“True community-building, as tech founders should have realized by now, requires more than renting a mansion in Beverly Hills.” In this Vox investigation, Rebecca Jennings does what she does best: reporting on the influencer and creator economy while writing compellingly about some new corner of internet and tech culture. In this piece, she gets behind the scenes of Launch House, an incubator and social club for startup founders ineptly run by Brett Goldstein and Michael Houck. Members pay thousands of dollars to join the “community,” but Jennings spoke with numerous participants who have reported a chaotic experience all around, including out-of-control parties, security issues, sexual assault, and retaliation against a woman who’d spoken up.

What the women didn’t know was that the community that Launch House had established was one that could be hostile to them — one that seemed to prioritize money, status, and clout over anything a community might actually need or want, and that could ostracize them if they spoke out against it. Rather than simply an example of yet another mismanaged business full of Los Angeles dreamers, Launch House is a case study in how “community” operates when profit and attention appear to be its main motives.

The vibes are off, basically, and in times of financial uncertainty, community is more important than ever. Launch House, however, is a prime example of what a community can look like under inept leadership: It’s chaotic, ragtag, unpredictable.

Cheri Lucas Rowlands

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.