In the startup world, it's common to pivot your business model because it's difficult to be on the right path on the first try. The author of  Running Lean suggests spending the initial phase of your startup attempting to disqualify your idea so that you can iterate into a better one. Many of the world's largest companies today started as different products. For example, Youtube started as a dating site, and Twitter started as a podcasting site.

 Let's say you're a charity founder that realizes what you initially fundraised for isn't going to work. What do you do? You could return the funds, which could be the right yet painful thing to do. On the other hand, you could keep the funds and use them for some other high-impact opportunity. Depending on the type and stage of the grant, some funders would not be okay with this. So, charities could be incentivized not to search for info that disqualifies their mission and end up working on lower EV opportunities than if they were encouraged to experiment and invalidate ideas. 

So, which EA organizations originally had different missions than they do now? Which pivots failed while others were successful?

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Most funders would probably not be okay with this unless the grant was exploratory in nature. 

I'm just flagging that I've found the opposite to be true of the EA funders I have worked with - I've been explicitly told by funders that they hope we do find places to pivot, or at least adapt to what we find. And most projects I've worked on have done so, to a greater or lesser degree. 

Interesting, that updates me! I've added more qualifiers to that point.

In an update on Sage introducing, we described a pivot we made after a few months:

As stated in the grant summary, our initial plan was to “create a pilot version of a forecasting platform, and a paid forecasting team, to make predictions about questions relevant to high-impact research”. While we build a decent beta forecasting platform (that we plan to open source at some point), the pilot for forecasting on questions relevant to high-impact research didn’t go that well due to (a) difficulties in creating resolvable questions relevant to cruxes in AI governance and (b) time constraints of talented forecasters. Nonetheless, we are still growing Samotsvety’s capacity and taking occasional high-impact forecasting gigs.


Meanwhile, we pivoted to building the apps contained in Quantified Intuitions to improve and maintain epistemics in EA.

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Relatedly, which EA projects have shut down? I suspect it's a much smaller fraction than the ~90% of startup companies that do, and that it should be at least a bit larger than it currently is.

I think this is part of what makes receiving unrestricted funding so valuable. Rethink Priorities puts a high premium on unrestricted funding for this reason (and other reasons).