Ruchi Sanghvi was the first female engineer
at Facebook, where she helped create the news feed that now serves as the primary window into the world’s largest social network. Then she built a start-up of her own and sold it to another rising Silicon Valley
company, Dropbox, becoming one of its first female executives. But as she left Dropbox
in 2014, she didn’t know what she would do next.
At 32, she wanted a better way of deciding where her career would go. She wanted an environment where she could freely explore new ideas among her peers without feeling the pressure to start another project.
As the months passed, she never quite found that kind of personal think tank, but she came to realise that many old friends felt much the same way. Her next project became an effort to help people find their next idea.
The result is South Park Commons, a selected community of entrepreneurs, engineers
It is a means of shaping new ideas through conversation and shared experience.
“You get a couple of shots in life to do something meaningful and impactful. Why not take the time to identify that?” Sanghvi said during a recent conversation inside the Commons. “It is very easy to fall into the traps of Silicon Valley
— ‘Let’s start a company,’ or ‘Let’s invest’ — without giving it a second thought.”
Founded 18 months ago, the Commons aims to fill a hole in the tech
landscape. Northern California is littered with incubators and accelerators that help small companies develop and grow. This is something different, a community you can join before you have founded a company.
The Commons is a bit like the hacker spaces that have long thrived in the Valley — places where coders gather to build new software and hardware — but it moves beyond that familiar concept. Its founder, for one thing, is a female engineer
turned entrepreneur turned executive.
The group, which includes 25 to 30 people at any given time, is one small piece of the Northern California tech
scene, but it arrives at a crucial moment. Silicon Valley
is a place in transition, thanks to a shifting economic landscape and the rise of artificial intelligence.
©2017 The New York Times New Service