Chamath Palihapitiya

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Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya Portrait.jpg
Palihapitiya in 2018
Born (1976-09-03) September 3, 1976 (age 44)
  • Canada
  • United States
EducationUniversity of Waterloo
Years active2007–present
Known forSoftware development, venture capital

Chamath Palihapitiya is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian-American[1] venture capitalist and the founder and CEO of Social Capital. Palihapitiya was an early senior executive at Facebook, joining the company in 2007 and leaving in 2011. He is a minority stakeholder and board member of the Golden State Warriors.[2]

Life and career[edit]

Early life and education[edit]

Palihapitiya was born in Sri Lanka and, at the age of six, moved with his family to Canada as refugees. Throughout his childhood, Palihapitiya's father was constantly unemployed and his mother was a housekeeper, and later a nurses' aide. Living on welfare, Palihapitiya recalls sleeping on a mattress in the living room.[3] He attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute while working part time to assist his family, and graduated at the age of 17.[4][5]

After graduating from the University of Waterloo in 1999 with a degree in electrical engineering, Palihapitiya worked for a year as a derivatives trader at the investment bank BMO Nesbitt Burns. He moved to California to be with his then-girlfriend, Brigette Lau, and they later married.[6] In 2018 Palihapitiya filed for divorce.[7]

Career as a software engineer and manager[edit]

Palihapitiya joined AOL, becoming the company's youngest vice president ever, heading its instant messaging division in 2004.[6][8] In 2005, he left AOL and joined Mayfield Fund; a few months later he left that job and joined Facebook, which was then a little more than a year old.[6] Palihapitiya's work at Facebook involved trying to increase its userbase.[9] His net worth by the age of 34 was $1 billion. [10]

Career as a venture capitalist[edit]

Palihapitiya made investments on the side while still employed at Facebook, including investments in Palantir, Pure Storage (NYSE:PSTG), Playdom (bought by The Walt Disney Company), and Bumptop (bought by Google).

In 2011, he left Facebook[11] and started his own fund, The Social+Capital Partnership, with his wife. The firm changed its name to Social Capital in 2015.[6][12][13] It has stood out strategically, with a focus on technology in healthcare, financial services, and education, as well as on software as a service. Social Capital started investing in health and education when those fields were largely neglected by other venture capitalists.[14]

The fund was praised by Peter Thiel, who invested in it and expressed enthusiasm for Palihapitiya's approach.[9]

Through the fund, Palihapitiya has invested in a number of companies, including Glooko, Inc, Yammer, SecondMarket, Slack, Box, and Premise.[14][15][16] In 2017 he became a member of the board of directors of Slack.[17]

In March 2013, Palihapitiya confirmed that his venture fund had raised more than $275 million in its second round of fundraising.[18][19] As of 2015, the fund had more than $1.1 billion in total assets.[20]

In October 2015, Palihapitiya and Social Capital worked with the technology industry publication The Information to publish a report on diversity in venture capital. The study found that 92% of senior investment teams at top-tier venture firms are male and 78% are white.[21] Based on the report, Palihapitiya wrote an op-ed calling for a "wake-up call" among venture capital firms that would "recapture our potential and open doors" in order to "surround ourselves with a more diverse set of experiences and…prioritize a diverse set of things."[22]

In 2019 Palihapitiya stepped down as a member of the board of directors of Slack.[17]

In 2020, Palihapitiya helped take Virgin Galactic public.[23]

Career as a poker player[edit]

Palihapitiya has three World Series of Poker (WSOP) and two World Poker Tour (WPT) cashes for a total of $175,801.[24] In 2011, he finished 101st out of 6,865 entries in the World Series of Poker's Main Event.[25]


Immigration reform and policy advocacy[edit]

Palihapitiya was listed as one of the "Founders" of the lobbying group[26] The group launched on April 11, 2013, and its goals include immigration reform, improving education, and enabling technological innovation, all in a United States context.[27][28] An article in The New Republic stated that Palihapitiya received a weekly report about and also quoted him as saying, in response to controversy around the political lobbying strategy: "The folks that are actually people that run that day to day are sophisticated and understand the nuances of how to affect it... It's a really gnarly, gnarly thing having to deal with Washington. And to be honest with you, my perspective was, it's a really good investment because it's a good way to pay it forward, and I'm really glad there are other people other than me who are dealing with it who have the patience and resolve to figure it out."[29]

San Francisco inequality and housing controversy[edit]

At Bloomberg's Next Big Thing conference in Sausalito, California, Palihapitiya made remarks critical of San Francisco's then mayor, Ed Lee, and proposed that the city provide subsidized housing to low-income residents funded by an equity tax on startups, with the tax-and-subsidy schemes potentially restricted to particular zones of the city. This led to a heated debate between Palihapitiya and super angel Ron Conway. Conway, a supporter of Lee, defended the city's policies, argued that things would get better for all residents, and noted that Palihapitiya lives in Palo Alto rather than in the city.[30][31] In a later clarification to TechCrunch, Palihapitiya outlined his vision in more detail and described how his views on inequality and social mobility were shaped by his experience growing up with relatively poor immigrant parents in Canada.[32]

Criticism of Facebook and social media[edit]

