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Hey Jade,

Thanks so much for your reply. This actually really helped clarify things for me. I think we may still have some different priors about (2) but overall your comment made me think we agree much more than we disagree (and than I'd previously thought we'd disagreed). 

I again just want to note that I'm grateful you ran the program and engaged so productively with my comment.

Honestly I wasn't too sure what the biggest issue was but what you described seems reasonable to me! 

Note: This message came out of a conversation with u/AppliedDivinityStudies and therefore contains a mix of opinions from the two of us, even though I use "I" throughout. All mistakes can be attributed to me (An1lam) though.

Really appreciate you all running this program and writing this up! That said, I disagree with a number of the conclusions in the write-up and worry that if neither I nor anyone else speak up with our criticisms, people will get the (in my opinion) wrong idea about bottlenecks to more longtermist entrepreneurship.

At a high level, many of my criticisms stem from my sense that the program didn't lean in to the "entrepreneurship" component that hard and as a result ended up looking a lot like typical EA activities (nothing wrong with typical EA activities). 

First, I strongly disagree with the implicit conclusion that fostering a LE requires lots of existing LE entrepreneurs, specifically:

Hundreds of people expressed interest in doing LE, but a very small number of these (1-3 dozen) had backgrounds in both longtermism and entrepreneurship. There were few people that we thought could pull off very ambitious projects.

And also:

Talent pool is larger than expected, but less senior.

If there existed a large pool of LE entrepreneurs with the right skills, there'd be a less pressing need for this sort of program.  I get that you're wary of analogies to tech startups due to downside risk but to the degree one wants to foster an ecosystem, taking a risk on at least some more junior people seems pretty necessary. Even within the EA ecosystem, my sense is that people who founded successful orgs often hadn't done this before. E.g., as far as I know Nick Bostrom hadn't founded an FHI 0.0 before founding the current instantiation of FHI. Same for GiveWell, CEA, etc. Given that, the notion that doing LE entrepreneurship requires "backgrounds in both longtermism and entrepeneurship" seems like too restrictive a filter.

Second, without examples it's a little hard to discuss, but I feel like the concern about downside risk is real but overblown. It's definitely an important difference between LE entrepeneurship and traditional startups to be mindful of but I question whether it's being used to justify an extreme form of the precautionary principle that says funders shouldn't fund ideas with downside risks instead of the, more reasonable IMO, principle of funding +EV things or trying to ensure the portfolio of projects has +EV. 

Third, I think some of the assumptions about what types of activities should take precedence for LE entrepreneurship deserve re-examining. As I alluded to above, it seems like the activities you say matter most for LE entrepeneurship, "research, strategic thinking, forecasting long-run consequences, and introspection [rather] than finding product-market fit" are suspiciously similar to "typical EA activities". From my perspective, it could instead be interesting to try and take some of the startup gospel around iteration, getting things out into the wild sooner rather than later, etc. seriously and adapt them to LE entrepreneurship rather than starting from the (appearance of the) assumption that you have very little to learn from that world. This isn't fully charitable, but I have the sense that EA has a lot of people who gravitate towards talking/strategizing/coordinating and getting other people to do things but sometimes shy away from "actually doing things" themselves. I view an LE entrepreneurship incubator as an opportunity to reward or push more people towards the "actually doing things" part. Part of this may also be that I'm a bit confused about where the boundary between normal and LE entrepreneurship lies. In my mind, SpaceX, fusion startups, psychedelics research would all qualify as examples of LE entrepreneurship with limited downside risk or at least not existential downside risks. Would you agree that these qualify as good examples?

Fourth, you mention advisors but only say a few by name. I'm 1) curious whether any of these advisors were experienced entrepreneurs and 2) interested in whether you considered getting advisors only adjacent to EA but very experienced entrepreneurs. As an example, at least one founder of Wave is an EA-aligned successful entrepreneurs who I can only imagine has wisdom to impart about entrepreneurship. I don't live in the Bay Area but I have the sense that there are quite a few other EA-adjacent founders there who might also be interested in advising a program like this.

Fifth, this is more low-level but I still don't really understand the skepticism of a YC-like incubator for LE entrepreneurship. It seems like your arguments boil down to 1) the current pool is small and 2) the requirements are different. But on 1, when YC started, the pool of entrepreneurs was smaller too! Such a program can help to increase the size of that pool. On 2, I agree that a literal copy of YC would have the issues you describe but I'd imagine a YC-like program blending the two community's thinking styles in a way that gets most of the benefits of each while avoiding the downsides. As an aside, we are also very supportive of longtermists doing YC but for slightly different reasons. This may also be related to the confusion about what qualifies as LEE.

Summarizing, my goal in writing this comment is not to just criticize the program. Instead, I worry that by highlighting the need for experience and the overwhelming risk of harm, the write-up as-is might discourage would-be LE entrepreneurs from trying something . I hope that my comment can help provide a counterweight to that.