Chamath Palihapitiya, the CEO of Social Capital and chairman of Virgin Galactic, talks about a wide range of issues, including Bitcoin, COVID, civil unrest, and broad economic trends and forecasts. We discuss:

  • Whether his economic forecasts have shifted throughout COVID
  • Why he believes a debt crisis will occur
  • How he views the success of BTC as a hedge against the ruling class
  • How the economic pendulum will swing back toward consumers
  • Why he doesn’t mind if big corporations and hedge funds get wiped out
  • Whether he subscribes to the thesis that Bitcoin is uncorrelated 
  • Why the pandemic has not spurred institutional adoption of crypto
  • Why he sees no merit in Ethereum
  • How the economy will become more decentralized in the future and whether blockchain will be a part of it 
  • Why he prefers SPACs over ICOs
  • Why he started capital as a service 
  • Why he believes the government should bust up large corporations

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Kelman Law: 

Episode links: 

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Social Capital:

Turmoil at Social Capital:

2019 interview with Kara Swisher:

Chamath on Recode Decode in 2020:

Fed buying up to $250 billion in individual corporate bonds:

CNBC interview where he says Bitcoin is an uncorrelated hedge:


China’s blockchain efforts:

Capital as a service:

2019 investor letter:

At Stanford GSB: 


Laura Shin: 

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Chamath Palihapitiya:

Hi. How are you?

Laura Shin:

Great. Nice to have you. You were the youngest vice president at AOL, worked at Facebook when it became the dominant social network, were a billionaire at 32, owner of the Golden State Warriors at 33, and then you founded Social Capital, which has invested in Slack, SurveyMonkey, Box, Wealthfront, Digital Currency Group, among others. Then, in 2018, a number of your partners at Social Capital left, and you made an abrupt switch, turning Social Capital from a venture capital firm to what you are calling a technology holding company.

At the time, there was a lot of talk about it in Silicon Valley, and afterward, in early 2019, in a really fabulous interview you gave with Kara Swisher, you talked about how you’d been living this lavish lifestyle, partying a lot, but feeling unfulfilled, and said that a lot of these changes were part of an emotional awakening for you and a shift toward understanding what really made you happy and becoming a nicer person.

And so I was wondering, here we are in 2020, and you’ve made this big metamorphosis, and I wondered how you’ve been weathering the pandemic, like, mentally or psychologically, particularly in terms of social distancing and also dealing with all the economic uncertainty?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I definitely think it’s been a moment of real growth for me, but it’s been really hard. I think, for the first time in my life, I’ve gone through periods of, you know, just feeling depressed at times, having anxiety, not being able to sleep as well as I used to, sometimes being really detached from the people around me, because I think it’s been a lot harder than I thought. You know, it’s been really hard to establish a routine. I was taking a lot of small things for granted before, so something just as simple as being able to drive to the office, when you take it away.

And you know, you’re in the same place where you live and you love, but then you also have to work, and everything just gets very confusing. There are no clear demarcations. There’s no great way to break up the day. It became really monotonous. The days didn’t have clear demarcations, and so a Saturday felt like a Wednesday. You know, I put on a little bit of weight. I didn’t exercise as much. So these last three months have been, internally, a bit of a gut check.

And I think it’s required me to be more resilient, but I think it’s also allowed me to really be even more reflective of my progress, just learning to be kind of kinder to myself and thinking more and realizing sort of what’s important, and I’m really proud of the journey I’ve made, and being at home has probably helped me just appreciate that more, because I’ve been able to understand how hard, you know, sort of the process has been.

Laura Shin:

Yeah, and I also wanted to ask, in another podcast interview that you did with Kara Swisher early on in the pandemic, you were talking about how you expected the credit markets to seize up and thought that this would have a chilling effect on the stock market, private equity, real estate, and so, eventually, you felt it would also cause the freezing up of venture capital. So, at this point, we’re three months in, and the stock market is basically up. The Fed just announced it would be buying up to 250 billion dollars in individual corporate bonds, and I’ve wondered, given what you’ve seen so far, are there any revisions you’d make in your predictions for how the pandemic will play out economically?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Yeah, I mean, I think that the general premise of what I said is still probably right, but the reality is the timing was way, way wrong, which is as bad as being wrong, quite honestly. So, you know, when I said that, I really had a perception that the Fed would be relatively constrained and operate within normal guardrails.

I think what we’ve seen is that, you know, there is nothing they won’t do to prop up the stock market and the bond markets, almost as a symbol of America’s economic resilience, even if that doesn’t necessarily map to actually how the economy works anymore or how we would measure success or what’s actually happening, and you know, you have to just be okay with that outcome and the fact that you can’t fight the Fed and that they have literally an unlimited amount of money printing at their disposal.

And so, just recently, when they announced that they were going to buy individual, you know, bonds, as you said, what we know is that now the stock market will go up ratably for every dollar of buying that the Fed does in the bond markets, and so, you know, if you put another quarter trillion dollars of liquidity in, you’ll probably see another couple hundred basis points of uplift in the equity markets.

So, you know, probably what I would say is that I would revise what I said in the following way, which is none of this will end well, but you know, a friend of mine says this, and I appreciate the saying because it’s so simple and true. When the music’s on, you got to dance, and right now, being long and frankly, when rates are zero, being levered long probably isn’t going to be punished that much. So you kind of just have to own the market I think at this point until further notice.

Laura Shin:

And earlier, when you said you would also revise your timeline on that, in the interview with Kara Swisher, you said you thought it would be maybe about 36 months before we had fully recovered. So how would you revise that timeline?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

You know, you have to wait for some very important things to happen. The good news is, is that there is still a lot of white space for the markets to correct, and I’ll give you a specific example, if you go and look back at the Fed. So when the Fed announced their primary and secondary facilities, they published a bunch of rules, and if you look at what the rules say, there are still a bunch of folks that don’t qualify.

There’s also going to be a bunch of American companies who do qualify for Fed assistance but refuse to take it because they don’t want oversight on compensation and other things, and so, you know, when you put all of that together, there will still be companies in the real world that will not necessarily make enough money to meet their debt obligations, and when you see defaults, which you will probably in the next 12 to 36 months, you don’t need that many for a lot of market moves.

So, you know, specifically, when you look back in 2008, all the money was made on very specific tranches of, you know, mortgage-backed securities and the credit derivatives that were related to them. Similarly, now, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the equivalent credit default securities and the credit derivatives around the Investment Grade Index and the High Yield Index, and again, you know, the loss rates don’t have to be that high for there to be cataclysmic consequences.

