Business Networking through LessWrong

by JoshuaFox1 min read2nd Apr 201426 comments

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Is anyone interested in contacting other people in the LessWrong community to find a job, employee, business partner, co-founder, adviser, or investor?

Connections like this develop inside ethnic and religious groups, as well as  among university  alums or members of a fraternity. I think that LessWrong can provide  the same value.

For example, LessWrong must have plenty of skilled software developers in dull jobs, who would love to work with smart, agenty rationalists. Likewise, there must be some company founders or managers who are having a very hard time finding good software developers. 

A shared commitment to instrumental and epistemic rationality should be a good starting point, not to mentioned a shared memeplex to help break the ice. (Paperclips! MoR!)

Besides being  fun, working together with other rationalists could be a good business move.

As a side-benefit, it also has good potential to raise the sanity waterline and help further develop new rationality skills, both personally and as a community.

Naturally, such a connection is not guaranteed to produce results. But it's hard to find the right people to work with: Why not try this route? And although you can cold-contact someone you've seen online, you don't know who's interested in what you have to offer, so I think more effort is needed to bootstrap such networking.

I'd like to gauge interest. (Alexandros has volunteered to help.) If you might be interested in this sort of networking, please fill out this short Google Form [Edit: Survey closed as of April 15]. I'll post an update about what sort of response we get.

Privacy: Although the main purpose of this form is to gauge interest, and other details may be needed to form good connections,  the info might be enough to get some contacts going. So, we might use this information to personally connect people. We won't share the info or build any online group with it. If we get a lot of interest we may later create some sort of online mechanism, but we’ll be sure to get your permission before adding you.

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Edit April 6: We're still seeing that people are  filling out the form, so we'll wait a week or two, and report on results.

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Edit April 15: See a summary of the results below

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There were 51 total responses. The 2013 LessWrong survey got 1636 responses, a lot more. But the number here is non-negligible, considering I said we were just gauging interest in this preliminary post.

Most respondents are in STEM fields (software, math, chemistry, etc., including two in economics). Five are non-STEM (carpentry, psych, etc.).

There is a mix of students (14 respondents), professionals (most respondents), and about two or three executives or company owners.

Below are the types of networking people are interested in. The number of employees/employers are reasonably matched. The near-equality between those seeking investment opportunities and investments is surprising. The "Other" results included "Mentees" and general networking.

42        Job offers
13        Employees
21        Cofounders
36        Mentors
12        Investors
13        Investment opportunities
9        Other

I don't know where we'll take this from here, but let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

I would suggest perhaps contacting each person who contacted you via email or PM to ask whether they would like to opt into a private mailing list? I would definitely opt into such a mailing list. There's a Less Wrong Parents mailing list, why not a Less Wrong Networking mailing list?

There is a LW parents mailing list? How do I get in?

EDIT: I guess I found it: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/less-wrong-parents

It's hard to get momentum in any mailing list: It requires a good number of active participants. This is especially true in a group for networking, where connections scale as O(n^2). Even if the list were active, it would require all participants to monitor it for the rare occasions when they see a message that is relevant to them.

Here's an idea: People could post on their LW profiles that they are willing to be contacted using the LW messaging system. They will state their readiness to be a mentor, or their willingness to get job offers, etc.

If these could be aggregated in a single page, e.g., on the wiki -- preferably automatically -- it would make things even easier.

This requires effort on each potential participant with questionable results esp. without an aggregation mechanism.

The key point seems to be the get as many people as possible into one small spot to reach a critical mass of potential connections. Then everybody could be confident to get any opportunities if there are any at all.

Thus I propose one central virtual networking meetup e.g. a large groupchat at a scheduled time in a chatroom with a fixed number of associated tinychats (e.g. one for each topics). Then announce the time and chatroom as loud as possible on LW and with enough time to book this in the calendar.

My original reasoning behind suggesting a mailing list was that it would remove the bottleneck of time-pressure which would be associated with a single massive group chat event. For example, the prior probability that I could make it to an arbitrarily scheduled group chat is around 2%, but I could respond to email at my leisure. The email could simply be step 1 of a process that would evolve into something else. Right now, JoshuaFox has basically the most useful piece of information to come out of this, which is a list of email addresses of Less Wrong users with interest in business networking ... I am merely trying to find a way for that list to be made available in a way that all the participants find agreeable.

Two outcomes are the idea of updating your user page and a new Google Group.

Also, the idea of connecting on LinkedIn to other LW'ers.

Great idea, thanks for taking the initiative to do this.

