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Biography & Abstract
Jacob Hellman

Jacob is a postdoctoral researcher at York University, California, and lectures in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego. His dissertation focused on the social relationships produced through startup investing.

Investments of self: entrepreneurial finance as social belonging

This talk examines startup investment as an irreducibly social practice not reducible to a financial logic. It does so as a means to interrogate progressive critiques that see in entrepreneurship an 'individuating' neoliberal ideology and practice. Drawing on data from ethnographic fieldwork with angel investors, it argues that people invest in high-risk startups in order to make friends and experience meaning, even while they often loose their money. This work happens in and through relations with entrepreneurs, who themselves seek validation from investors — not just developing and selling products. These investors frame their work as 'helping' others and 'giving back' — not as 'social enterprise' but as building new businesses. Thus while gift-giving is traditionally understood as a non-market activity, this talk argues that entrepreneurial capital itself can be subsumed into gift logic. Understanding this helps explain one way capitalism becomes durable -- by becoming meaningful to some of its key actors.

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