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Austin

Cofounder @ Manifold Markets
2552 karmaJoined Jul 2020San Francisco, CA, USA

Bio

Hey there~ I'm Austin, currently building https://manifold.markets. Always happy to meet people; reach out at akrolsmir@gmail.com, or find a time on https://calendly.com/austinchen/manifold !

Comments
164

Thanks, Nathan!

All of the development for the Manifund site has been done by our team (Rachel and me, with contributions from Lily and others). We do sometimes copy over snippets from the Manifold codebase, but haven't ever asked them for dev work.

Depends a bit on what you mean by non-standard funders? Our individual donors come from backgrounds in finance, crypto, ML, and tech; there's a lot of overlap with "person who might give to the LTFF". We would like to broaden our reach to include other kinds of funders, for sure.

  1. (Briefly: we got into this via a loose monetary policy involving lots of printing mana for bonuses and subsidies, in order to encourage engagement. But there's historical precedent for this - eg Paypal famously gave away $10 to every user to get their network effects started)

    I think our monetary situation is actually fine. It's tempting to look at things from a cash balance perspective because it's simple, but that's pretty naive. This post from CommonCog has informed my thinking of these kinds of things:

    "People with limited understanding of business think that business is all about making profits. But those who actually run businesses know that running a business is all about managing cash flows."

    Manifold users don't actually cash out that much, so we shouldn't actually need that much cash on hand. Another point Zvi raised is that very few online sportsbooks maintain enough cash on hand to fully pay out all users -- it just doesn't make business sense to do this, you grow more slowly if you commit to holding extra cash.

    The equity value of Manifold dominates the cash considerations (we last raised at $40m valuation), so from our business perspective we can eventually back assets just by raising more. The point of this pivot is to drive enough interest & mana purchases to get us to a Series A, after all.
  2. Shrug, as above, I don't think we've really historically screwed up; I'm in the weird position of simultaneously trying to talk my cofounders out of this 1000:1 thing and trying to publicly explain our actions at the same time...
  3. Yeah, I agree the short notice is very bad. I think the rationale is that the Google Form for loans below will basically be given to anyone who reasonably applies, so our users shouldn't be that badly affected.
  4. Yeah, I was already pretty unhappy when I first heard the proposal to be 200:1; 1000:1 seemed much worse. Idk, again, I think it's a bad idea.

Yeah - though in practice the charity payouts are transferred once a quarter anyways, so a month or two delay in rolling out payouts wouldn't change the results much.

In any case, definitely think now is a great time as any to do your charity allocations, given our general uncertainty on how all of this will look!

(I'm pretty bullish on sweepstakes payouts actually happening, I think like 80% chance this year. If they don't, then probably something like the charity program would make sense again)

Austin
1mo17
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Thanks for posting this, Henri! I'm happy to answer any questions you might have regarding the changes here, the donation program, the future of Manifold or anything else like that.

Very briefly:

  • The move to 1000:1 is prompted by the fact that we have currently roughly $1.2m of mana issued against $1.5m cash in bank. As we move to sweepstakes, we want to make sure we can fully back this and still have a healthy runway. (fwiw, I think currency rate change is a terrible solution to this and think there's a small chance, 15%?, that we can avoid this)
  • Our donation program has originally funded by a Future Fund grant with $500k, so donations were coming out of that pot. However, I think of mana donations as counterfactual (I took my $100k salary in mana!), with the idea that Manifold itself would back donation flows once the initial 500k has been spent down.
  • I myself have recently left Manifold to focus on Manifund, which we are expanding into an independent grantmaker; but am still close with the Manifold team

Speaker there was me - I think there's like a ~70% chance we decide to end the charity program after this round of payments, tentatively as of May 15 or or end of May.

The primary reason is that the real money cash outs should supersede it, and running the charity program is operationally kind of annoying. The charity program is neither a core focus for Manifold or Manifund, so we might not want to keep it up. Will make a broader announcement if this ends up being the case.

For sure, I think a slightly more comprehensive comparison of grantmakers would include the stats for the number of grants, median check size, and amount of public info for each grant made.

Also, perhaps # of employees, or ratio of grants per employee? Like, OpenPhil is ~120 FTE, Manifund/EA Funds are ~2, this naturally leads to differences in writeup-producing capabilities.

So, as a self-professed mechanism geek,  I feel like the Shapley Value stuff should be my cup of tea, but I must confess I've never wrapped my head around it. I've read Nuno's post and played with the calculator, but still have little intuitive sense of how these things work even with toy examples, and definitely no idea on how they can be applied in real-world settings.

I think delineating impact assignment for shared projects is important, though I generally look to the business world for inspiration on the most battle-tested versions of impact assignment (equity, commissions, advertising fees, etc). Startup/tech company equity & compensation, for example, at least provides a clear answer to "how much does the employer value your work". The answer is suboptimal in many ways (eg my guess is startups by default assign too much equity to the founders), but at least it provides a simple starting point; better to make up numbers and all that.

Thanks for updating your post and for the endorsement! (FWIW, I think the LTFF remains an excellent giving opportunity, especially if you're in less of a position to evaluate specific regrantors or projects.)

Answer by AustinApr 01, 202417
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Manifund is pretty small in comparison to these other grantmakers (we've moved ~$3m to date), but we do try to encourage transparency for all of our grant decisions; see for example here and here.

A lot of our transparency just comes from the fact that we have our applicants post their application in public -- the applications have like 70% of the context that the grantmaker has. This is a pretty cheap win; I think many other grantmakers could do if they just got permission from the grantees. (Obviously, not all applications are suited for public posting, but I would guess ~80%+ of EA apps would be.)

This is awesome! I've been a fan of Timothy's since his Full Stack Economics days, and it's great to see more collaborations between the forecasting world and journalism. AI journalism is an especially pivotal area, and so I'm glad for the additional rigor in the form of Metaculus question operationalizations.

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