So, you know, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9% default rates are possible, simply because the number of companies that issue US debt but make money in non-US-denominated currency and will not be able to pay their debts that are going up. So this debt crisis is looming. It’s only getting exacerbated. We’re only really pushing the can down the road, and the only thing left for the Fed to do is just a broad-based, you know, buying of any security, including equities, and that’s, frankly, the only tool that they have left.

And I think if they do that, you put a lot of pressure on the US dollar, and frankly, you put a lot of pressure on the United States as an economic system as the sort of flight to quality bid security, because that’s just something that nobody’s ever done. The worst outcome, we don’t know. The best-case outcome is Japan. You know, in Japan, the BOJ owns 80% of all ETFs now, 80%.

Eighty cents of every dollar is owned by their own government, which is just round-tripping cash, and what they’ve had is 20 years of, you know, just kind of morass, and so, unfortunately, unless we figure out a way out of this, that’s what the United States will eventually see. The question is just when, and I think that the non-US companies who have US debt will be the ones that sort of push us towards the cliff.

Laura Shin:

And you said on CNBC that you felt that the government kind of was doing too much to rescue some of these companies, and you were saying things like you didn’t care if the hedge funds got wiped out, and I just wondered, so what would that look like if the government were to do what you recommended, and what you were saying were things like, oh, they wouldn’t get to summer in the Hamptons, and who would care if they got wiped out? But you know, I also wondered, that sort of applies to…well, you tell me. Maybe it doesn’t apply to people like you, but would you be willing to be wiped out?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Yeah, I mean, I’ve never really been defined by my money. I think I was an evolutionary person with the same values. I may have been a little more douche-y when I was younger or harder to deal with, but I was still the same person, and I frankly felt that I had the same worth as a human being when I was growing up on welfare or when I was in my 20s or 30s or now in my 40s. I think that, you know, money is a projection that other people use.

I used it on myself for a while, and now I use it less, and so, you know, being in a position to actually realize that the schoolteacher that makes 60 thousand dollars is just as important as I am is the truth, and so, yeah, you could take it all away. I don’t really care. It’d be a fun ride no matter what. I think I have a great set of memories that I’ve created for myself, and the journey’s been a blast, and I hope to have another 50 years of those things.

You know, what I was speaking about on CNBC was just my frustration about not wanting to acknowledge where the Federal Reserve and Treasury were not acknowledging how the actual economy works. The United States is an economy where the overwhelming majority of the GDP is generated by consumers, and the way that, you know, consumers lift up the American economy is by spending money, and when you take revenues away from the American consumer, because they’re unemployed or because they can’t earn wages, then they’re going to spend less, which means that the economy contracts, and you have a recession.

So first principles thinking would tell you that you put money in the hands of consumers, and you put enough money in their hands, such that the amount that they have exceeds what they need to live, and then the excess spending, they will spend, and the reason why that’s important is then it forces companies to then reopen faster, hire people more. Invariably, what you’ll see is then they’ll also have to pay them more, because, again, these consumers have more money, but that’s actually all a good rebalancing of what’s been happening for the last 40 years, which is that the pendulum has swung…

You know, in economic theory, you say that the pendulum swings between labor and capital, and in the last 40 years of trickle-down economics, what we’ve really done is swung the pendulum so far towards capital, that people who are the labor class don’t really have the earning power that they actually had before and putting a lot more money into their hands where, effectively, you having to pay them more to come back to work isn’t a bad thing.

It will recalibrate what is a very lopsided distribution of leverage, and so getting power into the hands of labor and getting more money into the hands of labor actually sort of subverts and sort of puts an end to trickle-down economic theory, and it kind of worked in the ‘80s, but frankly, in the ‘90s and 2000s and now, it’s a dated economic philosophy that doesn’t map to how the world works.

Laura Shin:

And you’ve said that there’s room for everyone to have an uncorrelated hedge in their portfolio, and you say that bitcoin can service that. You also have called it schmuck insurance, and I wondered, do you think that the coronavirus pandemic is sort of like bitcoin’s moment?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Not really. I think that when I talked about it being schmuck insurance, the place that I’m coming from is that we want something that, frankly, will protect our wealth, however much that it is that we have, in cases where the people in power really get over their ski tips and do something that we can all see is a bad idea, but they’re driven by short-term political incentives.

The reality is that, you know, governments used to be run by a very different kind of person, and in some countries today, I would say that it harkens back to how it used to be. So, for example, if you look at Singapore, you know, the smartest people that graduate and some of the most capable individuals go into the bureaucracy and work for the Singaporean government. I don’t think that we could all look at ourselves in the eye and honestly say that that’s necessarily true in western democracies.

It’s a kind of person that really excels in public relations or you know, winning elections. It’s not necessarily people who excel at governance or legislation, and so the reality is that, you know, we have people that are somewhat mismatched for the job, and invariably, whenever that happens, irrespective of whatever profession that is, mistakes happen.

I mean, just to use a stark example, it’s kind of morbid, but if you put a pilot who’s not a great pilot, who actually really wanted to be a schoolteacher, in the cockpit of a plane, that person is much more likely to make a mistake that has huge consequences than a person who lives and breathes wanting to be a pilot, and that’s also true of legislators, and so the reality is that, you know, we have folks that will focus on short-term window dressing type solutions.

Again, you can see it today in what the Fed and the Treasury are doing. You know, we’ve massively increased the deficit and the debt. The United States government is now responsible for more than 50% of the GDP, which, essentially, makes us a quasi-communist country, socialist country at a minimum, except without any of the benefits. So, you know, you still have sky-high healthcare and exorbitantly high, useless education.

So it’s kind of like the worst form of socialism, dummy socialism, and so when those kinds of things are happening and they’re not getting fixed and they’re only getting exacerbated, I just think that if people had been hard working with their head down, they should have an opportunity to make sure that they don’t get wiped out if the government itself just continues to make a string of bad decisions that then have rising consequences.

And bitcoin to me is the only thing that I’ve seen so far that is really fundamentally uncorrelated to that decision-making process and to that decision-making body, because, at the end of the day, any other asset class, equities, debt, real estate, commodities, they’re all tightly, tightly coupled to a legislative framework and an interconnectedness in the financial markets that brings together many of the governments that are sort of behaving this way.

So it’s almost like a bet against the ruling class in some ways and making sure that you have a small amount of insurance, because these insurance…again, insurance is not something that pays off 50 cents to the dollar. Insurance is something that pays off, you know, 1,000 bucks to a buck.

