Agustín Covarrubias

Co-Director @ EA Chile
772 karmaJoined Aug 2022Pursuing an undergraduate degreeWorking (0-5 years)Santiago, Santiago Metropolitan Region, Chile



I’m an engineering student and open sourcerer that does a bit of everything, but nothing specially well. I’m currently an undergraduate majoring in Computer Science Engineering 👨‍💻 at UC Chile.


I met Yonatan some months ago when I was making some key career decisions regarding whether to pursue AI Safety as a career or look for high impact jobs in software engineering.

While I'm still not settled for the long term, Yonatan pushed me to be more pragmatic and form a strategy around experimenting with different career paths, and in particular recommended I apply to more software engineering roles in the EA community.

Yesterday, I accepted a job offer at Rethink Priorities as a software engineer, and I'm extremely grateful for Yonatan's help. I believe it's likely I wouldn't have gotten the motivation to apply for the role (or more broadly, to SWE roles in EA) without Yonatan's coaching (as well as the excellent coaching from Abigail Novick at 80k, who referred me to Yonatan in the first place).

I think Yonatan is an amazing coach and I would highly recommend talking to him.

I love this project!

I would like to see a detailed write-up on the theory of change, but a priori this seems like a very underexplored area inside EA.

This. Is this a good opportunity for students projecting career paths in the area?

Update: While I still think my general opinion was right, I have heard examples from other people getting asked extra information with vague emails as well. For me this suggests that there are issues worth fixing with the process.

You might want to know that a few weeks ago, 80.000 hours updated their career path profile on information security.

Answer by Agustín CovarrubiasJan 28, 202332

Epistemic status: Speculative at best. I think the general distribution of assets is probably right, but I'm far from a financial expert, so I might not have the best understanding of the portfolios themselves.

How well-managed are pools of capital used for EA grantmaking? Are they compounding at rates comparable to those of top university endowments?

tl;dr: The biggest pool is Dustin & Cari's portfolio, which probably has comparable performance. Beyond that, most of the money in EA gets spent rapidly, with few long-term assets that can be invested.

Based on my very rough and messy reconstruction of committed resources, organization assets and money flows based on public information, the answer is probably yes.

Why? If we include committed assets, then the biggest pool of capital used for EA grantmaking is Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna's portfolio, which amounts to over $13bn in what I believe are largely risky, long-run, diversified investments.[1]  My best guess is that these investments probably compound (on the long term) to a rate similar to university endowments, which also tend to have a risky profile optimized for long-run stocks.

Now, a substantial part of Dustin and Cari's money has already been transferred to EA organizations, so the next step in the chain would be to check Good Venture's assets (which are controlled by Open Philanthropy). These probably amount to something like $4bn based on public filings from 2020.[2] Given Good Venture's money flows, it would seem reasonable to expect a good part of this to be invested, but probably not for the long run.

The next stop in this train involve the assets being held by (arguably) the biggest foundation in EA, Effective Ventures (the foundation behind CEA, 80k, EA Funds, GWWC and much, much more). EV seems to hold around $55m in what are declared to be mostly short-term savings[3], which I assume mostly originated from Good Ventures.

Conspicuously absent here are direct donations. I believe the rest of the money flow in EA is composed by donations mediated by organizations like GWWC, Founder's Pledge or EA Funds which turn into either grants or get transferred directly into object-level organizations pretty quickly. I would assume most of these organizations are expense-heavy and don't have long term investment themselves.

Overall, it still seems like EA as a community holds very little of the assets committed to it, and most of those seem to be invested in a single long-run portfolio.

  1. ^

    My main source for this is largely Dustin's tweets, as well as what I understand is his donation strategy. The idea is to liquidate all of the money before Dustin and Cari die, which is, in expectation a long timespan. Given current money flows, it seems like it would make sense to have a risky, long-term oriented portfolio. Having said that, I'm not a financial expert, so Dustin, if you're reading this, please pitch in ;)

  2. ^

    This does not account for either changes in their assets since then nor does it account for the assets held by Good Ventures LLC, the company that holds certain for-profit investments for the foundation. I couldn't find any public records of assets for the latter.

  3. ^

The CEA events team wants to be more transparent about what we’re doing, to allow feedback and visibility. We’re not committing to publishing detailed information about every event, but in that spirit, we wanted to share something about an event we’re running soon — the Summit on Existential Security — even though it’s an invite-only event and we don’t expect the information in this post to be directly useful to many people.

I just wanted to say this is great!

Being transparent about events like these help address many concerns EAs have had in the past regarding events that might seem “secretive” at first glance, so I very much welcome this.

I feel like EAGs applications are by default relatively short (≤ 2 hours), and as a general principle it seems good that CEA is actually asking for more information when needed (I didn't even know they did this). 

As for whether the second request might be unreasonable, it seems like we don't have enough context on the project, your application, or the specific CEA email to make any strong judgements on this.

I'm not going to waste my time and theirs on endless rounds of edits, and given that the application process is probably the simplest part of organizing a conference, this leads me to expect a poorly put together event even if they were willing to admit me with my current answers.

What I'm surprised about is that at this point it doesn't seem like you've had “endless rounds of edits”, but rather just two email exchanges. This feels uncharitable. Perhaps someone in the organizing team screwed up, so my natural response would be to ask for clarification if I felt the request was vague or unexpected?

I understand applications to EAGs can be burdensome and frustrating, but this also applies to the team reviewing them. Applications are not “the simplest part of organizing a conference”. They're challenging to get right, especially at scale.

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