Rafe Furst: Accelerating Possibilities

The biggest impediment to people’s success is that they oftentimes forget that the external signs of success–the external validation–has nothing to do with you as a person.

Rafe Furst has started businesses, studied cancer, and earned degrees in Computer Science and Symbolic Systems. We started off by talking about our shared past–professional poker.

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Poker is really a zero sum game. For me to win, somebody else has to lose. What we see is, the market for poker has become very efficient. You don’t have to spend thirty years of your life on the road risking life and limb. In the course of a year, you can play the same number of hands online and learn to become a world-class player.”

“It’s more like a video game. The kind of skills you need are more geared towards young video game players. It’s become more quantitative. In a similar way, you can look at what happened in Wall Street to mutual funds when eTrade and Schwab came in.”

“Over time, when you have a zero sum game and open up the market, it becomes more efficient. The edge that I used to have [in poker] is gone. A lot of my friends–they can’t compete anymore.”

But can anyone compete? Poker has become an increasingly fluctuative, painful career for most players due to the hypercompetition.

“There will always be some great games…to get into the juicy games, you have to be likable. There is a unicorn game effect.”

Why aren’t there more new games? Why are we still playing with 52 card boring decks?

“With new games, the edge can be bigger as people are figuring out the rules.  It’s hard to be a world-class expert in every single game. There’s always an evolution and invention of new games. This leaves an opportunity for people who are really good thinkers.”


“Humans have a risk aversion bias. We would rather not lose $100 than take a coin flip for $200. Enough people have to be comfortable enough with a risk to play it together.”

Are there situations in poker that cannot be thoroughly solved? Does a player have to make mistakes sometimes?

“You can’t fully solve some problems analytically. You have to take a probabilistic or heuristic approach. Over time you get more confidence in your strategy.”

“In Artificial Intelligence, there are a range of techniques that are probabilistic. Bayesian reasoning, for example. At the end of the day, you have a to do as good a job as you can at making a probabilistic conclusion.”

Crowdfunder is Rafe’s fourth company.

“We’ve been operating Crowdfunder to bring investment funding to everyday citizens. This is not for idea stage–it is for actual companies. On Crowdfunder you can offer people investment opportunity and tell them why its a good opportunity.”

“Neil Young had a vision for bringing back high-definition audio. He created this product called Pono, a high-definition digital music player. He launched it on Kickstarter and validated the marketplace. Several months later, they were ready to raise investment. In a matter of several days they had millions of dollars of investment interest.”

Rafe concluded by offering a broadly applicable piece of wisdom.

“The biggest impediment to people’s success is that they oftentimes forget that the external signs of success–the external validation–has nothing to do with you as a person. You can remind yourself, when things are not going well, to not beat yourself up.”

“I’ve had many ups and many downs. I’ve learned it the hard way. When you’ve had big setbacks and big failures, it’s hard not to take that personally. But I come back to–there’s always folks that know you best, who love you and support you.”