You want these massive, massive, asymmetric payoffs because you want to be sure that a small amount of insurance can basically make you whole, and that’s why I just think that, you know, you should take 1% of your portfolio, put it in bitcoin, never look at it. Don’t look at the price. Don’t look at anything, and hope that that 1% goes to zero. Then you have the 99%, but in the case where that 99% goes to zero, that 1% will probably be worth 120% and you’ll feel like a genius.

Laura Shin:

But I guess what I’m confused about is, you know, if you know that the government isn’t handling the coronavirus…I mean, in terms of handling the stimulus and dealing with the economic fallout in the best way, then why is it that you feel that this wouldn’t be the moment when that uncorrelated asset would be something that people could turn to?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Look, the government has done, you know, depending on how technical you want to get, 6 or 7 forms of quantitative easing since the great financial crisis. So we could’ve picked any one of those moments and said this is bitcoin’s moment, and what I’m trying to get across to you is that, you know, there is no seminal event, and I think that people waiting for a seminal event probably create more speculation than is healthy for bitcoin.

I think that this is a parade of terribles. It’s a bunch of small things that, eventually, added together, bring down the entire, you know, way in which we think the financial infrastructure of the world works. We will lose credibility in it. There will not be a single thing, Laura, that you will be able to point to. This will be the sum of many, many bad decisions, and it’s the compounding of bad decisions, and historians will try to pinpoint an event, and I think it’ll be not worth the time.

I just think that it’s a pattern, and you know, when you see the pattern, I think you just have to be prepared to hedge it, be on the other side of it, hope the pattern stops because, quite honestly, if your bitcoin bet pays off, it will be cataclysmically destructive for the world, and that’ll have enormous consequences to many people that we all know and care about who weren’t hedged in bitcoin, and so you almost don’t want it to happen.

Laura Shin:

But you really only can see one path to its success. You don’t see any other reason for it to succeed, even in a world where not everything else comes crashing down?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Not really. You know, I mean, I think that people could claim that it’s a more frictionless payment mechanism or payment rails. I don’t really buy that. I think that there are much easier-to-use products that, eventually, will become virtual payment mechanisms that connect the world, whether it’s WhatsApp or the Cash App or Venmo or WePay. All of these things will eventually be threaded together in an underlying framework that’ll allow seamless money transfer, zero cost instantaneously in a ledger that gives you a sense of security and transparency.

All of these things I think will eventually happen, and so the use case for bitcoin I think becomes less and less as a product and more and more as an instrument, and again, then you have to think about what the underlying value of the instrument is. You know, people try to make this case for gold all the time, that there is an industrial use for gold, and I would say maybe, but overwhelmingly, folks use it as an instrument to hedge other parts of their assets and other parts of their portfolio.

Similarly, we will make the case, ad infinitum, for the industrial value of bitcoin, but the overwhelming use case for the most people will be as a financial hedge, and I think that that’s good enough because that’s what’ll get our, you know, “proverbial sort of grandmother, grandfather to buy this thing,” is that concept, because they can understand that much more easily than they can understand distributed ledgers and you know, seamless payment gateways and this and that, and it’s all a little gobbledygook at some level.

Laura Shin:

Right, and out of curiosity, when you first heard about bitcoin, did it take you awhile to understand its potential? Because a lot of people say, oh, at first, I dismissed it, and I wondered if you also had…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Yeah, there’s the well-known person in the bitcoin ecosystem. His name is Wences Casares. He was the one that introduced it to me in 2010. We were actually going to Las Vegas for his 40th birthday, and that’s when he pitched me on it, and I remember landing three days later, and I called my family office and said, you know, buy a million bitcoin. That’s how I started, and it was 80 bucks or something at the time, and it just sounded kind of really interesting.

But then it took me a few years to really understand it. I didn’t totally understand all the mechanics of it, and to be honest with you, I’ve forgotten most of the mechanics now. You know, I studied it at the moment. I made an underwriting decision to buy and then to never think about it again, and by and large, I’ve never thought about it again. I mean, I remember my family office flipped out when bitcoin was 20 thousand a coin. They’re like, uh, and I was like, guys, don’t tell me.

I don’t want to know. This is like, just take it off the balance sheet. Don’t ever look at it. Keep it at the cost, and don’t get psychologically affected by this number. It doesn’t mean anything, and then it went back down to 3,000 or something. Then they called me again. They were like, uh, and I was like, guys, I told you, it just doesn’t matter what’s going on here, and so I don’t know where it is now, 9,000, 8,000, 10,000, whatever.

Laura Shin:

9,500 I think.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Yeah, I couldn’t tell you what the price is.

Laura Shin:

Well, I was curious. You did say, at one point, that your funds owned almost 5% of all bitcoins. I don’t believe that’s the case anymore, so I was wondering what percentage of bitcoins you own now?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

To be honest, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t know, but yeah, you know, we were pretty aggressive buyers. I think we were also sellers of some in the fund because I bought some in my fund, as well, for myself and my LPs. I bought for myself personally. I have a bunch of coins that I gave to DCG so that they could stand up the Grayscale ETF, and so I don’t know, but yeah, I’m pretty happy with sort of what I own. I kind of think about it as, like I said, I should be 1% hedged, and I credit-trapped that just to make sure that that’s still nominally the case.

Laura Shin:

Like meaning that you rebalance?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I haven’t actually actively rebalanced. I’ve gotten distributions from other folks, and so when I get more, I just kind of, you know, give it to Grayscale, quite honestly, just because I don’t want to deal with the coins themselves. I’d rather just get back shares in the ETF because it’s just easier for me to manage. So I don’t want to have access to the bitcoin. I just think that’s a huge administrative and logistical burden I don’t want to bear. At some level, it’s also a security thing that I don’t want to take on. So, you know, that’s Grayscale’s problem or Coinbase’s problem. Yeah.

Laura Shin:

Yeah. Well, one thing I was also going to ask you, I know you just said you don’t really watch the bitcoin markets, but did you hear about how bitcoin also took a massive hit at the same time that panic about the coronavirus is hitting the stock market, and I wondered if that affected your thesis that this was an uncorrelated hedge?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Well, I mean, I think that that more reinforced that, for right now, people who are day trading or speculating, they’re the same people that are day trading or speculating other financial markets, and so, you know, it’ll suffer the same psychological ebbs and flows, and so when people were selling off equities, it’s because they wanted more liquidity, whether it was because of margin pressure or because that they had a directional view on the stock market.

