Retail investors love it. Venture capitalists envy him. But just about everyone who writes checks these days pays attention to Chamath Palihapitiya, whose star has been on the rise since starting his career in an early online media player called Winamp which was acquired by AOL.
Indeed, over the past 20 years, Palihapitiya – whose family moved from Sri Lanka to Canada as refugees when he was five – has changed the status quo in almost everything he touches. At AOL, he became the youngest vice president of the company and struck a small deal with Facebook whose “biggest outcome of the deal was the connection that Palihapitiya formed with Mark Zuckerberg,” as the writer Steven Levy reported last year. (Palihapitiya later said that one of his biggest lessons from AOL was that “most people in most companies are really crap.”)
Hired on Facebook in 2007, his role will prove to be more striking. Although Palihapitiya reportedly initially floundered – even proposing after a year that Zuckerberg might have to fire him, according to Levy – he focused on how to make Facebook and himself more valuable by creating a “growth team.” »Data-driven company that relentlessly focused on improving and increasing the engagement of monthly active users.
Among its biggest successes: Facebook’s “People You Know” feature, which was heavily inspired by a similar feature in LinkedIn after the Palihapitiya team identified that new users needed to discover seven friends and quickly.
This period of Palihapitiya’s life is said to have far-reaching ripple effects. For one thing, like many people who worked at Facebook before it went public in 2012, he made a fortune from his Facebook shares, so at around the same time he was leaving in 2011, he acquired a participation in the Golden State Warriors. and founded his own venture capital firm, Social Capital.
Being a “former Facebook executive” also made Palihapitiya more famous, especially when he began to publicly express his regret for his role at the company, which he began to see as corrosive.
Indeed, in 2017, he told an audience at Stanford Graduate School of Business what many had already started to fear about Facebook: “I think we’ve created tools that tear the social fabric of how the business works. society, ”he said.
More drama, more money, and more fame followed. In recent years, Social Capital has laid off most of its employees – Palihapitiya now describes himself as a solo generalist. He has become a regular guest on CNBC.
It has become closely associated with Special Purpose Acquisition Vehicles, or SPACs, due to both its early and bullish adoption of them. The first SPAC he organized merged with Virgin Galactic Holdings, allowing the space tourism company to begin trading publicly in October 2019. It worked so well that it sparked a massive boom in PSPC business, with Palihapitiya – whose many previous bets include Yammer, Palantir and Box – forming or investing in more than a dozen SAVS since, including one that opened the door open and another that took Clover Health public. (Earlier this year, The New Yorker dedicated valuable real estate to Palihapitiya in a profile titled “The Pied Piper of SPACs.”)
One question is whether Palihapitiya is moving forward now. PSPC activity has cooled, with enthusiasm around vehicles dampened by class action lawsuits (including against Clover Health) and widespread expectation that the Securities & Exchange Commission is about to regulate them more tightly.
In March, Palihapitiya also reportedly turned his gaze to environmental investing, including selling his entire personal stake in Virgin Galactic for more than $ 200 million – a move he said was designed to help finance “a big investment that I am. do to fight climate change.
(He also donated $ 7 million late last month to an organization that installs hydroelectric panels that provide drinking water to homes in California counties of Fresno, Monterey, Kern and Tulare, which has become “Zero point” for the climate crisis, observes Fast Company.)
What happened to this big investment he intended to make? Did it pass SPAC? And what else does the inimitable Palihapitiya have cooking? We’re so excited to say that we’ll have the opportunity to talk with him about all of these things and much more in about a week at TechCrunch Disrupt, our signature annual event, which is completely virtual this year. While 25 minutes will surely turn out to be too short, we’ll cover as much ground with him as possible in a conversation that if you know Palihapitiya you know you definitely don’t want to miss.
Best of all, Palihapitiya joins a host of incredible speakers at Disrupt, including Canva CEO Melanie Perkins, actor-entrepreneur Ryan Reynolds and US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.
The show is fast approaching. Get your ticket now for under $ 100 just for a few days, and we’ll see you again next week.