 billion in 2021, and is predicted to reach $22.8 billion by 2030

Nebula essentially has two parts. One will feel familiar to anyone who has downloaded a horoscope app — it provides you with daily affirmations and horoscope predictions according to your birth chart, as well as additional guidance depending on moon phases etc.

Screen shots of two different features of the Nebula app