Earlier this month, billionaire venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya made headlines when he posted a message to the broader venture capital community about his Silicon Valley firm Social Capital. In the blog post, Palihapitiya explained that his company had shifted away from his original intentions over the years and that the firm would no longer accept new outside capital in an effort to refocus its projects going forward. While there has been speculation that this was a sign that the firm was actually anticipating shuttering its doors at some point in the near future, Palihapitiya assured the finance world that his firm would continue to be involved in its ongoing projects.
Now, a new bit of information may complicate the story further. Business Insider reported that Palihapitiya let go several members of the Social Capital staff, including four partners, late last week.
Who Was Fired and When
Palihapitiya reportedly let go partners including Adam Nelson, Ashley Carrol, Kristin Baker Spohn, and Sandhya Venkatachalam, as well as Social Capital's senior associate of growth, Kiel Zsitvay, and head of communications, Kira McCroden. Notably, these staff members were let go on the same day that Palihapitiya published his post to Medium explaining the future of the firm itself.
Business Insider reports that additional staff members are said to be laid off as well, although they have not been identified as of this writing.
What Does it Mean?
Business Insider reports that individuals familiar with the matter suggest that the layoffs were a part of Palihapitiya's effort to transform his company into a "technology holding company," rather than a traditional venture capital firm. This news is also in keeping with Palihapitiya's previous comments to The Information in which he suggested that the firm would end up with a smaller employee base of about 40 people, rather than closer to 70.
Nonetheless, pessimists could look at the layoffs as a sign that Social Capital might be in trouble, in spite of Palihapitiya's denials that this is the case.
Reportedly, employees of Social Capital were caught by surprise at news of the layoffs, which took place immediately after a conference call that Palihapitiya had with the company's limited partners advisory committee. Axios reported on Friday on the situation, suggesting that a source familiar with the circumstances described Palihapitiya as repeatedly avoiding difficult questions about the future trajectory of Social Capital, as well as more pressing questions about the management of investor capital.
It seems likely that there will be future shake-ups at Social Capital, regardless of how successful the firm is at transforming itself into a technology holding company.