Belarusian authorities shut down the country’s largest startup hub, Imaguru, for its political stance
The largest Belarusian startup hub Imaguru received from its landlord, Horizon Holding, a notice of contract termination and to vacate the premises by April 30.
The founder of the hub, Tatiana Marinich, attributes such a decision of the lessor to the fact that she is a member of the coordinating council of the Belarusian opposition and the company supported the protests in the country.
Startup hub views the landlord’s decision as politically motivated
Imaguru sees no reason for the lessor to terminate the contract — the hub has always paid the rent on time, and in 7 years, it has paid Horizon Holding a total of about $1.5 million.
“We don’t see any rationale behind this decision. Imaguru always pays rent on time, and Horizon received around $1.5M within 7 years of the business relationship. Imaguru invested in repairs and full remodeling of over 2000 square meters of the space that was not suitable for office lease prior to these renovations. Until 2013, the whole building was rotting under the unprofessional guidance of a state-owned company,” Imaguru says.
Therefore, this decision is linked with the political stance of Imaguru. The hub expressed solidarity with the protests following last year’s elections, recorded a video of solidarity with PandaDoc, whose employees were imprisoned, and supported a nationwide strike on October 26, 2020.
“We understand that this short-sighted decision of the Horizon management is associated only with Imaguru’s active civiс position. Back in early March, unidentified men wearing masks broke into Imaguru’s office, blocked the exit, put young event attendees against the wall, and brought them to the police station.”
Imaguru was founded by Tatiana Marinich in 2013. As dev.by reports, Tatiana’s husband, Mikhail Marinich, was one of the first candidates for the presidency of Belarus, who challenged Lukashenko back in 2001. The signatures for his candidacy were not counted, and he was imprisoned, where he had a stroke. Marinich was declared a prisoner of conscience by the UN and died in 2014.
Since 2013, Imaguru has helped over 300 Belarusian startups, including Splitmetrics, MSQRD, PingFin, DEIP, and TrackDuck; created +250 jobs, trained more than 12,000 people, and hosted over 3,500 events.
Imaguru startups have been accepted into many accelerator programs around the world, such as Startup Sauna, Rocket Start, 500 Startups, and Y Combinator. Startups that have been members of Imaguru have raised a total of over $100 million in investments.