Luca Tomescu has never waited for anyone to make him feel at home in a new place. That’s a product of his outgoing and ambitious personality and his early history.
Born in Romania, Tomescu moved seven times as a young boy, including to America’s West Coast, the Midwest, and to Houston. “I think through that experience, I learned that it’s really up to you to create your own sense of community. It’s up to you to make a place feel like home.”
His nature as a joiner was evident in high school, and when he arrived at The University of Texas at Austin, he was not just a joiner but a founder. One of our outstanding graduates from the 2020 class, Tomescu led an audacious effort to establish a TEDx program at UT in just the second semester of his freshman year. TEDx conferences are independent events with the look and feel of the enormously popular TED Talks. These can be organized by any group that obtains a free license from TED and agrees to TED Foundation principles.
Tomescu says TED started as a way to be part of a global community that stood for something he believes in deeply: sharing ideas across diverse groups and connecting people from different backgrounds and cultures. “TEDxUTAustin was my way of becoming a more active and involved member of that community by actively expanding it to our campus, and frankly, it was a huge surprise to me that a university of UT’s caliber didn’t have its own TEDx event yet. I almost saw it as my duty to make TEDxUTAustin a reality and build it up to the point that it can now run under the leadership of generations of UT students for years to come.”
To make it happen, he says, “I spent an entire semester just taking meetings with literally anyone who would listen,” says Tomescu, “administrators, deans, Student Government people — just trying to build a critical mass of support. And then lo and behold, I found someone who could do something about it. Through University Communications, we got our source of funding for the first two years of events.”
The first event — 15 speakers composed of UT faculty and staff members, students and other community members — received a good reception from the audience and from TED. But the real power of these talks is their ability to endure online. To date, the combined views from that first year’s presentations is well over 100,000. That’s more people than can fit into DKR-Texas Memorial Stadium being exposed to UT’s intellectual firepower.
After spending up to 20 hours a week on the inaugural conference — atop the rigors of an engineering degree, Tomescu stepped down as the group’s president the next year and took on the responsibility of growing the team from the original eight people to 40, helping establish a committee structure, and making the operation more systematic.
Academically, college has been a time of exploration. Tomescu began and finished as an electrical and computer engineering major. But along the way, he became involved with Convergent, an entrepreneurship organization that connects computer science and business majors to create projects. This led to his earning a business certificate from the McCombs School.
“No matter where I’ve been, whether it was high school or college, and now getting ready to enter the real world, I’ve just always wondered, how can I create a stronger sense of community in the place where I am?” he says.
Now on the eve of commencement, Tomescu is pouring his time into a startup company that is involved in community building in its own way. Called Dive Chat, it is a group chat application that seeks to combine the ease of Facebook Messenger or iMessage with the power of channels such as those in Slack or Discord. To this end, he is on Zoom calls every day, and he plans to continue this work after graduation and see where it takes him. Last summer, he worked in management consulting in New York, and he has a standing invitation to join that firm’s Dallas office in a year.
“Most of the value I’ve gotten out of college has been the people that I’ve met in the world, the things I’ve been a part of. That’s where I learned my most useful skills, like starting organizations, building teams, managing people. It will be good to have that technical background, but ultimately I like working with people.”
But just when you think launching a startup is all a new grad could get on his plate, there’s something completely different. “Something else I’ve had in the works for seven months is a project I’m calling E-Scooter Across America. My dream is to ride a scooter from coast to coast — New York to San Francisco, and one of the scooter companies I’m talking to right now is really excited about it. We’re thinking through ways to use that concept, whether it’s helping with coronavirus relief or raising awareness of safe operation, mobility solutions and things like that. These are things I see as related to building community, whether it’s in college or at the national or global scale. I want to try my best to connect people.”
One of his biggest hopes for his future? To come back to UT in 10-15 years and sit in the audience at a TEDxUTAustin presentation.
With reporting by Tracy Zhang