Building the Largest Community of 13k+ Teenage Hackers 🐱‍💻

What does Elon Musk, dinosaur Arduinos, and cameras in outer space have in common? Hack Club.

Picture this: You’re 16 years old. You just tested out of high school after freshman year to work in tech. You moved to San Francisco with a half baked idea of creating a community you wish you had growing up.

That’s exactly where Zach Latta, founder of Hack Club 🐱‍🐉, was 8 years ago.

Since then, he’s worked on a variety of interesting things: creating top chart apps used by 5 million people at 16, joining the Thiel Fellowship (founded by Peter Thiel, founder of Paypal 💸), and founding Hack Club - which has grown into the largest community of teenage hackers, makers, and coders. 👩‍💻👨‍💻

Let’s get right into it:

  1. 🐣 The chicken and egg problem of doing interesting things

  2. 🤝 “If you want to help people, you actually have to help people

  3. 😶 The hardest part of nonprofits you never expected to think about

I write a biweekly newsletter breaking down tech, startups, and investment. Curious about any of the above? Drop your email below to start receiving editions every other week 🤗👇

🎙 Δx podcast

The reason why I love podcasts so much is because it’s the closest you can get to the authentic, in-the-moment thoughts and excitement of others. 💭 Listening to a podcast is like listening in on a high bandwidth conversation as if it is happening right next to you.

In information theory, information must pass through mediums to get to the receiver. Conversations can cut through the noise and pass on knowledge more directly from the source. 🔊

With that, here’s the 30 minutes of unfiltered conversation with Zach, one of the smartest / most interesting people I’ve had the pleasure to chat with:

You’ll hear about getting in rooms with interesting people, why you need to prioritize actually helping people, and getting backed/raising money to support your causes.

💎 Δx takeaways

  1. 🐣 The chicken and egg problem of doing interesting things

Here’s the paradox of getting started (are you ready? there’s a lot of “interesting”s 😅): Do interesting things to meet interesting people… to work on interesting things to meet more interesting people.

It becomes a chicken and egg problem 🐣🥚 - but often times, it’s a whole lot easier just to start working on meaningful things.

“I just want to live an interesting life. If I have 2 options, I'm just going to ask which of these 2 options is the more interesting one... If I go to this event, will my life be more interesting as a result?” ~ Zach, Delta X Podcast

This is a cool mental model which I feel cuts through a lot of noise in decision making. If you want to live an interesting life, then that’s what you should mainly optimize for in your activities and ventures. ☁

  1. 🤝 “If you want to help people, you actually have to help people”

Similarly, if your goal is to help others, you need to ask yourself “Who are you building for?” It sounds simple, but few take the time to genuinely and impactfully help who they want to help.

This was Zach’s biggest regret looking back: If you want to make something useful, you actually need to do it. ⚒

Who is the group of people that, if their problem was solved, your project / organization would no longer need to exist? 🤔

  1. 🤫 The hardest part of nonprofits you never expected to have to think about

The reason why most NPOs die? Lack of money to keep operating. 💵

Philanthropy has been by far one of the hardest things for Hack Club that I never expected to think about.

Zach talks about the 4 types of philanthropy, and how it all ties back to meeting interesting people and having interesting conversations. (Hack Club has worked with Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell, Tom Preston-Werner, and more 🤯)

This is something I never hear talked about, but is important for every founder to know.

📰 Δx change

Now for 3 of the most interesting articles about change I’ve come across in the last 2 weeks:

  • 🧊 Rocket mining for lunar ice: Ice = drinking water, rocket fuel, and sustaining human life. Rocket M rover uses controlled rocket blasts to break up the soil or regolith underneath the rover, where it then extracts the ice - and it’s projected to do so at a rate of up to 12 craters per day and 100 kg of ice per crater.

  • 💻 Github Copilot: It was only a matter of time before NLP tech made its way to code. Copilot if an AI pair programmer designed to covert plain English functions into actual code, powered by OpenAI’s Codex.

  • 😷 COVID-19 Detection in 90 min on face mask: Engineers at MIT and Harvard University have designed a novel face mask that can diagnose the wearer with Covid-19 within about 90 minutes. The masks are embedded with tiny, disposable sensors that can be fitted into other face masks and could also be adapted to detect other viruses. What a double-win: protecting yourself while detecting COVID.

That’s all I got for this week — hope you enjoyed this newsletter and learned something new today :) & happy belated 4th of July! 🎆



Ellen X

Thanks for reading!

Woahh, thanks for reading to the *very* end! you’re a real one ;)