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

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Alexandra Simonova


This article offers a critical anthropological analysis of Neuron, a Moscow-based “hackerspace”
that attempts to provide an alternative, self-organized space for the creative
IT industry and startup entrepreneurship. The study addresses the question of how the
image, dynamics, and cultural practices of the global hackerspace movement emerged
and developed in Russia.
The article is based on ethnographic work conducted from 2013 to 2015. I invoke a
critical analysis of the discourses and practices of the hackerspace community and Moscow
startups in general. The metaphor of family was often invoked in the narratives of
hackerspace members about their organization, and this metaphor is employed in this
article as a lens for a critical analysis of the discourses and practices of the hackerspace
Since the 2010s the Russian state has made efforts to promote the ideas of innovative
business and startup entrepreneurship. Innopolis Skolkovo became a symbol of
the Russian state-led modernization program that was launched in order to transform
the Russian economy and overcome its dependence on natural resources. The Moscow
hackerspace emerged in 2011 as part of a wave of increased interest in innovative
projects. However, it employed a very different bottom-up strategy for developing a
place for high-tech projects. Neuron emerged as an alternative community to the major
startup scene in Moscow that also provided infrastructure for startup companies
that had been struggling to develop new technologies without a sufficient startup
business environment.
The problems faced in the course of this ambitious task are traced in this article. On
the one hand, the Neuron hackerspace promotes trust, knowledge, and the exchange of
skills, as well as common strategies for technology and business development among its
members. On the other hand, Neuron has not succeeded in building a horizontal community,
gender equality, and an organizational structure that is supportive but at the
same time driven by competition and a profit-oriented market economy.

Article in Russian.

DOI: 10.25285/2078-1938-2018-10-1-51-78


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

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