And I think that’s the same thing with bitcoin, because a lot of the day-to-day market participants are actively trading the same way they would trade any other stock or bond or commodity, and so it wasn’t surprising in my mind that bitcoin traded off when equities traded off. It just goes to show you that there is a portion of people that view it as a hedge and will never look at it, and then there’s a much larger portion, to be honest, who view it as a financial instrument that you can speculate on and make money on in short-term increments.

And in as much as those people are greater than or equal to the number of people who view it as a hedge, it will sort of map to other financial markets. When there’s a drawdown in equities, you’ll probably see a drawdown in bitcoin. When there’s a rally in equities, you’ll see a rally in bitcoin, and by and large, I suspect that that’s what we’ve seen, and that speaks more to the short-term nature of the people in the asset class today, but that probably will change over time, as well…

Because, again, you know, when you get sort of like the long-tail adoption of this so that when there’s, I don’t know, hundreds of thousands, millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of people that own it, they will be more like me. You know, lazy holders. They bought it for a very different reason than speculation, and they neither have the time nor the inclination to care what it does on a daily basis, and that will be very good for bitcoin.

Laura Shin:

And one other thing is you also said in another interview that you disagree with the narrative that bitcoin is digital gold, and I wondered why you disagreed with that. I don’t feel that that’s necessarily something that’s incompatible with the idea that it’s an uncorrelated hedge.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Yeah, I mean, I think that when…the problem is that people get very philosophically strict when they talk about gold. You know, I think some people, frankly, own it because they believe that, at some point, we’ll go back to a gold standard, or philosophically, they believe so strongly in a gold standard. Other people legitimately do believe that there is some, you know, industrial use and that there is some portion of the trading value of it that ebbs and flows based on its industrial value, which isn’t not untrue.

I don’t think enough people necessarily view it as like a pure, pure, pure inflation hedge or market hedge, and so that’s sort of my comment, which is that, you know, to paint it in the brush of gold just, again, makes the explanation more complicated, and if you want mass market adoption, the one thing I’ve realized in anything, in any product, is you need true simplicity, and this is why I would encourage people to really embrace the simplicity of what bitcoin is, which is it’s basically schmuck insurance in case the people in charge really fuck it up.

Laura Shin:

All right, in a moment, we’ll talk more about Chamath’s view on crypto but first, a quick word from the sponsors who make this show possible.

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Well, so what you’re describing then, it seems like the digital dollar would have kind of built…I mean, you referenced this before but I just want to know what it looks like to have kind of built in, or I guess you were saying that it could even be some of the commercial entities that help distribute the digital dollar but you know, in terms of the KYC, the know your customer anti-money laundering, anti-terrorist financing, anti-fraud, all those things, what would that look like? When I want to use it you know, do I have to give my full identity and then frankly well, let’s not get to that. We’ll talk about that in a second, but just answer that.

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Laura Shin:

Back to my conversation with Chamath Palihapitiya. So, now we’re just going to kind of scope out a little bit to talk about crypto in general. I wondered what effect you thought the pandemic would have on the entire crypto market, not just bitcoin?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Well, I was really interested to see how traditional market participants would react in a moment like this. You know, if you’re running a hedge fund, there are two things that you’re supposed to be doing or one thing you’re supposed to be doing and one thing that they do. The thing that they do is they typically run very levered because they’re trying to take very, very small amounts of incremental risk, and the way that they do that is that they typically try to be hedged. You know, that’s why it’s called the hedged fund, the hedge fund.

And I thought, in that, that they would look at bitcoin and add it to their basket of instruments that they would use to run a hedged market strategy, and by and large, to be honest, it didn’t happen. I think that there was some amount of activity, but the infrastructure of bitcoin, market infrastructure of bitcoin doesn’t really allow market participants to step in at scale, you know, get massive turns of leverage, use their prime broker, all the typical things that we do when we step into equity markets or bond markets.

I mean, just to give you an example, I can put billions of dollars of credit default swaps on tomorrow, and I can do that on, you know, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of notional. I have the infrastructure set up. I have the ISDA set up. I have all of this infrastructure that’s made available to me, as a market participant, to be able to trade at scale or to take directional views at scale. That’s still a little bit haphazard for market participants like that.

So, for hedge funds to step in, it’s still hard. It’s still too difficult. There’s not enough people. There’s not enough liquidity. There’s not enough leverage. There’s not enough underwriting. There’s not enough understanding by the traditional bands and the prime brokers, and so all of this stuff slows the natural progress of bitcoin, and so I was hoping that it would be a moment where, out of a necessity, people would go and figure these things out.

But unfortunately, back to the earlier comment, what, unfortunately, happened instead was, you know, bitcoin was basically, tick for tick, correlated with the S&P 500, and so, you know, you can’t look at it as a hedge project. People who are long the S&P and had to sell, you know, couldn’t look at bitcoin and say, wow, that would’ve been better. They would’ve just gotten punched in the face twice as hard.

Laura Shin:

Well, I was also curious, so do you see merit in any of the other crypto assets, in particular, Ethereum?

Chamath Palihapitiya:


Laura Shin:

And why not?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

You know, it’s kind of like when you have a bell weather instrument, the gains typically go to the winner. So I’ll use an equity example to make the case. When Obamacare passed, there was going to be a clear tailwind to health insurance, and you could’ve bought a basket of health insurers, or you could’ve just bought UnitedHealthcare, and the basket would’ve performed okay.

UnitedHealthcare 10X’d in the last 10 years. If you believed in smartphones, you could’ve bought a basket of things in 2010 or 2008 or ’09 when the iPhone first got released. You could’ve bought, you know, Nokia and Motorola and Samsung and HTC, or you could’ve just bought Apple, and Apple, frankly, just crushed everybody else. The point is that in any market when there is a clear winner, it’s not that these other things can’t win.

But there’s a weird psychological effect that almost drives these second- and third-tier winners, which is a desire by people, almost out of this sense of insecurity, to not want to admit that there’s a winner simply because they weren’t the one to pick it first, and so what they do is they create these convoluted narratives and theses to basically anoint other winners, and yeah, can they win? Sure, but do they ever win like the category killer? No.

I mean, do you really want to be long Lycos and DuckDuckGo, or did you just want to be long Google? Just there has been not a single market where you’ve been rewarded as handsomely for being long the number 2, 3, and 4 player as you are for being long the number one player, and again, it goes back to when things tip and go mass market, the average buyer makes the simple decision, and the simple decision is to go to the category-defining winner and then set it and forget it.