In November 2017, Palihapitiya said that, for ethical reasons, he regretted helping Facebook to become the largest social media platform.[33] He said, "[t]he short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no cooperation, decreased sex drive in users, misinformation, mistruth and it's not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. Facebooks algorithms are a threat to democracy. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other."[34] After criticism from Facebook for his remarks, Palihapitiya said, "I genuinely believe that Facebook is a force for good in the world, so I'd like to expand on my comments...My comments were meant to start an important conversation, not to criticize one company—particularly one I love. In 2017, many of us have grappled with the unintended consequences of the products we've built. Social media platforms in particular have been used and abused in ways that we, their architects, never imagined. Much blame has been thrown and guilt felt, but the important thing is what we as an industry do now to ensure that our impact on society continues to be a positive one."[35][36] He reiterated this criticism in a podcast with Kara Swisher.[37]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Roose, Kevin (October 16, 2013) "The Government Shutdown Has Revealed Silicon Valley’s Dysfunction Fetish." New York Magazine. (Retrieved May 14, 2014.)
  3. ^ Fortt, Jon (October 15, 2017). "Social Capital's Chamath Palihapitiya explains the beauty of a calculated risk". CNBC. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  4. ^ Bryant, Adam (October 20, 2017). "Chamath Palihapitiya of Social Capital on the Paradox of Ego and Humility". The New York. Retrieved May 22, 2017.
  5. ^ "Lisgar Collegiate graduates to celebrate venerable building". Heritage Ottawa. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c d Rusli, Evelyn (October 6, 2011). "In Flip-Flops and Jeans, An Unconventional Venture Capitalist". The New York Times. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  7. ^ "San Mateo County Court Proceedings". February 20, 2019. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  8. ^ Stone, Madeline (June 1, 2015). "Meet Facebook's most successful alum, a borderline billionaire who owns the Golden State Warriors". Business Insider. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  9. ^ a b Bennett, Drake (July 26, 2012). "Social+Capital, the League of Extraordinarily Rich Gentlemen". Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ "The Social+Capital Partnership". Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  13. ^ Arrington, Michael (June 3, 2011). "Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya Forms New Venture Fund, The Social+Capital Partnership". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  14. ^ a b Rao, Leena (September 27, 2011). "Former Facebook VP Chamath Palihapitiya Leads $17M Round In Enterprise Social Networking Platform Yammer". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  15. ^ Billings, Mike (March 17, 2015). "The Daily Startup: Paper Drawing App Aims for Enterprise With New Funding". Wall Street Journal Blog. Retrieved April 22, 2015.
  16. ^ Marshall, Matt (November 2, 2011). "SecondMarket raises $15M at $200M valuation from former Facebook exec". VentureBeat. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  17. ^ a b "Slack Appoints Former Flex CEO Mike McNamara to Its Board of Directors".
  18. ^ Ha, Anthony (March 4, 2013). "Chamath Palihapitiya Confirms That His Social+Capital Partnership Has Raised A New Fund Of $275M+". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  19. ^ Grant, Rebecca (March 4, 2013). "Making money and a difference, Social+Capital Partnership confirms new fund". VentureBeat. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  20. ^ Rao, Leena (March 23, 2016). "Is Social+Capital's Chamath Palihapitiya the future of venture capital?". FORTUNE. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  21. ^ Schulz, Peter (March 23, 2016). "Introducing The Information's Future List". The Information. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  22. ^ Palihapitiya, Chamath (March 23, 2016). "IBros Funding Bros: What's Wrong with Venture Capital". The Information. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  23. ^ "Virgin Galactic dealmaker defies IPO lull with 720 million blank check deal".
  24. ^ "Chamath Palihapitiya: Cash Out". Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  25. ^ "42nd World Series of Poker (WSOP) 2011 United States". Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  26. ^ "Our Supporters". Archived from the original on April 13, 2013. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  27. ^ "About Us". Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  28. ^ Zuckerberg, Mark (April 11, 2013). "Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg: Immigration and the knowledge economy". Washington Post. Retrieved April 17, 2013.
  29. ^ DePillis, Lydia (May 6, 2013). "Mark Zuckerberg's Cynical, Necessary Washington Strategy". The New Republic. Retrieved May 7, 2013.
  30. ^ Oremus, Will (June 9, 2014). "Tech Conference Turns Into Shouting Match About Inequality in Silicon Valley". Slate. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  31. ^ Garofoli, Joe (June 9, 2014). "Ron Conway mocks fellow venture capitalist, uses phrase 'Palo Alto resident' as insult". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  32. ^ Buhr, Sarah (June 9, 2014). "Ron Conway And Chamath Palihapitiya Debate SF Housing And Google At Next Big Thing Conference". TechCrunch. Retrieved July 9, 2015.
  33. ^ "Former Facebook exec feels 'tremendous guilt' for what he helped make".
  34. ^ Wong, Julia Carrie (December 12, 2017). "Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart". The Guardian. Retrieved December 12, 2017.
  35. ^ Gilbert, Ben (December 15, 2017). "Former Facebook exec: I take back what I said about Facebook 'destroying how society works' — kinda". Business Insider.
  36. ^ Palihapitiya, Chamath (December 15, 2017). (Untitled). Facebook. (Account confirmed by Business Insider article.)
  37. ^ "Chamath -Recode Decode podcast".

External links[edit]