Nothing personal but I predict that nothing will really come out of this (80%).

  1. Lesswrongers already do this sort of thing on their own (so the low-hanging fruit is probably mostly taken) 2. You seem are underestimating what it takes to connect people well enough for them to actually do something.

Yes, I thought that there was a good chance of that, which is why I approached this so cautiously. People in good technical jobs -- a good fraction of LWers -- rarely care about networking.

And as to (2), that is why I said that at this stage, any connections would be done personally, not throough some sort of online mechanism.

As to (1), I think that LWers who know each other face-to-face connect to each other the way any other friends/acquaintances do, but I suspect that online community members, even ones with a strong online reputation, rarely reach out to each other.

(Still, a few people have in the past contacted me and I contacted a few, in each case without prior direct contact, so it does happen occasionally.)

See also the caveats in my post.

That said, I think that if carefully designed, certain business contacts among LWers who do not know each other F2F could be valuable to everyone involved.

I am interested in this, and in fact contacted a company called Switchboard, which set up a site for exactly this purpose for my college, and has begun spreading to other communities, about setting up one for LW folks. That may or may not happen, as they have an inscrutable calculation for whether to charge or not for the service (I believe it depends mainly on size, but it's opaque).

Thanks, after we see how many people are interested, it could be a good idea to use a web service for the purpose.

Happy collision - I just thought about more or less the same yesterday when planning my visit to the European Community Weekend in Berlin. I wondered about networking possibilities and whether recruiters shouldn't flock to such events. But maybe LW is not exactly the kind of target group. Or is it?

In any case I just planned to write a post to ask whether there are any efforts for networking and if these are wanted/encouraged. Maybe you can add an LW poll to your post?

Having the writeup on facebook about who everyone is also gives you the opportunity to specifically approach the people with whom you want to network. Any information that's signals what networking opportunities are important for you should simply go into your introduction on the facebook group for the weekend.

As far as I know the Community Weekend has a lot of unsheduled time to speak to each other that you can use for networking if you want to do so.

I was thinking that the Google Form I made is a type of poll. What would the LW poll include?

Your form gives you high density information that partly isn't suitable for public viewing. Also it has a higher barrier of entry.

A poll could just ask:

  • Do you think explicit business networking for LWers is a good idea in general . (Maybe a range of values)

  • Do you want to be asked for business contacts?

  • Do you have business contacts/jobs/projects to offer?

  • Would you mind recruiters on LW (e.g. an recruiter thread) or on (larger) LW meetups?

ADDED: See http://lesswrong.com/lw/ekw/less_wrong_polls_in_comments/ for polls.

OK, thanks. I made almost all fields optional to make it easy. Also, perhaps the 3 minutes required for the form is a better sign of support for the idea than a quick poll selection.

As to the last two items in your list -- yes, these are excellent directions to explore if we sense that there is enough interest. Let's see what the results of the survey are.

I'd be interested in something like this. I am still a student but starting early can't hurt, right?

Sure, just go ahead and fill out the form.

Another idea is to freely add other LW-ers on LinkedIn, even if you do not know them well. (You may have to dig up their email first.)

Although this will not produce any results directly, it's a good way to get them in your Rolodex, if I may use an outdated metaphor. In the future, you can contact them, with the feeling that there is some connection between you that allows you to overcome any shyness.

You can add anyone by email at the menu Connections->Add Connections->Any Email->Add by individual Email.

LinkedIn once asked that you know people well before adding then, but they loosened that requirements, and in any case, promiscuously accepting all requests is a quite common strategy for power users.

Here's the best thought I can come up with on how to do networking: Don't be shy to directly contact anyone.

You can usually dig up an email address.

When I have written politicians or other apparently busy people who don't care about me, I have gotten direct personal replies a good proportion of the time.

People don't mind, and aren't bothered by, sensible requests, even if it's not relevant to them at that moment. In fact, it's a nice little status boost to be contacted with a reasonable query.

Having a common interest like LW makes it even easier.

I'd be interested in something like this, but I rather suspect I won't be any use until fall 2014 at the earliest. (I also have, like, no money at present.)

[-][anonymous]6y -1

Going to the classiest bar in your city (e.g. Vue De Monde's bar in Melbourne) and networking with drunk millionaires is another effective for rationalist networkers.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

Can you expand on this, and the evidence that it is effective if you yourself are not already a drunk millionaire?

That is to say, an awful lot of the right kind of signalling is likely to be needed for effective networking in such environments. And it may not be a trivial exercise to identify the "classiest bar" that might serve such purposes.