Why I started Cadent

Hi there! Thanks for visiting, and for being curious enough to find this post.

I’m James Gauci, and I’m the founder and Managing Director of Cadent. I'm not completely sold on that title, by the way, it was just the least bad option. If you’ve got a better one for me, let me know.

I asked a very good friend to critique this site before it was released.

The dialogue is great! Pitches well. I would maybe add some personal "James Gauci why I stared [sic] this" somewhere. Personal touch is powerful in digital. I looked on my phone and there are some design issues, but I'm sure it's a WIP. Let me know if you want input on any design language. Happy to help.
Steffan doesn't like the look and feel.

"I'm sure it's a WIP."


Design feedback notwithstanding, here's "some personal James Gauci why I started this". I'll take you through the abbreviated journey that led me to start Cadent which hopefully demonstrates some of the method behind the madness.

Apologies in advance for any ten-dollar words (bad habit) and if you get bored, blame Steffan.

Cadent was founded in November of 2021. My wife was two-months pregnant with our first child, we’d just bought our first house at the peak of the market after many years of saving, and the world was staring down the biggest recession of a generation. The perfect time to start a business, right?

But I was excited, and satisfied. There truly never is a perfect time, which has the paradoxical effect of making any time pretty much perfect. And if I could get it right in these conditions, I'd know it was a worthy competitor.

Ever since I finished school more than 15 years prior, I’d been dreaming of, dabbling with, and testing startup ideas and passion projects. Each of them was slanted towards doing some level of social good, or attempting to prove some kind of point about the way things ‘should’ be done.

The problem with all of these projects was singular - they weren’t sound businesses. Despite my best intentions and considerable efforts, the way I wanted them to work was ultimately fanciful, and every cashflow projection involved a long grind for little or no reward.

In that respect, I’ve never truly been at peace with the way the world works. Especially the way that, as a system, society tends to reserve its greatest economic rewards for those who serve themselves at the expense of others. Of course, this isn’t news to us - the latest spate of global crypto Ponzi juggernauts going ‘bankrupt’ has as much in common with the dot-com bubble of the late '90s as it does with Pirelli’s miracle elixir. And it doesn’t sit well with me.

So when I encountered 80,000 Hours back in the mid-to-late 2010s it was a minor revelation. (My email archive says it was 2018 but I’m convinced it was earlier.) This Oxford university project acknowledged that, for the most part, our global economic model doesn’t really prioritise making the world a better place by default. It offered a simple framing of how best to work with the system to make a difference in the world: either dedicate your career - your ‘80,000 Hours’ - to directly working on the world’s most pressing issues, or maximise your earnings to give a considerable portion to the charitable organisations that do.

Earning to give. The simplicity of it was irresistible. It’s the kind of neat paradigm that hangs out in the back of your mind regardless of whether it was invited.

For me, it was uninvited, but welcome.

Fast forward a few years and the world was gripped by COVID-19. While successfully dodging infection in the confines of our rented unit, three cultural artefacts entered my sphere in quick succession, each having the effect of amplifying the other: The Social Dilemma, The Great Hack, and The Precipice.

The first two, a couple of somewhat popcorn-y documentaries I’d streamed, added further colour and data to my existing belief that social media ad revenue algorithms had been riding roughshod over humanity for far too long, deepening tribal divides, increasing suicide rates, and facilitating the purchase of elections.

But it was Toby Ord’s book, The Precipice, that brought it all into stark focus for me. It was the first time that long-term risks to humanity (misaligned AIs like those developed by Facebook among them) had been explained to me in such an informed, considered and optimistic way.

With the rule of three in full effect, I was compelled to take action.

I learned that Ord was closely associated with 80,000 Hours, and had founded Giving What We Can, a community of people who pledge to donate at least 10% of their income to addressing the world’s most pressing issues. Shortly after reading the book, as if to make sure I was listening, Mr Ord popped up in my world again, this time talking about the Effective Altruism movement on Sam Harris’s podcast, Making Sense.

After some soul searching (which is the name I give ‘exploring what it would take to become an AI ethics practitioner’ in normal conversation) I decided that ‘earning to give’ was the route for me, capitalising on things I already seem to do well (business, technology, and delivery) and channelling the earned resources to worthy philanthropies.

With a couple of great purpose-led organisations ready to give me a shot, Cadent was born.

Of course, I wasn't satisfied with just earning to give. I wanted Cadent to be fully values aligned from day one.

Shortly after taking the Giving What We Can Pledge in July 2022, we kicked off our B Corporation Impact Assessment, our ISO 27001 and SOC 2 compliance journey, and the search for an advisory board. We also committed to delivering inclusive and accessible products, building a diverse team, and providing remote work opportunities to people from economically disadvantaged countries and backgrounds.

It gives me some peace that with these principles in place, no matter which way we tread, we’ll be attracting the right people, delivering great work, and making a better world for humanity not just today, but for the future generations who don’t yet have a voice.

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