Chamath Palihapitiya

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Chamath Palihapitiya
Chamath Palihapitiya 2016 Dialog (cropped).jpg
Palihapitiya in 2016
Born (1976-09-03) 3 September 1976 (age 45)
Citizenship
  • Canada
  • United States
EducationLisgar Collegiate Institute
Alma materUniversity of Waterloo
Occupation
  • Entrepreneur
  • businessman
  • venture capitalist
Years active2007–present
Spouse(s)
Brigette Lau
(div. 2018)
Partner(s)Nathalie Dompe
Children4

Chamath Palihapitiya (born 3 September 1976)[1] is a Canadian venture capitalist, engineer, SPAC sponsor and the founder and CEO of Social Capital.

Palihapitiya was an early senior executive at Facebook, working at the company from 2007 to 2011. Following his departure from Facebook, Palihapitiya started his own fund, The Social+Capital Partnership, through which he invested in several companies, including Yammer and Slack. The Social+Capital Partnership changed its name to Social Capital in 2015. He is a co-host of the podcast All In.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Palihapitiya was born on 3 September 1976 in Sri Lanka to Sri Lankan parents.[3] Palihapitiya and his family moved to Canada at the age of five as refugees. Palihapitiya's father was frequently unemployed, and his mother did low-paying housekeeping jobs. Palihapitiya worked at a Burger King to make ends meet.[4][5] He attended Lisgar Collegiate Institute and graduated at the age of 17.[6][7]

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 then changed jobs to one under Winamp and moved to California.[8]

Career[edit]

2007–2011: Software engineer and manager at Facebook[edit]

Palihapitiya joined AOL, becoming the company's youngest vice president ever, heading its instant messaging division in 2004.[9][10] 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.[9] Palihapitiya's work at Facebook involved trying to increase its userbase.[11]

Steven Levy wrote in Facebook: The Inside Story that Palihapitiya was regarded as a "bully" at Facebook,[12] and that he had made many of his subordinates cry regularly.[13]

2011–present: Venture capitalist[edit]

During his time at Facebook, Palihapitiya invested in several startups through Embarcadero Ventures, a venture capital fund.[14] In 2010, Palihapitiya helped to buy the Golden State Warriors for $450 million;[15] he remains a minority stakeholder and board member of the team.[16]

In 2011, he left Facebook[14] and started his own fund, The Social+Capital Partnership, with his then-wife. The firm changed its name to Social Capital in 2015.[9][17] Through the fund, Palihapitiya invested in a number of companies, including Glooko, Inc, Yammer, SecondMarket, Slack, and Box.[18][19][20] As of 2015, the fund had more than $1.1 billion in total assets most of which came from external investors (i.e. LPs).[21][22][23]

Palihapitiya in 2007 speaking at a Facebook event.

In 2018, there was a massive decrease in Social Capital fund's operations and a significant exodus of top management and co-founders.[24][25][26] Axios reported that Palihapitiya was spending a significant amount of time with his new girlfriend in Italy and rarely showed up to the office or answered emails from employees.[27] The firm returned investor capital and converted into a family office although continued to manage some external capital on a no-fee basis.[28]

In 2019, an Ontario judge ordered Palihapitiya and two former partners to pay $15.69 million to plaintiffs in an Ontario Superior Court ruling that found the three had conspired to acquire mobile software development shop Xtreme Labs at a discounted price, in addition to breached contractual obligations with EVP.[29][30] In December 2019 Palihapitiya stepped down as a member of the board of directors of Slack.[31]

2017-present: SPAC frenzy[edit]

Palihapitiya previously said that he reserved symbols all the way from IPOA through IPOZ.[32]

SPAC
SPAC Company[33] Current Ticker Merger Year
IPOA Virgin Galactic SPCE 2019
IPOB Opendoor OPEN 2020
IPOC Clover Health CLOV 2021
IPOD TBD
IPOE SoFi SOFI 2021[34]
IPOF TBD
PIPE
SPAC Company[35] Current Ticker Merger Year
FVAC MP Materials MP 2020
TRNE Desktop Metal DM 2020
INSU Metromile MILE 2021
ACTC Proterra PTRA 2021
TSIA Latch LTCH 2021
SPRQ Sunlight Financial SUNL 2021

In 2020, Palihapitiya helped take Virgin Galactic public through a SPAC, previously known as IPOA.[36][37]

In March 2021 Palihapitiya sold his personal stake Virgin Galactic for around US$213 million.[38]

In 2021, Palihapitiya announced he planned to help take SoFi, a financial services platform,[39] and Clover Health, a Medicare insurance company, public through SPACs.[40] This gained Palihapitiya criticism from the Financial Times, which said that he is "shilling risky reverse-mergers to retail investors on a almost bimonthly basis".[41]

