Will Lighthaven shut down in 2024 due to lack of funds?

Lighthaven will be considered to have "shut down" if it is no longer controlled by Lightcone or another entity closely affiliated with the Rationalist/EA spaces. If it is sold to a standard commercial entity (e.g. effectively becomes the Rose Garden Inn again), it would be considered to have "shut down". If it is taken over by another funding organization within the Rat/EA space and continues to operate similarly, especially if it has many of the same personnel, it will not be considered to have shut down.

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This hit piece is circulating today: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/article/2024/jun/16/sam-bankman-fried-ftx-eugenics-scientific-racism

What is the status of FTX legally clawing back $5M from CFAR/Lightcone?

Copying my response to almost the same question from over here:

100% of the equity in Lighthaven is owned by a Jaan Tallinn owned company, so it's not really at risk, though the details are a bit messy. I think it's a relevant consideration but not a big one compared to just basic profitability.

bought Ṁ50 NO from 22% to 21%

25% is way too high a probability !

The lighthaven venue is really important to several communities I care about.

You can now donate Mana to them here: https://manifold.markets/charity/lightcone

Or for USD / crypto, see:

Expenses are around 4x revenue on the financials I saw. I was kinda surprised the kitchens were better than peak google when they only had 2 months of cash left. They need to find ways to keep costs down and occupancy high. Normie corporations doing retreats there would help. Or opening the rooms up to booking online through google 2 weeks out whenever there isn’t an event scheduled. Based on comparables in that area they can probably charge $200/night for the average room times 50-something rooms which is $10,000/day times as many days as they’re not running events, ie most days of the year. I was really surprised revenue was as low as $1m/year and not being bookable online through google / hotels.com / Priceline is a big part of the reason why. If their grand strategy is to focus on events they need to hire actual sales people to talk to normie tech corporations. And they’d still need to sell the hotel rooms online whenever there’s not an event. Looks like it’s unprofitable because occupancy is catastrophically low compared to every normal hotel

iiuc they're not licensed for strictly hotel bookings, unfortunately. all accommodation is provided based on event scheduling, I think, and hotels/Priceline/similar aren't an option.

Why can’t they go get the license?

Expenses are around 4x revenue on the financials I saw.

What financials are you talking about? Booked revenue for 2024 is ~$1.55M, against around $2.2M in expenses. This is also directly available in the Manifund application:

which after <1 year of operations is already covering 70% of its costs on ~45% utilization

Separately, we have a hotel license, but running a generic hotel would require a huge number of fixed costs which don't seem worth it. A huge cost center for hotels is liability from the worst 10% of guests which requires you to make very different furniture and layout decisions.

Also, we don't have as many rooms as comparable hotels because we specialized the space as an event space, so revenue from room bookings would be lower per square feet than other spaces.

We do open up the space for room bookings when we don't have events going on, though we currently do so through private links, because you lose all the value proposition of being a good research hub and community space if you just have lots of random people from the streets hang out in the common spaces.

thanks Oliver! I also imagine maintaining the place to welcome people for hotel bookings would be costly when you're not full - having on hand for only a handful of people must be labour and resource intensive for turnover, not to mention the insurance and liability.

Another key issue is that people like to book hotel rooms quite a bit in advance. But a lot of the events that people run here are relatively last minute. If I have a hotel calendar that's available 6 months in advance, I might completely destroy my event revenue (which is much more valuable from both a monetary and societal impact perspective) because I have a single-digit number of rooms booked out during a time when a client wanted to run a $100k weekend event.

I saw an estimate for lightcone infrastructure as a whole on discord which didn’t break out the lighthaven segment. Oops. So it’s not nearly as bad as I thought. Is that 2.2M including the percentage of lightcone staff time that goes into running lighthaven, or any other cross-subsidies between segments? How much do you have to drop prices to fill rooms if public booking opens up only 2 weeks in advance instead of 6 months? Plenty of price-insensitive business travelers book last minute.

In general businesses with high fixed costs relative to variable costs, such as anything in real estate, need to aim for high utilization of the fixed capital. I doubt the rat ecosystem is big enough yet to accomplish that level of utilization with only ingroup bookings. My wife the business consultant suggests just making the price really high for random outsider bookings, while still using the private links with lower prices to subsidize researchers and orgs you like, and this might have the added benefit of getting the rich outsider guests interested in the cause.

Ah, yeah, LessWrong.com and the AI Alignment Forum don't make any revenue, and just run on donations, so the ratio of our expenses to revenue is much more skewed if you include them.

The $2.2M include one full-time staff, but doesn't include things like the fraction of management overhead (and also doesn't include the staff who worked on LessOnline).

Agree on potentially opening up the space for bookings with really high prizes as an additional revenue source. I've been exploring that. Also plausible we could get an economy of short-term normal hotel room bookings going with the right infrastructure and advertisement.

Is Lighthaven current used for non-rat-adjacent event bookings? Is that like 0% of usage currently or higher?

Also, having no idea what I’m talking about, just peeking in (ignorant) from afar, can it be used as a wedding venue?

We have reached out to a few non-rat-adjacent event companies but haven't had any bites yet. It's a relatively unique place and my sense from talking to people in the event space is that it will take a long time for us to build relationships with people farther out that can overcome the degree to which going this place requires adapting people's events more than e.g. just renting the Marriott, but that it's ultimately a promising way to raise additional revenue.

So currently it's pretty close to 0%, though I am hoping to increase that.

And yes, it can be used as a wedding venue. Indeed Alex Mennen and Isabel Juniewicz got married here like ~2 months ago and had a great time.

Makes sense! Thanks for the details


Manipulate this market by donating to Lightcone! https://manifold.markets/charity/lightcone

bought Ṁ50 NO

How can we help them? This venue was the best

They're fundraising right now. You can donate here: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/LcpQQvcpWfPXvW7R9/supporting-lesswrong-with-donations
Or you can reach out to @OliverHabryka for more information or to discuss larger donations.

Indeed, reach out if you want to support us!

We also just added Lightcone as a charity on Manifold! https://manifold.markets/charity/lightcone

Thank you!

bought Ṁ50 NO

It seems to have some competitive advantage other places don't have. It can make a good business case. I'm not sure why it's not leased for profit to fund its non-profit activities. Is it marketing or is it the actual strategy planning that's the problem?

bought Ṁ100 NO

@RanaG I think it's marketing. In recent months they've started putting out the word that they're looking for private sector bookings. AFAIK the push for that is still spinning up.