Through the recent slump we’ve seen in funding, we’ve heard from an array of VC’s with varying opinions on the issue at hand. Vanity Fair recently published an interview with Chamath Palihapitiya, former Facebook employee and owner of Social Capital, where he reflected on Silicon Valley’s biggest companies and the future for startups.
As one of the few initial employees at Facebook, you can imagine that Palihapitiya has a accurate understanding of the trials and tribulations of a startup. In the interview, Chamath admits that during his time at Facebook there was a lot of scrutiny, “Back then there was a very turbulent phase in our company.” From turning down acquisition offers from Yahoo to being sued by the F.T.C., Chamath had been through the tumult and saw the reward in perseverance. Thus, due to his experiences, one can deem his opinion quite authoritative.
In the interview, Chamath is asked to offer his opinion on the slow down in funding, “I think we’re in a phase where we’re realizing that the people who have been allocating capital thus far have done a horrendous job.” Chamath goes on to explain a common fear amongst those in charge of allocation, losing their jobs. There have been a handful of investors who’ve made big investments in companies like Google and Uber, who saw incredible success, and now every other investor is trying to mock that situation.
Chamath shares that investors have become “risk-averse” and rather than take a bet on intelligent companies, they’re still gunning for something to approximate that same flash-in-the-pan success. An analogy I found quite refreshing from the article is the difference between investing in visionary companies versus beauty pageants. Companies who pitch hypergrowth can seem bright and shiny, when on average, they’re typically a flop. There has been an overwhelming amount of startups who saw fast growth, and those short-term wins attracted more investors. Unfortunately, those hyper growth startups fall just as quickly. “Valuable companies take decades to build.” Rather than investing in these all too common on-demand service oriented startups, invest in a company with an unwavering vision. Companies that are aiming to advance humanity in some way, which in Chamath’s opinion are those who focus on asthma or perhaps cancer, are where money is worth allocating nowadays.
Overall, Chamath’s opinion aligns with the majority of investors. Funding needs to return to more disciplinary state, where companies need to have a clear mission in place for long-term success, not hyper growth and short wins. While those types of companies generally take a great deal of time to turn profit, in the end they’re extremely valuable.