And so if you really want to make the money, my view has always been, you find the one that’s about to win, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Google, Amazon, and you buy it, but what you don’t do is try to do some convoluted spread trade or you know, long the number 2, 3, 4, 5 person, hope…it’s just really, honestly, just…you can make a little bit of money, but there’s so much brain damage and pressure and complication, and it’s just never worth it.

Laura Shin:

So you essentially view all the crypto assets as kind of like one category? Like, you don’t break them out into separate categories because a lot of people would say bitcoin is a currency, and Ethereum is, you know, this platform for a decentralized application and they don’t view them, necessarily, as competitive. I mean, there are, of course, people who do view them as competitive, but a lot of people just see them as fundamentally different things, but you…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I’ll give you a different example. You could look at Mercado Libre as an incredibly complicated, you know, invaluable delivery platform for Central and South America, and you could look at Wayfair as an unbelievable example of, you know, furniture bought, purchased, and designed over the internet. I look at it, and I’m like Spanish Amazon and furniture Amazon, and so I’m like, okay, I’ll just buy Amazon.

You know, honestly, Laura, this goes back to a philosophy of mine which is what I’ve learned over time is that, you know, I’ve really made my life much harder than it’s needed to be, and I’ve overcomplicated a lot of decision making in my life, and as I’ve gotten older, what I’ve realized is that the best decisions are the ones that are really instinctive and the most simple, and you an use enormous amounts of data, and you can find all kinds of clever ways of slicing and dissecting things.

But at the end of the day, the simple decision tends to be the best and the most defensible and the most enduring decision, and one of the simplest decisions that you can make is to buy the category winner and wish that the whole category does well, because if it does, as long as the category stays on top of the category, they will get the disproportionate amount of the gains, and that’s just been completely true in markets, you know, since time in memoriam.

Laura Shin:

And I was also curious, have you been watching what’s been going on in DeFi?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I don’t even know what that is.

Laura Shin:

Oh, okay, well then…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

But I own bitcoin.

Laura Shin:

All right, well, we will move on. I also wanted to ask you, because in a way, we already started to go there. In an interview with Jason Calacanis in 2017, after the ICO boom was pretty well underway, you referred to ICOs as doing nonsense at the edges, and you said that people really needed to get back to core fundamental business principles.

And you said things like hard-working people with pensions or people working at hospitals didn’t need a cryptocurrency in a digital wallet, and you’ve probably heard about this investment thesis that many crypto funds have where they say that the services and products that are currently offered by tech giants could be fundamentally remade and offered as decentralized services that are offered over crypto networks and the users could be user owners where they, like, own a piece of the network through the token, and they call this kind of like the Web3 investment thesis.

So I wondered what you thought of it. Do you think this has merit, or would you continue to call this nonsense at the edges? Because I didn’t know, when you said that if you just meant, like, the method of fundraising or if you meant even this whole idea of user owner…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

No, I think that idea has merit. I think that the specific way in which it’s framed, though, is over-intellectualized and overcomplicated. Again, I think that, you know, the products that I’ve been involved in helping to build that’ve gotten to real massive scale, you know, Facebook, Slack just being a couple of examples, AIM when I ran that business at AOL. Winamp before that, which was a predecessor to iTunes. All of these businesses I’ve helped kind of get over 100 million users.

And what I’ll tell you in my experiences there and in some, obviously, you know, billions of users in the case of Facebook. Simplicity in design, but also simplicity of ambition, and simplicity of ambition doesn’t mean that you don’t have a grandiose ambition, but it just allows you to frame and filter decisions in a more basic framework, and so then you don’t get these, you know, convoluted product features or implementation paths, et cetera.

You know, one thing to realize is that product development cycles on the internet also tend to move in a pendulum, and like I said in the previous example of economic cycles, you know, the economic cycle, the pendulum is between labor and capital. In the internet, the product iteration pendulum is between highly, highly aggregated and highly, highly fragmented, and right now, we’re in a very aggregated part of the cycle.

We have a few companies doing many and most things for consumers, but it will break apart. It’ll break apart because consumers get tired of the Swiss Army knife, and they want more excellent, simple products for very specific use cases and companies come and fill that gap. Part of what will enable that is that the standards of product development are becoming more open and more standardized, and so, you know, apps speak nicely to each other.

All of that enables a much more open, collaborative product process, which benefits consumers, and then the other part is just that governments will become much more aggressive and trust-busting, and so they’ll break some of these big, gigantic products apart. So, in all of that, I think we are going to become much more decentralized, and I think that the next 15 to 20 years of product iteration will be that. It’ll be a lot of disaggregated services working nicely and neatly together. It’ll also mean that companies themselves won’t be nearly as big, but that’s also a good thing.

You know, it’s much better I think for people to have ambition to just build a 5 or 10-million-dollar company where they employ people and you know, they make couple hundred thousand dollars of profit and they live in a place that they want where they can have a humane life and raise a family and be connected to their community. I think that kicks more ass than trying to be the next half-a-trillion-dollar, mega behemoth company, because a lot of that is just situational luck and timing that you can’t replicate no matter how smart you are.

So long, convoluted way of saying I think the idea has merit in the broad strokes. I think the details of having to then, you know, try to apply it and put it on blockchain, and this and that, again, it’s a lot of over-complexifying things that I just don’t think yields in successful products. You know, what that answer portrays is a desire to work backwards from the solution you want versus being customer obsessive and asking what do the customers want.

And I don’t think if you ask a customer, they’ll want or say ever blockchain anything. They’ll describe a use case, and however you get there, and the better way you get there and the faster you get there, you’ll win, and if it includes blockchain, great, but if you start with the premise that it has to include it or this or that, I just think that it’s not the right starting point and you’ll fail.

Laura Shin:

And I actually want to ask you quite a bit more about this, but first, before we move onto all that, I wanted to dive a little bit more into your view on ICOs because you have been trying to kind of reinvent the IPO, or at least just address some existing problems with the IPO process through Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp., and you can correct me if I said that incorrectly, which basically executes SPACs, which are special purpose acquisition companies. So why do you think that’s the better way to IPO and yet, you know, ICOs, which also kind of similarly offer easy liquidity…you know, obviously, you didn’t think that was the way to go. So do you see any way in which blockchain technology can be used, or is it just, again, like you said, the technology doesn’t matter and SPACs maybe just solve the problems that you see?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

The technology doesn’t matter. The outcome matters. In this case, what the outcome is that matters is the following. There were 8 thousand or 9 thousand public companies in 2000. There are about 4 thousand now. Two-thirds of the S&P 500 have no R&D budgets. Now, you can say, well, this is a stock market problem, but I actually think that this is a US economic problem, which is that we don’t have capital markets that can support young, high-growing, fast companies in a way that really builds for the future of America the resiliency of America.

