Cultural Analysis of Startup Entrepreneurship in Russia: A Case Study of a Moscow Hackerspace

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Alexandra Simonova

Keywords

Startups, Hackerspace, Coworking; Hackers, Entrepreneurship, Precarity, IT Community

Abstract

This article offers a critical anthropological analysis of Neuron, a Moscow-based “hackerspace”that attempts to provide an alternative, self-organized space for the creativeIT industry and startup entrepreneurship. The study addresses the question of how theimage, dynamics, and cultural practices of the global hackerspace movement emergedand developed in Russia.The article is based on ethnographic work conducted from 2013 to 2015. I invoke acritical analysis of the discourses and practices of the hackerspace community and Moscowstartups in general. The metaphor of family was often invoked in the narratives ofhackerspace members about their organization, and this metaphor is employed in thisarticle as a lens for a critical analysis of the discourses and practices of the hackerspacecommunity.Since the 2010s the Russian state has made efforts to promote the ideas of innovativebusiness and startup entrepreneurship. Innopolis Skolkovo became a symbol ofthe Russian state-led modernization program that was launched in order to transformthe Russian economy and overcome its dependence on natural resources. The Moscowhackerspace emerged in 2011 as part of a wave of increased interest in innovativeprojects. However, it employed a very different bottom-up strategy for developing aplace for high-tech projects. Neuron emerged as an alternative community to the majorstartup scene in Moscow that also provided infrastructure for startup companiesthat had been struggling to develop new technologies without a sufficient startupbusiness environment.The problems faced in the course of this ambitious task are traced in this article. Onthe one hand, the Neuron hackerspace promotes trust, knowledge, and the exchange ofskills, as well as common strategies for technology and business development among itsmembers. On the other hand, Neuron has not succeeded in building a horizontal community,gender equality, and an organizational structure that is supportive but at thesame time driven by competition and a profit-oriented market economy.
Article in Russian.
DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2018-10-1-51-78
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