Failure to Launch

“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.

Published: Sep 11, 2022
Length: 16 minutes (4,131 words)

Is a New Kind of Religion Forming on the Internet?

“The religion of the internet posits questions like, ‘what’s the harm in believing?’ and ‘why shouldn’t I be prepared for the worst?’ The deeper you go, the harder those questions are to answer.”

Source: Vox
Published: Dec 14, 2021
Length: 10 minutes (2,540 words)

The Sexfluencers

“What is new is how seamlessly a DM slide can become a business arrangement, how influencers of the Instagram-lifestyle variety and regular people alike have used this as a meaningful stream of revenue. Thanks to a pandemic that left many people at home substituting screens for IRL intimacy and the rise of platforms that merge sex work and social media, vanilla content creators are turning to sex, in all its myriad forms, as a side hustle.”

Source: Vox
Published: Oct 28, 2021
Length: 23 minutes (5,782 words)

A TikTok House Divided

“You’re 19 years old. You get famous overnight. You move to LA. Now what?”

Published: Oct 1, 2020
Length: 31 minutes (7,949 words)

Stuck in 2020, Pretending It’s 2014

Can nostalgia for the recent past bring comfort now that pandemic has made time stand still?

Source: Vox
Published: May 9, 2020
Length: 9 minutes (2,282 words)

How Brands Get their Names, Explained By a Professional Namer

This is a very interesting conversation about how companies pay experts to shape their images, and it’s one that this professional namer might describe this interview’s title as descriptive rather than disruptive, because it “is tied to an expected functional benefit of the product.”

Source: Vox
Published: May 16, 2019
Length: 10 minutes (2,578 words)