So we need thousands of companies to go public, and so we need to frame the capital markets in a way that they understand why they should be buying future growth and product iteration and R&D versus current cash flow. It’s this obsession with current cash flow that has driven the private equity boom, that has driven the debt boom, that has driven 8 thousand companies to shrink to 4 thousand, and that has driven a lot of unnecessary volatility in the public equity markets.

So, by building this platform, this IPO 2.0 platform, what I would really like to do with my partners is sort of pioneer a way for young, high-growth companies who can invest lots of money over the next 5 to 10 years to go public, and the way that I do it is we pre-wire the IPO. We go and we curate investors, and we explain what we’re trying to do. We explain the dynamics of the market, and we go and find the target company, and then we break the business model down for these folks. We price it in a way that’s fair, and we eliminate a lot of the overhang in the stock, things like lockups and whatnot.

So there’s benefits to the CEO and founder, which is that they get better understood in the public markets, so then there’s more long-term support. They get to go public in 90 days versus, you know, 18 months, and it’s just a much lighter-weight process, and then for the public markets, what’s really important is we…and I’m using sort of, you know, my accumulated “social capital and credibility” to say let me explain to you why you want to own this thing for 5 to 10 years.

And look, I can only do this one company at a time, although, in this current case, you know, the first one was Virgin Galactic. It’s been a real success. I raised two more SPACs, and so we’ll see what happens. I’d like to raise, you know, some more after that, but by doing this incrementally, I think that I’ll help educate the smartest hedge funds and mutual funds to want more of these younger businesses.

Then younger businesses will be less afraid of going public sooner, and that’ll start to turn the capital markets’ momentum in favor of long-term growth, and that has huge ramifications, because then hedge funds will tell companies invest more in R&D. You know, and that actually has huge implications for the US economy. So, to me, it’s all about that. ICOs, I felt, and I still feel, are arbitraging something in a very shady gray market and you know, a poorly understood part of the financial ecosystem for the gain of a few.

I don’t think that many of these things will stand the test of time, and I think that there’ll be, you know, non-trivial amounts of fraud and stealing, essentially, and lying, and these things underlie nothing. They don’t really represent real businesses, and so it’s kind of like penny stocks. Do they exist? Sure. Would I tell any reasonable, smart investor to focus on them? No. Would I tell my grandparents to go buy them? No.

Laura Shin:

And so one other thing I wanted to ask was just sort of bring together two strands we’ve been discussing, because you’ve been saying that the way out of the coronavirus pandemic is to turn to resilience and how you feel that this will probably drive more nationalism because it’s exposed how fragile our supply chains can be, but as we’ve just been talking about, you know, when I asked you the question about the three, you did also say that you felt that there would be a drive toward decentralization, but you know, generally, at least in my world, that means these, like, borderless crypto networks, which is obviously quite different from something more along the nationalist line. So I just wondered how you thought those two trends would intersect?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I think that, you know, governments will basically push businesses to be more resilient, which really means that they’ll have to insource a lot more work, and they’ll have to do a lot of things on shore because they’ll want to view things through a lens of national security, and economic incentives will probably motivate people to behave that way. I think separately, people will put a lot of pressure on China at every single part of the sort of economic value chain in which China plays an enormous role.

And there are many and too innumerable to count, and all of that will force companies to do the more resilient, less profitable thing, and so, you know, that’s sort of where the world is going. On top of that, though, there will be a handful of folks that do build multi-national products because they are, you know, to your point, which is very accurate and true, borderless.

These are online products mostly, but I think what’ll happen is the economics of those products will converge to zero, and the economic value associated with them will converge to zero, and they will become highly transparent and monitored by governments, and they will behave no different than the payment rails and other networks that we have today.

It is the case that, you know, when you make a wire, buying between two parties or between two countries, the DOJ can figure that out in a nanosecond, and the FBI and everybody else, and they can figure out who it is, and government institutions work together to basically provide transparency, and I think all of these sort of, you know, borderless, user-based networks will end up doing that, not necessarily because they want to, but because they’ll be forced to, and I think all governments will align on that.

Laura Shin:

Well, speaking of China, there’s been kind of a little space race going on with central bank digital currencies. China’s sort of, you know, out front with already piloting its digital currency. They also have this very comprehensive blockchain initiative which has more than 500 enterprise blockchain projects in all kinds of areas of finance, and I wondered, when you look at what China’s doing, do you feel like that gives them a leg up on the US in terms of getting other countries to use their own blockchain-based systems and their central bank digital currency, and do you think that’s a problem for the US?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

All of that is…China has one goal, which is basically to overthrow the United States as a reserve currency, and that has an enormous number of implications, positive mostly for China, and so, you know, blockchain is a great way for them to push the transparency, theoretical transparency and viability, of Chinese authorities. Their digital currency is a way of them becoming lighter weight and easier to use, so to speak.

But it’s all in the service not of their desire to pioneer digital currencies or blockchain, frankly. It’s singularly in the pursuit of overthrowing the United States as the reserve currency of the world, and so you just have to view it that light, and so, you know, will the United States respond? Possibly, but if they do, it’ll be against this backdrop of what they’ll have to do to preserve the unitary value of the dollars.

Laura Shin:

And what do you think of Libra, the face of the currency?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

The zodiac sign?

Laura Shin:

The Facebook’s stablecoin project.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I don’t know.

Laura Shin:

Oh, okay. You haven’t been following that?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Is it like the Microsoft Zune?

Laura Shin:

You know what’s so funny about you saying that?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I’m long iPhone.

Laura Shin:

It’s so funny you say that because I had a friend who worked at Microsoft at that time, and I remember she had a Zune, and like, tried to talk me up on it.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I mean, you ways knew that Zunes existed, right, or like a real player, but you never saw it, and then you know, you’ve always heard that…

Laura Shin:

Well, I’ve seen one.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Oh, no, my friend has one, but it’s never true. All you’d ever see are iPhones and iPods, and so I don’t know what Libra is. I am a Libra. I was born in September. That, I understand. That’s for real.

Laura Shin:

Wait, but I just need to know, are you even saying that you haven’t been following what Facebook’s been doing in the…oh, wow, your former employer, which, you know…

Chamath Palihapitiya:

It’s been a decade ago. I mean, like, it’s kind of like do you remember who you dated 10 years ago? Do you remember what you ate a decade ago? You know, things happen. Lots of things happen. Everybody moves on.

