Announcing the EA Angel Group—Seeking EAs with the Time and Money to Evaluate and Fund Early-Stage Grants

Background

In a pre­vi­ous post, Bren­don Wong dis­cussed how to im­prove the early-stage fund­ing land­scape in the EA com­mu­nity. His ideas strongly res­onated with me, so I worked with Bren­don to re­search and de­velop some of them into more con­crete strat­egy.

His­tor­i­cally, it ap­peared that early-stage EA pro­jects were funded by one or more “an­gels”–a term bor­rowed from the for-profit startup in­vest­ment space that refers to in­di­vi­d­u­als that eval­u­ate and in­vest in com­pa­nies with their own money.

When an­gels co­op­er­ate in an “an­gel group,” they im­prove the in­vest­ment pro­cess in three mean­ingful ways. First, each an­gel be­comes more aware of in­vest­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties be­cause there’s a cen­tral place for com­pa­nies to ap­ply to for fund­ing and each an­gel can re­fer po­ten­tial in­vest­ments to the group. Se­cond, each an­gel can draw from the ex­per­tise of fel­low an­gels, gain­ing differ­ent per­spec­tives on an op­por­tu­nity, mak­ing bet­ter in­vest­ment de­ci­sions and im­prov­ing their skill set. Third, each an­gel performs less in­vest­ment over­head on av­er­age by shar­ing the work or hiring out­side man­age­ment to carry it out.

De­cid­ing to test an an­gel group

Bren­don and I ar­rived at three in­de­pen­dent pro­pos­als for im­prov­ing the early-stage fund­ing en­vi­ron­ment:

  1. An on­line por­tal to en­able the broader com­mu­nity to dis­cover grant op­por­tu­ni­ties, add their thoughts on the rel­a­tive mer­its and risks of grant pro­pos­als, and di­rectly fund grants with­out an intermediary

  2. An an­gel group to im­prove how an­gel fund­ing cur­rently works in EA

  3. A dis­tributed group of vol­un­teer grant eval­u­a­tors with ex­per­tise across many differ­ent ar­eas of EA to im­prove upon the tra­di­tional model of a small cen­tral­ized group eval­u­at­ing a tremen­dous range of grants

Our R&D pro­cess to im­prove the early-stage EA pro­ject en­vi­ron­ment starts with col­lect­ing feed­back from com­mu­nity mem­bers, then launch­ing an ini­tial solu­tion, and fi­nally iter­a­tively im­prov­ing the solu­tion ac­cord­ing to qual­i­ta­tive and quan­ti­ta­tive feed­back.

To col­lect feed­back, Bren­don and I reached out to EA Grants, BERI, and ad­di­tional peo­ple/​groups in the grant­mak­ing space. Based on what we learned, we have de­cided to launch the an­gel group first be­cause it has the clear­est value add for the com­mu­nity and is straight­for­ward to es­tab­lish and op­er­ate. We will iter­a­tively im­prove the an­gel group as needed in re­sponse to data and feed­back.

How to get involved

Be­come an an­gel: We are seek­ing effec­tive al­tru­ists that are pre­pared to spend sig­nifi­cant time and money to eval­u­ate and fund early-stage grants. If this sounds like you or some­one you know, please di­rect your­self or your con­tacts to this an­gel ap­pli­ca­tion form: https://​​goo.gl/​​forms/​​WCt7hC9IuMJJT3qZ2

Ap­ply for fund­ing: We have cre­ated a pre­limi­nary ap­pli­ca­tion form for the pri­mary pur­pose of learn­ing which in­di­vi­d­u­als and pro­jects are ap­ply­ing for fund­ing: https://​​goo.gl/​​forms/​​Gg8AgfUISJd21x9v2

Provide our ini­ti­a­tive with fund­ing: Our ini­ti­a­tive to im­prove early-stage fund­ing is, iron­i­cally enough, op­er­at­ing with­out any fund­ing. We do not re­quire fund­ing to launch and ad­minister this an­gel group, but fund­ing would be re­ally helpful for sup­port­ing our op­er­a­tions and the launch and test­ing of ad­di­tional mea­sures to im­prove the early-stage fund­ing land­scape.

Provide grant ap­pli­cants with fund­ing (with­out eval­u­at­ing grants your­self): We in­tend on launch­ing a more stream­lined sys­tem for ac­cept­ing pub­lic dona­tions in the fu­ture, but if you are in­ter­ested in fund­ing promis­ing early-stage pro­jects in EA and have our an­gels/​eval­u­a­tors eval­u­ate the pro­jects, please get in touch with us about con­tribut­ing.

Vol­un­teer for us: If you are in­ter­ested in as­sist­ing with our ini­ti­a­tive, please get in touch! In the fu­ture, we will sup­port eval­u­a­tion vol­un­teers that do not have cap­i­tal but are tal­ented at eval­u­at­ing pro­jects. We may not be able to ac­com­mo­date eval­u­a­tion vol­un­teers at this time, but if you are pas­sion­ate about ad­vis­ing or eval­u­at­ing pro­jects, please get in touch and we will see what the best ar­range­ment is for your situ­a­tion.