Nathalie Schipounoff’s PhD Dissertation Defense

On Thursday 19th of December 2019 at 14:30 at Université Paris Diderot, (Building Olympes de Gouges, room Laplanche – 576), Nathalie Schipounoff is defending her PhD Dissertation in Social Anthropology and Ethnology, supervised by professor Pascal Dibie. Title: Affable startuppers for a better world or a better social position ? Ethnology of startup mode in a Parisian incubator.

PhD examination committee members:

  • Pr. Jean-Philippe Bouilloud, ESCP Europe 
  • Pr. Nabyla Daidj, Institut Mines Telecom – Business School HDR (Rapporteur)
  • Pr. Pascal Dibie, Paris 7 (Directeur de thèse)
  • Pr. Fabienne Hanique,  Paris Diderot – Paris 7
  • Pr. Valérie Patrin-Leclerc, CELSA Sorbonne 
  • Pr. Fabienne Hanique, Paris Diderot – Paris 7  
  • Pr. Pierre-Michel Riccio, IMT Mines Alès

Abstract :

« Change the world and make it a better place » is the leitmotif of all startupper wishing to convince investors. An IT (information technology) start-up is « a human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty ». What does it mean then for a startupper to change the world ? Are the entrepreneurship and the success-for-all fantasy enough to take such a risk ?

The hypothesis here retained is that the start-up mode observed in this research paper remains one of the instruments for a new form of elitism and adherence signs to exercice their capitalism power. The possibility for individuals to hope to make, by their work, the world a better place is at stake, while they are serving market capitalization, fundraising, if ever speculation in exchange for a best social position.

To demonstrate it, the methods employed in this research hinge on four main axes :

  • An academic research, combine to a recurrent watch
  • A participating ethnological observation in a Parisian incubator for more than 15 months.
  • An ethnographic and semantic studies of anonymized posts shared on Facebook by startuppers and startups founders’ biographical monographs present during the field phase.

In keeping with the « metamorphosed Village » of Pascal Dibie, this research intends to bring to the scale of an incubator « a singular approach bearer of universal », perspective on customs, rituals if ever beliefs of the startup nation and intends to demonstrate in what way the start-up mode has become a factory for new ambitious. At the root of the numerical utopia, the will to change the world has become today for the startuppers a marketing pitch.

Nevertheless this study also glimpses in the postmodernism and the fact to become a startupper a form of resilience : certainly it is wanting to find back sense and a place among the best, but undoubtedly it is a tentative to reconcile the unreconcilable, render more human the dehumanization.

Keywords: Ethnology ; startup, participating observation ; incubator ; hypermodern society ; technology ; the internet.