In a world like the startup world with high risks, investors might as well gamble on technology for the social good, former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya argued in a presentation at a tech conference in San Francisco.
After leaving Facebook in July 2011, Palihapitiya launched The Social+Capital Partnership, an investment fund that looks for technologies that can make dramatic transformations in health care and education.
The fund has invested in a company that manufactures a mass spectrometer for individuals, for example. It just raised an additional $275 million.
“I felt like I got more than I deserved, maybe that’s because I grew up poor,” he said. Palihapitiya emigrated from Sri Lanka to Canada before coming to the United States after college.
Palihapitiya was inclined to see the impediments facing other talented people and disinclined to measure success in dollars — although he did make quite a few as an early Facebook employee.
“If I lose all the money I made at Facebook, so be it. I was born poor and I will die poor, and all that really matters is the legacy of that cash,” he said.
But Palihapitiya made the case that investing to solve big problems isn’t charity.
“The likelihood of failure is 99 percent, that’s just the nature of startups. So why not just swing at something really big and audacious?” he said.
Those that succeed, whether as entrepreneurs or investors, become “merchants of progress,” he said.