Laura Shin:

Oh my goodness, I love it. Okay, well, let’s talk about recent news. So there’s been a wave of protests around the world against systemic racism, and your company had launched something called Capital-as-a-Service. Can you describe what that is for the audience and describe how the investments made through that were different demographically from traditional venture investments?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

Capital-as-a-Service, you know, well, it built on something else before. So this is a topic that’s very sensitive to me. I’ve kind of always believed that bias existed. I’ve also kind of believed that I overcame it because, you know, maybe I was more articulate or frankly, smarter, faster, better than my white counterparts, and so I kind of always excelled, but…

Laura Shin:

Because, actually, Chamath, can you just flesh out what you mean by that, because I don’t know if every one of my listeners will know your personal story?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I mean, you know, look, I was born in Sri Lanka, and at the age of 6, I moved to Canada. There was a civil war in my country. My parents filed for refugee status, and then I stayed. I grew up on welfare. My mother was a housekeeper. My father was, you know, in an out of jobs, couldn’t really keep job, suffered from some depression, suffered from some alcoholism.

It was just a really tough, shitty way to grow up in some ways, but you know, they were good people, and they tried their best. I was a byproduct of a lot of social safety nets, healthcare, education being the principal two, and I went to college for a few thousand dollars a year in Canada. I was able to emigrate to the United States, and I was kind of able to pull myself up from my bootstraps. I came from nothing, and I’ve, you know, reasonably accomplished a lot.

But there are so many people in the same boundary of conditions that I grew up that didn’t make anywhere near as much progress, and it’s not because they weren’t as talented, and this is what I men by there are…I’ve been very lucky. So one very telling example, I remember that we had to face an immigration judge when I was 10 or 11 years old, and this was like my father’s final appeal, like, you know, where it’s like you need to let us stay in Canada because we can’t go back.

Our lives are at risk, and I just remember this mid 40s or early 50s white judge and this guy sitting on a bench, and he decided my entire fate, and I bring it up because it’s seared into my memory, and I just sat beside my father, and it’s kind of like a courtroom setting, if you can imagine a courtroom setting, and I was just crying from beginning to end of the whole thing. Just bawling inconsolably, just this fear and an insecurity, because you feel so illegitimate.

You know, you just feel like you don’t belong, and it’s at the benevolence of this one person in that moment, the entire, you know, course of your life is set. He allowed us to stay, and he believed that it was more important for us to stay, and you know, those things define you, as an example. So we stay, and you know, we try our best, and I would say that we’ve given back. I’ve paid billions of dollars in taxes. I’ve donated tens of millions of dollars back to Canada.

I feel like I really have honored his decision, but it still kind of leaves, you know, this taste in my mouth, which is like, wow, that’s a coin flip that could’ve gone the other way, and I wouldn’t be here. You know, 9/11 happens, and for five years, I would get these…it would literally say on my boarding pass SSS, and you know, you get security screened, a secondary security screened, but like, you know, they take everything out.

They ask you the million, trillion questions, and then I finally realized that I was just being racially profiled after 9/11 because maybe they thought I was, you know, some Muslim extremist, and I thought, I mean, do you have to walk around with a sign that says you don’t have to be afraid of me? I’m just here to get from Washington, DC to New York to go to a meeting. You know, when I lived in DC and I worked for AOL, I got pulled over by the cops so many times. When I was in California, I got pulled over the cops so many times, and everything that I’ve gone through is like, a one.

And my black friends, what they’ve gone through is like a thousand, and they go through these even more extreme scenarios of when things happen to them, you know? So, you know, look, my worldview is just kind of framed in the sense that there’s just a lot of things that’ve not been set right, and one of the things that we have not done a good job of is acknowledging and confronting sort of this systemic combination of fear and ignorance and racism that just exists.

When I started Social Capital, the first thing that I did, one of the first projects that I did outside of the investing business was I partnered with Jessica Lessin at The Information, and I said we’re going to decompose the demographic and racial makeup of every single investor in venture capital, and we published it, and people were so upset, and I remember writing this article called Bros Funding Bros, and they hated it.

But they hated it because it was the truth and they were getting called out, and they felt uncomfortable, and what’s…you know, I think that they’ve kept it up since then. Then, you know, I took it to the next level, which was we started this thing called Capital-as-a-Service, and that was this idea that, you know, entrepreneurs exist in all shades, colors, genders, sexual orientations.

And instead of allowing, you know, a bunch of guys with unconscious bias to make this decision, why don’t we just let the numbers speak? And you found incredible businesses run by all kinds of people all over the world, because we would allow them to just provide us their data, and we would make automatic funding decisions with an algorithm, and that algorithm couldn’t care what your first or last theme was or your gender was or where you were from.

It just looked at the quality of your business and made some reasonable forecasts about what the future could look like and would give you capital. So I kind of believe that, you know, a lot of folks want to do the right thing, white folks. They don’t necessarily know how. This is a moment where people have started to really have some hard conversations and live in the discomfort for the first time. You know, amongst my white friends, what I would tell you is, like, they listen to think in a way that they hadn’t before.

I don’t know what happens from here, but I think things like Capital-as-a-Service, I think things like, you know, publishing the demographic profile of the venture community, forcing change is probably what’s needed, and money flow is a really critical part of writing and making things more balanced, because money is lubricant, and you know, when you have access to it, you can do a lot more things than when you don’t have access to it, and I’ve been on both sides of this, so I can tell you this.

Laura Shin:

Yeah, and just to make it clear for they audience, under Capital-as-a-Service, the demographics of the funded companies have been 30% female led instead of 4% in traditional VC, and they’re 80% non-white as opposed to 77% white in traditional VC. So quite different numbers. One, it’s the algorithm investing. So I actually also wanted to ask about something else that’s been quite topical in recent weeks. In your 2017 interview with the Stanford Graduate School of Business, you talked about how you felt that social media tools were ripping apart the fabric of our society.

And this was after the 2016 election, and by this point when you did the interview, it was already known about, you know, Russia using fake news on Facebook to kind of interfere with the election, and this time around, obviously, there’s been a lot of controversy around Facebook saying that it will not fact check politicians. It won’t remove or flag posts by politicians that promote violence, and I wondered if you agreed or disagreed with Mark Zuckerberg’s position to leave these posts alone?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I think that it is a business decision he made, and he’s the CEO of that company, and so he’s allowed to make those decisions, and he can close the company.

