Where, what, and why -- what creates powerful communities?

11 February 2019
11 Feb 2019
Southside Berkeley
4 mins

The difference between a stressful day and a busy, fulfilling day is that in one your work makes up the entire day, and in the other your work makes your entire day. Let me tell you a story about a day in my life of the second kind.


The weakest, most common kind of community is formed by proximity. We’re close to everyone around us, and by virtue of being in the same places, there’s a sense of togetherness.

These are the communities you’re in because of where you are. But community by proximity is easily broken. These are roommates, neighborhoods, schools, cities, and nations.

A stronger kind of community is driven by common interests. We might both be interested in web design or machine learning, in some common genre of music or the same artist, in the same TV shows, same sports teams, the same books or the same culture. These communities exists across geographies, and are stronger than communities by proximity.

We’re not just in these communities as a matter of fact; we join these communities to participate in something bigger, and find people like us. These are the communities you’re in because of what you’re interested in. These are fandoms, viewers, followers, and clubs.

But the strongest, most powerful communities are driven by mission.

Unlike other kinds of communities, which can grow endlessly, communities by mission filter and self-select for other members who believe in some shared vision for a better future. These are the communities we join because they share our view of why we do what we do. Communities by mission can span geographies, careers, interests, and cultures; the strongest of these mission-driven communities are also the most diverse, in demographics, in location, in interests, and in cultures.

But these communities, bound together by shared visions for the future, are the longest-lasting, strongest, most impactful communities we can be a part of, because despite all the things we can disagree about, at the root of the community is some shared understanding of what’s broken about the status quo, and a shared conviction that we have the power to change it.

I’m lucky to be in company of three communities bound not just by common geographies or interests, but by a common mission: a belief students’ power to create lasting impact in the world by building something from nothing. We believe in student entrepreneurs.

We believe in student entrepreneurs, in students’ power to create lasting impact in the world by building something from nothing.

And this Sunday, I found myself on a back-to-back marathon talking to other students about the why’s behind our communities.


My day kicked off with a cross-campus discussion at SkyDeck, about the challenges and wins of running undergraduate entrepreneurship programs on college campuses at Berkeley and Purdue, especially around Purdue’s DMK and The Anvil organizations, and Cal’s wealth of startup resources.

Purdue x Cal, at Berkeley SkyDeck

We talked about ways to engage more students in entrepreneurship, ways to broad access and exposure to resources on campus, and ways to work together more, within and between campuses, to help student entrepreneurs.

Today also marked the first day of Cal Hacks Fellowship, an accelerator program focused on hackers from last year’s Cal Hacks 5.0. These teams are brilliant engineers working on some of the most interesting technical startup ideas I’ve seen, and I had a chance to share with them my thoughts about entrepreneurship, finding customers, and mapping a course from a hack to a product to a business.

Cal Hacks Fellowship

As with most things we do, Fellowship is a collaboration. The House, as well as Berkeley SkyDeck, help Cal Hacks put on the program and give these hackers a space in the city and in their lives to explore an idea beyond the 36 hours of a hackathon.

Next up, I hopped on the BART for Dorm Room Fund’s weekly meetings, always full of interesting ways to think about student entrepreneurs, and innovative businesses at large.

I returned to Cal for a late-night meeting with Cal Hacks, and ended up staying until well past 1AM talking about how we can reach beyond a single, 2-day event to do more to help Cal students find the space and opportunity to build cool projects, and turn them into something impactful.

Cal Hacks 5.0 team

Honestly, I wish every day of my life were like this. Packed day, filled with interesting people pursuing creative ideas with conviction and a belief in some vision about tomorrow and the day after, whether about student entrepreneurship or accessibility or the future of hackathons and computer science at Cal.

These are my communities by mission. And the best part of being a part of them is that we’re here because of a common answer to why, and that belief in the vision binds us together across teams and events and obstacles, pointed in a singular direction, building the future.

Winning the race

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