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Coastal dilettantes and venture capital

Chamath Palihapitiya – founder and CEO of a VC firm called Social Capital – recently penned an op-ed in The Information called: “The Sunk Cost Fallacy and the Future of Silicon Valley.”

Chamath is one of the most outspoken voices in Silicon Valley and is openly critical about the way the industry generally functions today. Here are two excerpts from his op-ed piece:

“Chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease are ravaging much of the U.S. and the world. Automation is eliminating the jobs of millions of well-meaning, law-abiding men and women. Weather patterns are increasingly unpredictable, disrupting water and food supplies and displacing millions of people. But despite this trail of breadcrumbs of big problems and big markets, we still find it difficult to fund potentially big solutions. Instead, we keep doubling down on the easy things.”  

“Easy short-term growth is now so highly valued in Silicon Valley that we often overlook technical innovation, sustainable long-term growth and meaningful progress in markets that matter. Every week adds to the corpus of press releases from companies with quick, fleeting growth overcapitalized beyond rationalization. And after too many years of this, Silicon Valley is now typecast as a monoculture of coastal dilettantes who float from one meaningless endeavor to another, tone deaf to real problems.”

Social Capital was founded in response to these criticisms. Their mission is to improve society by using technology to solve big problems – problems like the ones mentioned above.

Another firm with a similar mission is Obvious Ventures. They call what they do #worldpositive investing. Their goal is to only fund companies that deliver social and environmental benefits along with every dollar earned.

It’s interesting to think about how capital gets allocated and whether or not it will result in meaningful benefits to the world. Because this is not just about venture capital. You could substitute venture capital for many other asset classes and ask similar questions.

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