Laura Shin:

Would you have made those decisions if you had been in charge?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I would probably had viewed the problem differently, but again, I don’t know what he’s going through, and I don’t know what the pressures are in his seat, because, clearly, he did something knowing that a bunch of his employees would’ve been really upset and whatnot, and so he still made the decision. So, you know, on balance, I think that his decision was reasonable because it’s a for-profit company, and at the end of the day, his real stakeholders, you know, quite honestly, are folks that expect investment returns.

The usability of the product, if you were to prioritize it, it’s also complicated because it’s not clear to me that Facebook is as much used and relied upon by progressive elites in cities as they are in other demographics, and so it may be the case that, you know, you’re seeing sort of this political bifurcation where there’s more democratic intent on Twitter and more sort of Republican usage on Facebook, and that wouldn’t surprise me because it kind of reinforces this idea that people have seen for a while, which is that, you know, these online sites, over time, at the limit approach, sort of the next generation form of broadcast media…

And we know for a fact that in broadcast media, that there’s a political distribution of broadcast media outlaws, and to it does stand to reason that the online products that have some this, you know, editorial user-driven content would eventually veer in one direction or another.

It’s almost near impossible to stay neutral, and you know, these is no conception of neutral anymore when you’re talking about UGC. So he’s kind of in an impossible situation. He has to either decide to basically, like, you know, cater to one audience over another or he has to decide to implement some from of algorithmic neutrality. The latter is next to impossible.

I think it would make people feel better, but the product would become much worse, and so I think his decision is probably framed best in that context. So the reality is I just think you’re just going to see a bifurcation of usage. You know, meaning that products will get…again, the pendulum is swinging away from aggregation. There will be some number of people who are really upset with Twitter and go to Facebook.

There are some number of people that are really upset with Facebook and go to TikTok. There are some number of people who will stay and grow up with TikTok, and some will go to Snap and vice versa, and in all of these things, the content is, by and large, going to increasingly converge and be the same. What’s going to be different is the narrative that people layer on top of it an what gets accentuated and what gets profiled.

And you can see that today, because if you go to the third-party media sites, you know, it’s a lot of the same content that appears on all these distribution networks. It’s just that the packaging is different. The interpretation is different, and that’s basically exactly what happens in broadcast media today. ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, HBO, they all behave differently and cater to different subsets of the audience, and I think that’s what’s happening to these large networks.

Laura Shin:

And one last question before we go, which is that you did earlier mention that you thought that would need to trust bust the big tech companies, but what you just described, it sort of felt like you were describing some kind of process of self-selection amongst the customers. So, you know, do you think that we will see government step in, and do you think we should see government step in, or is that not necessary?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I really don’t have a view on whether they should or not. I think that they will, and the reason that they will is because of money, meaning that, you know, the first thing that I think happens is really a view on taxation. The really is, is that these companies make just an enormous mount of money, and they do it in every single country of the world now.

So it’s just too tantalizing for a state or legal or federal government in any one of the random countries in which these, you know, 6 or 7 huge tech companies operate, to not look at that revenue and just pass a law and say, you know, tax treaties began, but from now on, if you’re going to make money off of my citizens, you’re going to pay me a tax, and I think that that’s how it starts, and so when you can imagine that happening across 180 countries of the world, what you’re going to see is diminished long-term profitability, which impacts the market cap and investor sentiment and whatnot.

It’s also what causes, then, some amount of employees to leave, start their own things, go to smaller companies, and that’s what starts the dismantling of it. The next I think form of trust-busting is really around, you know, distribution controls and the risks and the culpability that these big distribution networks take. Right now, you know, they can protect themselves behind internet laws that don’t treat them like broadcasters, but I think, increasingly, governments around the world…and you’re seeing this already.

You know, Australia’s doing it now. Europe is looking at it now. They’re going to attack those protections, and they’re going to treat the online, you know, media companies in the same light, and then the last thing they’re going to do is they’re going to create more competition on the distribution side because of the advertising monopoly that a few folks have. So these are kind of just like…and you don’t have to predict these, because these are actually happening.

So, you know, this is not like a great vision of mine. This is just reading the newspaper every day, and you know, when folks start, what happens is it emboldens the next politicians to have a little bit more courage and a little bit more courage, and eventually, it tips, and you know, in 10 years from now, we’ll look back, and it’ll seem like, oh, yeah, obviously, this was going to happen, but it’s impossible to put the genie back in a bottle once politicians smell blood.

Laura Shin:

And when you write your 2020 investor letter, what do you think you’ll be saying in it?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I have a couple of themes that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about. One will be able racism and racism viewed through the lens of really, in my opinion, what it is, which is a public health issue and an economic salvation issue. I think that, you know, a healthy, diverse community of people creates the most thriving ecosystem of companies and economies and creates the most thriving communities.

And so if you just want to be happier and you want to live in a society that’s, frankly, richer and more humane and more successful, solving this problem actually goes a long way. So that’s one issue. Another one will be on credit. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the credit markets, actually, much more so than I have on the equity markets, and there are a lot of interesting things that I’ll be able to say about that. I don’t know whether I will have made any money.

But I’ll definitely have some more stories by the end of this year, and then, you know, I’m really trying to write more about these secrets hidden in plain site. These are just these more philosophical things that I notice that, frankly, just helped me mature as a person and you know, be more focused and be more connected to who I am and who I want to be.

So I’ll write more about that, and then, obviously, the connection to Berkshire. You know, we’re having a pretty decent year this year. I’m not sure that I can say that, you know, we’ll make another couple billion like we did in 2019 or will lift our, you know, inception-to-date performance by 200 basis points. Coming into this year, we were going about 33% a year, which is pretty hard on 4 billion dollars, but you know, I’m learning a lot. So I just got to keep grinding. We’ll see.

Laura Shin:

Great. Well, where can people learn more about you and your work?

Chamath Palihapitiya:

@Chamath on Twitter and

Laura Shin:

Great. Well, thank you so much for coming on Unchained.

Chamath Palihapitiya:

I really appreciate it. Thank you.

Laura Shin:

Thanks so much for joining us today. To learn more about Chamath, check you the show notes inside your podcast player. Don’t forget, you can now watch video recordings of the podcast on the Unchained YouTube channel. Go to and subscribe today. Unchained is produced by me Laura Shin, with help from Fractal Recording, Anthony Yoon, Daniel Nuss, Josh Durham, and the team at CLK Transcription. Thanks for listening.