The Vision for Union

A social club. For everyone.

One year ago today, on my 39th birthday, doctors excised a large mass from my lymph nodes. While I’m perfectly healthy today, the experience prompted me to reevaluate not only how I spend my time, but who I spend it with.

Growing up a Sikh in North Carolina, I learned that while I may not always look like everyone, I can find common ground with almost anyone. My turban may symbolize my faith, but it doesn’t tell my whole story. I’m an occasional musician, devoted father, and proud Southerner who loves old cars, Bojangles biscuits, and a million other things that don’t fit into a neat box. I know everyone else is like that, too. But in a world that’s more divided than ever, where can people go to share their stories and discover that common ground?

With a newfound sense of perspective, I dove back into the startup world once again. This time I’m building Union, a social club where you can meet someone different and learn something new.

Our goal for Union is to build a new institution that helps people feel more connected — not just online, but in the real world.

Here’s why we believe IRL connection is a problem that needs solving now:

  1. Many people feel alone. Social connection is a critical factor in health and longevity; however, more than 70% of Americans report feeling lonely. The way we use social media has made us globally connected, but locally isolated — we spend more time engaging with screens than we do with people, and though we can talk to people across the world, we often don’t know our neighbors next door.
  2. Our communities feel divided. Never has it been more obvious that our world is divided, but we don’t seem to know the remedy. We spend time with people who think like us, and mute people online who don’t. But in order to create positive change, everyone needs to be involved.
  3. People lack access to opportunities. We know that everyone, everywhere has unlocked potential, but many people don’t have access to the people who can help unlock it. We want to democratize networking so that anyone could meet the “right” person at the right place and time.

With these three issues in mind, we’ve created Union as a social club, for everyone. We believe that human connection can unite us and create positive change. Our mission is to bring people together so they can bring out the best in each other. We believe this will not only make people’s lives better, but make their communities better, too.

Social clubs, of course, have existed throughout time as places where people socialize over food and drinks. Larger cities have seen a proliferation of new clubs (Soho House, the Wing, WeWork, etc), and we think this trend is likely to grow across the country.¹

While social clubs aren’t new, there are three things that make Union different:

  1. Technology. At the heart of Union is a unique technology system that can understand insights about our members, helping us deliver on our promise of connection. We’ll use these insights to create better programming and make smarter introductions.²
  2. Diversity. From the past to the present, social clubs have been built on exclusion — they’re gendered or elite, only for golfers, creatives, or entrepreneurs. Union is counter to traditional models of social clubs and co-working space. We’re affordably priced,³ and built on inclusion, because we believe that bringing different people together under one roof is the only way for us all to come together. Plus, it’s the best way to make this concept truly scalable and a big idea.
  3. Experience. To help people connect personally, we need to make a personal experience where the tech is nearly invisible. That’s why a thoughtful, personal, and delightful experience is our focus for everything we do, from the technology our employees use, to the way members are greeted at the door.

Imagine a dating site profile. The more the site knows about you, the closer you get to finding your “perfect match.” But at Union, we’re not just talking about a romantic partner. We’ll help you find a mentor to help you find your way, a neighbor to show you around your new city, or a hip-hop head who loves talking music as much as you do. We know that just one person can change your life, and we want to introduce you.

I’ve asked many of my old colleagues to join me on this journey, but we’re always looking for new friends who share our vision to help make it a reality. If you share our vision and have thoughts on people, places, or ideas we should know about, please drop me a note!

– Sonny Caberwal

¹ If you think there are already too many social clubs, it’s likely because you live in NY, SF, or LA.

² Interested in learning more? Drop me a note.

³ Some say “insanely cheap” — 10% of the cost of traditional clubs.