Social Capital is a venture capital fund that aims to change the world by giving companies with disruptive ideas the money to carry those ideas out. With savvy investments in Box, Slack, SurveyMonkey, Wealthfront, and Second Market, Social Capital could have been content being a prosperous venture firm. Instead, according to founder and managing partner Chamath Palihapitiya, it’s aiming to be “a progress factory.” Social Capital invests in startups, but when “industries [are] so lumbering that they are really holding back human potential,” the fund steps in and creates solutions itself in the form of new businesses. Among the five companies Social Capital has started are Glooko, a diabetes-management service that uses data to help patients better manage the chronic ailment (Palihapitiya’s dad suffered from the disease), and Rama, a wireless carrier rolling out low-cost Wi-Fi in developing nations with an intent to disrupt the U.S. market as well.
Palihapitiya and his partners try to focus on companies that they believe could, by addressing enormous societal problems, affect a quarter of the world’s population, employ up to 10 million people, and make up to $1 trillion for investors. Their metrics for success include no less than an uptick in “the GDP and the happiness of the markets in which we operate.” Social Capital’s world-changing ambitions reflect the priorities of its senior investment team, which has a rare 50-50 gender and ethnicity split for a VC firm. In fact, Social Capital recently partnered with tech-news site The Information to publish a ranking of VC firms’ diversity, which laid bare the industry’s monoculture.
“If you’re going to be successful on a broad basis, you’re going to need to appeal to different kinds of people from different kinds of backgrounds,” Palihapitiya explains. “The diversity we have is frankly our only path to long-term viability. That’s not to say we’re going to be successful, but at minimum we’re going to be more interesting than a bunch of old, white dipshits.”