The day Russia invaded Ukraine last winter, the chief executive of Somerville intelligence firm Recorded Future made his stance clear.
“Recorded Future is not neutral,” Christopher Ahlberg wrote on Twitter on Feb. 24. “We stand with Ukraine and will apply our full resources and capabilities to support them in their fight against Russia.”
It’s a commitment the CEO and his company, headquartered in a former Davis Square laundromat, have kept over the past seven months.
Recorded Future has been donating millions of dollars’ worth of software to several Ukrainian agencies, giving them access to cyber, disinformation, and geopolitical intelligence. In an effort supported by local officials, Recorded Future said Thursday that it plans to hire 100 people in Ukraine over the next two and a half years.
“We believe in these guys, they’re very, very good technically,” he said. ”We said, ‘Look, let’s not be cowards here... Let’s lean in and bet on this.’”
It’s an outcome Ahlberg said he couldn’t have predicted when the war first started. Recorded Future had its concerns, like having several employees based in Ukraine who needed help fleeing the country. He wasn’t sure if the company could maintain its presence there.
But to his surprise, Ukraine was largely able to hold its own against Russia. And he realized Recorded Future could help the country defend itself, while at the same time supporting and growing its tech team there.
Recorded Future provides large-scale cyber intelligence that spans cyber crime, disinformation campaigns, and geopolitical conflict dynamics, and then connects the dots, he said.
Before the war, Recorded Future had one paying customer in Ukraine. Now, it provides information to six additional agencies that access its reports for free. Ahlberg said Recorded Future has fewer than 100 employees in Ukraine, meaning its hiring spree will more than double the size of that office.
“It’s not a crazy number, but it’s an ambitious number for us,” he said. Recorded Future has more than 900 employees globally, including about 250 in Massachusetts.
“Fighting a modern war is inherently internet centric,” Serhii Demediuk, the deputy secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in a statement. “Having access to the very best intelligence to help deter and defeat the adversary is critical.”
Yegor Dubynskyi, the deputy minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, said the collaboration with Recorded Future “is the start of much to come” in terms of rebuilding Ukraine and developing a stronger software and IT industry.
The fact that two government groups have publicly supported Recorded Future’s hiring plan is a testament to how meaningful its help has been, Ahlberg said.
Though Recorded Future is donating its services to groups in Ukraine, Ahlberg said the work is “absolutely” applicable to the rest of the company and its 1,500 customers. Certain Ukraine-related product tweaks and tactics, he said, could be applied to conflicts elsewhere in the future.
Because of the war, Ahlberg said Recorded Future is experiencing the most demand for its services since he started the company in 2009, ranging from government intelligence agencies to corporate CEOs.
“The basic question that people have had is, ‘OK, there’s a war, what does it mean for me?’” he said.