Who Is Chamath Palihapitiya?

Chamath Palihapitiya is a highly-successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist in the San Francisco Bay area. In 2021, he was ranked tenth on Forbes magazine's list of new billionaires.

Palihapitiya founded (and is the CEO) Social Capital in 2011 to invest in companies in fields being ignored by other venture capitalists, like health, financial services, and education. However, the firm has since expanded to invest in tech companies like Amazon, Tesla, and Slack. It is not taking new clients, according to its website.

Key Takeaways

  • Chamath Palihapitiya is a highly successful venture capitalist, along with being an engineer, and SPAC sponsor.
  • He is the CEO of Social Capital.
  • Palihapitiya was born in 1976 in Sri Lanka but raised in Canada.
  • He lives in California and he is a minority stakeholder and board member of the Golden State Warriors basketball team.
  • Palihapitiya went to the University of Waterloo in Canada.

Chamath Palihapitiya

Investopedia / Lara Antal

Notable Accomplishments

In 2018, Social Capital became mainly a permanent capital model and launched two SPAC platforms: Social Capital Hedosophia and Social Capital Suvretta. These platforms were created, according to Social Capital's website to "provide an alternative growth path for companies to go public, while continuing to make public and private investments, with a broad focus across climate science, life sciences, crypto/decentralized finance, and deep tech."

In 2019, he sponsored a company that merged with Virgin Galatic, later selling a large part of his stake for $200 million in March 2021. He continues to sponsor Special-Purpose Acquisition Companies IPOs. He is known for his media appearances, and his active Twitter account with 1.62 million followers (as of January 2023).

Portfolio companies include survey platform SurveyMonkey, biopharmaceutical company MeMed Diagnostics, and co-living rental platform HubHaus. Notable exits from mergers and acquisitions include peer-to-peer tutoring website InstaEU, acquired by Chegg, and Scan, a developer of image recognition and QR code scanning applications, purchased by Snap.

Palihapitiya raised six special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC) over 2020, including one with Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson. He also invested in two companies going public via black-check vehicles in January: innovative lock maker Latch and solar lender Sunlight Financial.

After taking Virgin Galactic public in 2019, in February 2022, Palihapitiya resigned from his position on the board of directors of Virgin Galactic, a space-tourism company.

Early Career and Education

Palihapitiya received his Bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Waterloo.

Palihapitiya first entered the venture capital world in 2006 as a principal at Mayfield Fund. Before that, he worked at AOL and was head of the instant messaging division.

Before founding Social Capital, Palihapitiya served on Facebook's (now Meta) vice president of operations in several capacities, including as a lead developer. He is credited with helping orchestrate the social media platform's massive growth.

However, he is reportedly not a fan of the social media behemoth, according to interviews with media members. In 2021, he was interviewed on CNBC, stating his belief that Meta failed to regulate its product.

Personal Life

Palihapitiya was born in Sri Lanka in 1976 and moved to Ottawa, Canada as a child at age five. His father worked as an official with the Sri Lankan High Commission, and when his post ended, he applied for refugee status. His family remained in the country, where Palihapitiya attended school and later college in Waterloo, Canada. He is a naturalized American citizen.

He resides in Northern California, is a basketball fan, and a minority stakeholder and board member of the Golden State Warriors.

Is Chamath Palihapitiya Canadian?

No. Chamath Palihapitiya was born in Sri Lanka but is a naturalized American citizen but he was raised in Canada.

What Is Social Capital?

Social Capital is a venture capital investment firm based in Silicon Valley, California founded by CEO Chamath Palihapitiya.

Chamath Palihapitiya Work at Facebook?

Yes. Chamath Palihapitiya worked at Facebook (now Meta) as a senior-level executive, who led the development team and was crucial in launching new platforms that contributed to the success of Meta.

Article Sources
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  1. Forbes. "Chamath Palihapitiya And Nine Other New Billionaires Minted By The SPAC Frenzy."

  2. Institutional Investor. "The Unusual Ambitions of Chamath Palihapitiya."

  3. Social Capital. "About."

  4. Forbes. "Chamath Palihapitiya And Nine Other New Billionaires Minted By The SPAC Frenzy."

  5. Twitter. "Chamath Palihapitiya."

  6. Social Capital. "Portfolio."

  7. CBInsights. "Social Capital Teardown."

  8. The Newcomer. "The Man With Six SPACs."

  9. Bloomberg. "Chamath Palihapitiya Invests in Two Deals in One Day During SPAC Boom."

  10. Social Capital. "At Social Capital, We Make Big Bets On Transformational Ideas, Technology, And People."

  11. The New York Times. "In Flip-Flops and Jeans, An Unconventional Venture Capitalist."

  12. The Guardian. "Former Facebook executive: social media is ripping society apart."

  13. CNBC.com. "Early Facebook exec Chamath Palihapitiya says platform could have fixed its product years ago."

  14. Lanka Reporter. "Golden State Warriors Owner Proud of Canadian Sri Lankan Heritage."

  15. Twitter.com. "I am a naturalized US citizen but I was Born in Sri Lanka, raised in Canada."