Update: I decided to discontinue this group. Not enough people with concrete enough plans to start a startup joined, and there was a general lack of activity.

I have a friend who is a top poker player. In asking him about his experiences and how he got so good, one thing that stood out to me was community. He had a group of friends who were also top players. That group would text each other all the time about poker. Hands, theory, tilt, game selection, whatever. He said that having this group was absolutely huge.

Another thing that comes to my mind is Ray Dalio. I recall him talking a lot about how important it is to surround yourself with smart people who can "stress test" your ideas.

It's not just Dalio and my friend of course. I've heard this advice other times as well.

Personally, I am on a journey to start a successful startup. It is obvious to me that an important first step in this journey is to surround myself with people who I could bounce ideas around with. Preferably people who are smart, knowledgeable about startups, and current or prospective founders. To that end, I am starting a Slack group for rationalists who would like to participate in this. If you're interested, sign up via the link below:


Tabooing "startup"

Different people mean different things when they use the term "startup". Sometimes they are only referring to companies that have the potential and desire to be huge. Worth at least $100M, let's say.

I'm not referring to that here. What I'm referring to also includes businesses that are just intended to bring in some side income.

The term "startup" can be further tabooed of course, but I think that the above clarification is probably sufficient for now.

Who exactly is this for?


If you are either a founder of small startup or a prospective founder, you are a perfect fit.

If you plan to and are confident that you will start a startup at some point down the road, you are a pretty good fit. If you are a founder of a medium-or-larger-sized startup, you are also a pretty good fit.

If you are considering starting a startup one day, you are a decent fit. If you are an early employee at a startup and/or are just someone who is interested in startups, I guess those are also decent fits.

Ideally, everyone in the group would be founders. I think there is value in a community where everyone is working towards the same goal and helping each other do so. I suspect that as you move further from that, there is some amount of "dilution" that happens. But at the same time, it seems totally plausible that people who aren't perfect fits would still be net positives, with the value they do contribute outweighing any sort of "dilution" they introduce. That's why I think it makes sense to be flexible about who is welcomed.


What if you know someone who doesn't identify as a rationalist and who might be interested in this? Should non-rationalists be allowed into this group?

On the one hand, it is totally possible for such a person to be a great fit, in which case they should be allowed in. On the other, Well-Kept Gardens Die By Pacifism. The virtues, culture and shared epistemic beliefs we have on LessWrong are all wonderful and valuable things. I would for them to be a part of the Rationalist Startup Founders group as well.

Here's what seems like a good compromise to me: only one degree of separation. If Alice is a rationalist who thinks that Bob would be a good fit, Bob is allowed in. But Bob doesn't then get to grant Carol access. I'm not sure if that is the right cut-off point, but if Bob and invite Carol and Carol can invite Dave and Dave can invite Erin and Erin can invite Frank... at some point the garden dies. And so, you do need a cutoff somewhere, I think.

What exactly will be discussed?

Whatever comes up. Imagine you had a group text with a bunch of smart startup founder friends. Whatever you would discuss with them is on topic for the Slack group.

Alpha phase

If this were a product, it would certainly not be final. It wouldn't even be in a beta phase. It'd be in an alpha phase.

In other words, it is an early version and there will be a lot of user research, testing, and iteration in order to improve.

My commitment

I'm not actually sure that this community is the best way to achieve my goal. It might end up being a failure for various reasons.

The most likely reason that comes to my mind is a lack of domain-specific knowledge. Similar communities currently exist that seem to have people with pretty significant experience and knowledge in them. Mega Maker and Growth Mentor are two that stand out to me as being promising. Maybe one of those is a better option.

Still, I think Rationalist Startup Founders is promising enough to be worth trying first. So then, I commit to spending at least three months on it. Not only participating, but also talking to users, iterating, and doing my best to make it an awesome community. But after those three months I do plan to re-evaluate and decide if it is worth continuing.


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