Palihapitiya with then-wife Brigette Lau in 2016

Following the Clover Health SPAC, Hindenburg Research, a financial analyst and short-selling specialist firm, issued a report about this transaction accusing Palihapitiya of luring investors into a “broken business”,[42] argumenting that he failed to inform them about an active Department of Justice investigation into Clover’s alleged deceptive business practices.[43] Palihapitiya made more than $290 million from the deal based on a $25k investment.[44][45] In addition the Clover Health co-founder/CEO's previous company, CarePoint Health, a hospital conglomerate in New Jersey, was accused of price gouging customers and according to a NJ state commission siphoning off $150 million to himself and his friends bankrupting the company and causing a hospital crisis in NJ.[46] Regulators in NJ called for an investigation of Clover Health because of the CEO's previous actions.[47] The Securities and Exchange Commission opened an investigation into the allegations set forth in the Hindenburg Research report on 4 Feb.[48][49] When asked about the allegations, Clover Health CEO Vivek Garipalli went on an expletive-ridden tirade with a Forbes reporter.[50]

During the GameStop short squeeze, Palihapitiya repeatedly attacked Robinhood and its founders for being unethical by selling payment for order flow to HFT firms like Citadel Securities and pushed his fans to switch over to SoFi, which was merging with his SPAC yet failed to mention that SoFi employs the same practice of selling payment for order flow to HFT firms (including to Citadel Securities) and owns a 16% stake in Apex Clearing Corp, a clearing house involved in the controversy.[51][52][53]

On 6 March 2021, Yahoo Finance reported that Palihapitiya reflected that "his relative performance vs the S&P500 [was] 3.6% compared to 2.3%, or 56% above the benchmark."[54] It was later criticized by venture capitalists, investors, and financiers that his reporting of his statistics as 56% above the benchmark, rather than as 1.3% above the benchmark, which they stated could be seen as 'inflationary,' 'non-kosher,' or 'manipulative of Main Street's view of him as an investor.'[55]

In April 2021, John Coates, acting director of the SEC’s corporate-finance division, criticized Palihapitiya's views on the benefits of SPACs over traditional IPOs:

Some — but far from all — practitioners and commentators have claimed that an advantage of SPACs over traditional IPOs is lesser securities-law liability exposure for targets and the public company itself.

— John Coates, "SPACs, IPOs and Liability Risk under the Securities Laws", U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission[56]

Coates clarified that a judge could rule a SPAC is similar enough to an IPO that the lesser securities law liability would be void.

Political positions and activities[edit]

Palihapitiya has donated to the Democratic Party.[57] Palihapitiya has been criticized for expressing his negative views of investors and venture capitalists while being a venture capitalist himself.[58] He has also been criticized by SFGate for his SPACs, political policies and tweets.[59]

Immigration reform and policy advocacy[edit]

Palihapitiya was listed as one of the "Founders" of the lobbying group FWD.us.[60] The group launched on 11 April 2013, and its goals include immigration reform, improving education, and enabling technological innovation, all in a United States context.[61][62] An article in The New Republic stated that Palihapitiya received a weekly report about FWD.us and also quoted him as saying, in response to controversy around the FWD.us 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."[63]

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.[64][65] 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.[66]

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.[67] He said,

"[t]he short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works: no civil discourse, no collaboration, misinformation, mistruth and it's not an American problem. This is not about Russian ads. This is a global problem. It is eroding the core foundations of how people behave by and between each other."[68]

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."[69][70]

He reiterated this criticism in a podcast with Kara Swisher.[71]

California gubernatorial campaign[edit]

On 25 January 2021, Palihapitiya announced he would challenge incumbent California Governor Gavin Newsom in the event Newsom is recalled.[72][73]

As part of his platform to recall Governor Newsom, Chamath stated he would seek to cut the state income tax rate from 16% to 0%, provide free education vouchers, a $2k credit for every child born in CA, and work to make CA the center of climate and technology jobs. He shared a campaign website that was created by a supporter.[74] [75]

On 3 February 2021, Palihapitiya declared that he would not run for Governor after all.[74][76] Palihapitiya also supports a gradual step down in capital gains taxes for individuals, which currently penalizes individuals for realizing investment returns, to 0% after a five year hold period. Corporate tax rates, in return, would have to rise in Palihapitiya's view. [77][78]

Personal life[edit]

After graduating college, Palihapitiya followed his future wife, Brigette Lau, to California.[79][80] They had three children together, and divorced in 2018.[81][82]

Palihapitiya now lives in California with Nathalie Dompe, an Italian pharmaceutical heiress and model who he started dating in 2018,[83] with whom he has one child.[81]

In a December 2017 interview, Palihapitiya said that he keeps his children as far away from technology as possible, except for the occasional movie, explaining "I don’t like this co-dependency of ‘they need to rely on me, and when they can’t, I feed them a device because that becomes a babysitter’."[79]

Palihapitiya has three World Series of Poker (WSOP) and two World Poker Tour (WPT) cashes for a total of $175,801.[84] In 2011, he finished 101st out of 6,865 entries in the World Series of Poker's Main Event.[85]

Palihapitiya purchased a $75 million Bombardier Global 7500 in 2020.[86]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]