This is a special post for quick takes by Brendon_Wong. Only they can create top-level comments. Comments here also appear on the Quick Takes page and All Posts page.
Sorted by Click to highlight new quick takes since:

My Journey in Effective Altruism

My journey in effective altruism started after I stumbled across The High Impact Network (THINK) online in 2012. At the time, I was 14 and a first-year in high school. I reached out to THINK and interned at its parent organization for a week in summer 2013 and was invited to the very first EA Summit that summer. Due to a twist of fate, I had an international trip planned and couldn’t attend, which in retrospect might’ve resulted in my experience in EA going in a very different direction. After the summit, I was very shy and also still attending high school, so I didn't develop any network to speak of in the burgeoning EA movement.

I had a strong interest in social entrepreneurship and dabbled in various projects over the next few years. These projects included utilizing quantified self methods to help people improve their physical and mental health, connecting people in developing countries with higher-paying work opportunities via the internet, and helping animal charities like NutritionFacts apply for and/or utilize Google Ad Grants to spread awareness of plant-based nutrition to encourage dietary behavior change. I briefly worked on a venture called The Giving Basket to create freely accessible, zero-minimum donor-advised funds (DAFs) for everyone. These DAFs could be independently directed, directed via crowdsourcing mechanisms like voting, or directed via expert recommendations.

While I decided not to proceed forward with the idea, The Giving Basket involved investing the funds inside the DAFs before they were disbursed, thus increasing the total amount donated in expectation. That gave me the general idea of utilizing investing to increase the amount that people were able to donate. Thus, my next venture idea was born, Antigravity Investments. It was 2016, and I graduated high school and headed off to study at UC Berkeley. The original idea of Antigravity Investments was to help donors invest money before they donated it, much like The Giving Basket had intended. Over time, this expanded into helping people with investing in general (which would hopefully counterfactually increase the amount people could afford to donate if they were themselves better off), and later, helping institutions like foundations and nonprofits invest. The latter audience is where Antigravity Investments has derived the majority of its impact, counterfactually donating millions of dollars to charity in transparent and verifiable ways.

After years of work, Antigravity Investments met my threshold for success, but I faced considerable challenges executing it including finding enough vetting (especially in Antigravity’s later years) and funding. I spent some time working on trying to create infrastructure to solve those issues, including prototyping an EA Projects Platform (which would connect projects, evaluations, funders, and team members) and spinning up the first EA Angel Group. I also interned in product management working on big data and AI products (applying ACR, CRNNs, and other interesting technologies).

After that, I graduated college in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. I started working as a product manager at Capital One, and on the side, explored high-impact ideas. I participated in the Longtermist Entrepreneurship Fellowship, where I worked on an idea we termed “GiveWell for Impact Investing.” This culminated in an article on the EA Forum demonstrating that impact investing could counterfactually generate impact to a degree that, in my opinion, could be comparable to or exceeding that of a donation depending on the specific opportunity at hand. This seemed revolutionary, but didn’t seem to make many waves, perhaps because the article was very conservative in its messaging.

I was still in an exploratory mode and briefly explored “prediction markets for good” (including variants similar to ideas that Manifold Markets has implemented) before settling on launching a general-purpose version of my previous ideas. I noticed that many of my ideas, like my idea to increase charitable funding or help charities better leverage Google Ads, were based on very simple yet very high impact recommendations. I decided to launch a research organization and startup studio called Better to identify, validate, and share such recommendations to help the EA community and the world at large increase well-being and well-doing (well-doing referring to the combination of effectiveness and altruism). A few months later, I discovered an opportunity to be the COO of an upcoming nonprofit called Roote working on societal systems change. Roote touches on many topics I'm excited about including reducing meta existential risk, improving governance, and improving upon capitalism, so I joined to cofound that as well!

These days, I'm busy jamming away at getting thought leadership and ventures at Roote and Better off the ground, and chatting with people to help them along in their own journeys as my network in and knowledge of EA, and social impact in general, has grown :)

Antigravity Investments Public Impact Log

This is an interim post sharing examples of Antigravity Investments' impact over the years. Organizations that have not explicitly consented to being named have had their details anonymized (we only asked CEA due to time constraints).

August 2022: One example of my ongoing correspondence with the EA operations team member is that I identified that an AI research organization with $6 million in cash could access yields of ~2.5% instead of 0% at their existing bank, which would generate another $150,000 for the organization every year on an annualized basis at essentially zero cost to themselves (at current interest rates).

April 2022: Agreed to help a relatively core EA organization administer $1M+ in a DAF because their existing advisor could not do it for free. The situation seems unlikely to move forward due to logistical problems with the DAF provider.

December 2021+: An operations team member that has worked at multiple EA- aligned AI organizations started an active correspondence with me regarding treasury cash management and operations in general. Questions included the base rates of defaults with various cash management options.

December 2020: GiveWell had their team investigate cash management, very likely directly as a result of my article directed specifically at them (see GiveWell's comment). Hopefully they have implemented it by now (we will likely be able to assess the impact in their 2021 Form 990 which is expected shortly).

Early 2020: A nonprofit that has assisted with certain EA endeavors committed $10M+ to one of our recommended cash management solutions, which later became $20M+ after they had tested it for a while and expanded into a second recommended cash management option.

2019: The Center for Effective Altruism started setting up a brokerage account at Vanguard after I reached out. According to their Form 990, they moved the majority of their funds into some form of interest-bearing account or investment during 2020. This may or may not impact CEA's fiscally sponsored projects like 80,000 Hours and Longview Philanthropy.

Mid-2019: A core EA charity was considering utilizing one of our recommended cash management for $1M+. They discovered that they had an agreement with their bank that required that they bank exclusively with that bank for a certain period. We explored alternatives like opening a brokerage account. The charity corresponded with their bank regarding their low interest rate, and as a result, the bank raised their interest rate.

2018: An animal charity committed $1M+ in assets under management to Antigravity with a below-market-rate fee.

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities