After a speech at Stanford University at the end of 2017, Chamath Palihapitiya says he realized that something had to change in his life.
"In Italian there is a nice word, Basta, which is actually comparable to your way of saying, & # 39; enough! & # 39; ", said the CEO of Social Capital about the latest installment of Recode Decode. "And so I woke up one day and I thought:Basta! & # 39; Enough."
And in the course of the next year, Palihapitiya's statement that he had "had enough" would meander around Silicon Valley, because his well-known, traditional venture capital company lost several of his most prominent partners, hurt his own investors, and his most ambitious plans.
Now Palihapitiya offers his explanation for how exactly Social Capital has fallen into such a dramatic disorder: it was an identity crisis & # 39; that was motivated by deep, personal shortcomings that needed to be addressed. About this emotionally charged episode of Recode Decode, Told Palihapitiya Recode & # 39; s Kara Swisher and Teddy Schleifer that he had the right to be happy and discover – despite being part of the empires and celebrities of Silicon Valley – that he was not. So it was "bad".
"I investigated why, after the accumulation of all these things: more companies invested, more money raised, more prominence, more television appearances, more this, more that, more everything," he said. "Why am I no longer happy? In fact, I am less fortunate, and in fact I think I have really corrupted some core relationships in my life where I have created hyper-transactional relationships in many areas of my life."
Social Capital in 2018 would be defined by this drama and Palihapitiya admits that it has left many scorned people behind. But he rejected the idea that he, as a risk capitalist, held too great a responsibility to others as "idiot" and said his right to be happy, weakened everything else.
And his message to those who claim to be angry with him?
& # 39; To all people who have worked for me and whose money I have accepted, you are welcome, & # 39; he said. "We did the work we were asked to do, but just as Michael Jordan had made a decision to retire and play baseball, I chose to retire and play baseball, but now I might come back to basketball, but this is my decision I'm not your slave I just want to be clear My skin color of 200 years ago may have got you confused, but I'm not your slave. & # 39;
You can listen Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts and Overcast.
Below we have shared a slightly edited full transcript of Kara and Teddy's conversation with Chamath.
Kara Swisher: Hello, I am Kara Swisher, editor of Recode. You might know me as the founder of the venture capital company Antisocial Capital, but in my spare time I speak technology and listen to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast Network.
That can only mean – I said antisocial – that I am here with someone who is one of my favorite people, but do not tell him, Chamath Palihapitiya, the CEO of Social Capital. He has been to this show twice before to talk about the status of venture capital and he always says something crazy. The last time was August 2017, so we still have a lot to catch up. Much happens in the life of Chamath. We also have Teddy Schleifer with us. He covers money and power and politics for Recode. Chamath, welcome back to Recode Decode.
Chamath Palihapitiya: How are you?
KS: How is it? What do you mean by what is going on? What is the matter with you?
KS: Chamath? Every time I turn around, you're in the news.
KS: Let's say who you are. You are an old venture capitalist. You worked on Facebook. You have worked at AOL. For those who do not know the Chamath, so you are a familiar figure of Silicon Valley. Do not give me that look. And…
What is going on?
Well, a lot of things.
KS: Yes. So last, we met you, all those people had hired you. Mark [Mezvinsky], Chelsea Clinton & # 39; s …
I think it's easier … I mean, in fact, I've hired a number of people, then I transferred a number of people and left some people, and some people left and … But it's all to explain in a bigger idea.
KS: Okay. All right. Because you had a great idea last time, you would change venture capital. I wrote a story about it and you had all these concepts around this full-service. Is that correct? A full-service what?
The general idea was that I thought there was too much emotion in the company, and the answer to that was simply the use of data and information, and most information to make better decisions was in a company. So the simple idea was that if, instead of having MBAs with spreadsheets, data specialists worked at a venture capital company, they could ask the company for the real data that mattered. They would be able to build models. They could do much more precise predictions.
And then investment decisions would be far more unbiased, which means that you do not care about the gender, the appearance, the … All those other labels around a CEO. But instead you could see how good they were, because it eventually manifests itself in the company. And that is the organization that I wanted to build.
KS: And you had a relatively traditional venture capital company to start with, right?
Not really. I mean, I had always done the job that way. The team that I had hired via Facebook helped me to do that. I had a few people I rented and who were very traditional, especially because I wanted a patina of that world, in case it mattered. In case it mattered fundraising, with LPs, because I had the first few funds, I was two-three hundred million of the money, but I still needed six seven hundred million of the money from other people.
Teddy Schleifer: So it helped with fundraising to …
It helps with patina. A madman is showing up, a basketball team owner who feasts, all of that. It does not give a good picture if you are with a pension fund and this man asks for $ 100 million. But you take a few people with a straight line who went to the MBA school and they did the job. But they were good people and they contributed to the organization, do not get me wrong.
But something much bigger happened, which was at the end of last year, I think I went through an identity crisis that I think … I will predict that not only Silicon Valley will continue, but I predict most of every man in the world will definitely feel in the next five to ten years. And I think it follows the following lines … And I'm a by-product in many ways of having a lot of the social media infrastructure that I think some of these feelings have become worse.
I had in the last nine years … In short, I was a billionaire on 32. I had a sports team on 33 or 34 …
KS: That's a shame, Chamath, but go ahead.
I was apparently … People would say, charismatic guy, interesting guy, funny guy. Married, three beautiful children, living in the most expensive zip code in the United States, bla, bla, bla. And I was so confused about what was needed to make me happy, and I became increasingly confused. And so the cycle was: "Oh, maybe it's more deals, maybe it's more money, maybe it's more holidays, maybe it's a more expensive vacation, maybe it's, I'm flying on a better plane. more beautiful couple … "It kept on escalating, but at the end of it I was army and army.
So the opposite effect was that I spent time with people who did not necessarily feed me, I spent time in a way that strengthened my anxiety and my feelings that I was missing in some way or inadequacy or insecurity. And instead, what is left is not the filling up of a void but a void that was equal in proportion to how fake all those experiences were. And it was all around me.
KS: May I ask, what does it matter? Was there something? It was just a growing, gnawing feeling of emptiness?
It was a growing, gnawing feeling, but I know what the spark that lit the game was, and that was my speech at Stanford in 2017.
KS: Okay. Talk about that.
TS: What are you saying?
For some I was at my best, but in my interpretation I was the worst. And I was really a good person about never really … Being authentic around my insecurity, but not so much on my vest or wearing my sleeves that I would lose sight of the person I was and how I should behave. And when I look back on that, and in many of the speeches I have given, or the lectures I have given, I look back because I like to see where I was in my point of evolution because my assumption is that I should evolve. .
And in all the things I look at, I'm actually pretty proud, except that one, and that's the one with millions of opinions, and it's the one where I said, "Social media tearing apart the structure of society," That's all relatively true. The forum on which I did it was, I think, misplaced, and the way I did it was so dilapidated, and it was wrapped up in all that other nonsense about the people who run the world and their wealth, and that it was just so distorted and contrived.
What it was, was that I almost barely excluded this last burst of misfortune and insecurity, and it was my way of saying, I was told or convinced myself that Which is what we all struggled for. And I finally got behind the curtain to realize that it's a complete farce and it's a joke, and now I'm completely confused and almost alienated because I like "Where can I fit in? Where do I fit in? What am I trying to do? "
KS: Well, let me … One of your brands did not fit. That is one of the things that you have been most proud of is that you … Opposite, contrarian is one of your things. You say what you think. You pull the lid of venture capital. Whether these guys are …
But those are all superficial things. They are easy to do because, frankly, if you even have one vertebrae of a spine, that is easy because most of those people are fake and they live in a very superficial, sad definition of what depth is. But at some point, if you're lucky … like, for example, my parents were deeply dysfunctional. Alcoholism, psychological problems, depression, abuse, all those things. They did not have time to unpack. Job to job. Housekeeper, clerk of a photocopy store, unemployed person, vacuum seller, seller of encyclopaedias. That's what they did.
KS: I understand. My grandfather and grandmother did not have time to be unhappy.
My parents did not have … They had time to be dysfunctional.
KS: Or happy.
And completely confused, but they did not have time to be unhappy. They did not have time to be introspective. They did not have time to protect their children. They did not do anything like that, which parents can and must do if you are in a position. So my point is, I am in a different situation, that is, me do have the time …
TS: You have the ability to have an identity crisis.
I would not even … I have the ability to assess myself and ask myself these questions. Who am I? And here I got confused about what makes me happy and how I define my core friendship.
And for a long time, in my naivety, my definitions were very superficial. It was the things that other people would appreciate, whether it is a function, a promotion, working at one company about the other company, the money you earn, the trips you make, the experiences you have, because to relate all of them to other people. And in the vicinity of today they are very recognizable in a message, in a tweet, in a photo. And so it strengthens the short-term feedback that tries to tell you that life is good. But at a given moment, when it gets so disturbed and distorted …
KS: So what is it about the speech that has done this? You gave this speech … And it was quite a humuation of a speech.
Well, my point was, I was investigating why, after the accumulation of all these things: more companies invested, more money raised, more prominence, more TV appearances, more this, more that, more everything.
TS: The question is, why were you no longer happy?
Why am I no longer happy? In fact, I am less happy. And in fact, I think I have really corrupted some core relationships in my life, where I have created hyper-transactional relationships in many areas of my life.
KS: That's a good way to say it.
And I do not think that's what I wanted. And so, it was almost so low, when I was at Stanford, I just let it go completely. And from that point on, I began to make these systematic decisions in my life that I felt were stuck and I had not had the courage.
First, I would say – and I would put most people in this category – I did not have a toolbox to even tackle it. And that has nothing to do with rich or poor. It has a lot to do with your condition when you grow up. I have something funny that my friends and I talk about, which means that white people have the right to be crazy. You can live on a spectrum of normal and crazy. Brown people, black people, Chinese, we are all normal on the outside and fucking crazy inside. That is what we do.
KS: Right. You have to present.
We must present. We appear normal, but we are really crazy.
KS: I always thought you were crazy, Chamath. But go further.
Thank you. So I did not have the toolkit. When I had a toolkit, it was like, okay, use the toolkit and think about what I wanted to do to really become emotionally healthier. Build a sense of self-worth and an identity that was separate from many of these external signals.
It is so much harder to do than I thought and it is a continuous process. And in that, what I did, I was deeply changed. One of them was in the organization because I said, "I'm bringing all these funds together, I'm bringing in all this money, I fly around the world to the Middle East, to China, to all these places, not to my own. validation and happiness, but to get the validation of other people who do not make me happy, even if they validate me. "In Italian there is a nice word, Basta, which is actually comparable to your way of saying: "Enough!" And so I woke up one day and I thought, "Basta!" Enough.
KS: Let me just stop you. You had made the public offer of … the transaction.
TS: The SPAC [Special Purpose Acquisition Company].
The SPAC, yes.
KS: Of that thing, and I remember that I dined with you that nice grill.
Yes, the grill. The day of.
KS: The day of. This was before this revelation, right? This was … That was one of the craziest dinners I ever had. You had a ridiculous …
TS: It was like mid 2017? End of 2017?
KS: Yes. They had a bottle of wine that looked like a million dollars, and you thought, "Do you want anything?" I think so, "No, it's $ 1,000 a glass, no, no, thank you, I can not take that ethically." But that was a crazy meal, and I remember walking away and thinking, "What the fuck? on the hand with Chamath? "
KS: Because it was manic, I would actually call it. It was a manic dinner of all these people, and you were manic and the SPAC had just happened. And of course you were all thrilled by it, but it was …
I was very euphoric at the time.
KS: Yes, euphoric.
Euphoric, I think, is a better word than manic.
KS: Well, manic is what I thought.
But I think you're right. I definitely lived out … And look, I would not remove those experiences from my life. I think they were very interesting, but they were interesting to learn now, and it gave me more courage to be who I want to be.
So who did I want to be? I wanted to run an organization that made really thoughtful decisions in sectors that I really cared about, even if all people around me did not understand or care. That required a different set of people, a different organization. And the great thing is that it did not need someone else's money right now.
TS: Is not that one of the challenges here, though, that part of being a venture capitalist, and maybe if the company becomes a family office effectively, you're doing different things, but it's not one of the challenges. ..
I do not like the term family office because I do not think that's what it is.
TS: personal capital.
Well no, I think it's a holding company.
TS: a holding company.
It is a company that can buy and build everything that it wants.
TS: Is not one of the challenges that there are people who depend on you, or who are other VCs of social capital, LPs? One of the challenges when you already have an existing infrastructure like a company is that when you want to change things, it can be pretty dramatic.
KS: How did you like that? Because if you say BastaI think a lot about that myself. I know what you mean.
Look, we've raised a few billion dollars and we've gone up that money by between 30 and 40 percent per year. So for all the people who have worked for me and whose money I have accepted, you are damn welcome.
KS: You are damn welcome, what does that mean? That you gave them things and that was enough?
I hired them and LPs hired me to do a job. We have done the work for which we were asked. But just as Michael Jordan had made a decision to retire and play baseball, I chose to retire and play baseball.
Now I might come back to basketball, but this is my decision. I am not your slave. I just want to be clear. My skin color, 200 years ago, may have got you confused, but I'm not your slave.
KS: But how difficult was that, right? Come on, you know that.
It was not that difficult.
KS: Yes. You were just like …
It was not that difficult. But this is because … If you realize that you live someone else's life … Listen. It is not to distance yourself from this performance. They are meaningful. But if I do not appreciate them, let someone else do it because they appreciate it and they will be honorable with those things. And if I could not, I did not want to be in that role.
KS: So if you say …
And besides, I'm right. This is what is shocking me.
KS: No, I'm not saying you do not, of course. But it is that it has repercussions that cause … Because no one does that. Nobody walks away.
No one also pays millions of dollars to their ex-partners and gives them resignation. I mean, certainly, but is that reported? Are these people on the street? Do these LPs suffer their wounds and they think: "Oh my god, we have lost money?" No. What are we talking about? You gave me 50 million, I give you hundreds of millions back. You worked for me. I give you millions of dollars. In some cases tens of millions. What's the problem? Please look for something else to do and it will be okay.
KS: Come on, Chamath. Come on. Leaving hinders people. Look, you have the right to do it, but it causes repercussions of people who depend on you. I understand that it is easy, but it is not as easy for everyone as the center person does.
If you … It is not easy emotionally. It is not easy psychological. I recognize all that. My point is, it is a right and we all have the right to do it. You could also say that no employee should have the right to stop a business because you are abandoning all your colleagues. Guess? People do.
So should I feel a different sense of guilt than other people feel individually to make decisions to optimize for their lives? What about a doctor who works in a really poor part of the United States and says, "You know what, I've paid my money, I'm going back to New York City." Is that guy's decision worse or better than mine? Is the person who … the critical security engineer on Facebook who stopped one day. Is it that person's job when he stops worse or better than my decision?
TS: So you do not feel like a VC that you somehow … These people are more depending on you than a patient of a doctor, or a client of a lawyer. Do you have the right to be happy?
What is the argument? Are you telling me that you suddenly have to make legislation that can not give up their job?
KS: Nevertheless, it created …
It's idiotic, what you say. I mean, it sounds really stupid.
KS: Okay. Now it still creates bitterness with the people who are left.
KS: Is that right?
KS: How did you deal with that?
I went to Italy, spent the summer there. Had a fantastic, fantastic time.
KS: Where did you go?
KS: everywhere? Italy is a great place.
My girlfriend is Italian.
KS: I know that. It is awesome.
Yes. So I just detached and decompressed.
KS: Now you have also changed your personal life. You just mentioned your girlfriend.
Unbelievably, part of the process just realized that when I got married … I was married to a wonderful woman and she is an incredible person. But I had such a limited toolkit. And what I mean by that is that I did not even understand what it meant to be emotionally intimate with someone. I had really good friends or my definition of good friends, but they were friends with whom I would party or gamble. Never share my emotions with, really. And so I did not have the ability to really build an emotional intimacy. And relationships, whether they are romantic or not, are difficult if you really invest in them. And in so & # 39; n a long time of knowing my ex-wife, it's just, you have these meaningful changes.
And what I look back on and say, the spark that lit that fuse around 32, 33. It was just so much capital that you give so much freedom of choice, and sometimes optionality is good. Choices are good, but too much choice can be very destabilizing. And then, you make decisions in your life that you can not relax. Which task should I do? Where do I work? Where do I not work? And all these things can create at a given moment, if you can not talk about it, resentment and problems. And unfortunately my wife and I were not able to process them. But she is a wonderful mother. She has been a great partner for me. But it was a decision that I think was the right thing to do.
KS: Yes. Which also destabilizes people. Listen, you know I'm divorced. I get what you're talking about.
But what I discovered was that in my divorce I was not angry because I had gotten divorced. They were deeply insulted that I had not told them and that they did not know it would come. And in that I realized how emotionally broken I was and unable to make real contact with people. People would always say, "Chamath, you are frank." And then the sincerity would change to: "Oh, you're pretty authentic." But what I realized is that they are still very superficial and the ability to be truly authentic and to be emotionally present with someone is super hard.
KS: It is.
And I did not know how to do it. Not as if you were saying, "Hey, be emotionally intimate." I had something like: "What are you talking about?" How to share, how to listen, how to be a good listener to a friend, and how. .. For me, even just to share some really deeply intimate things that I had to deal with or that I've dealt with people I did not have before. It is not what we did when I grew up in my family. You push it down, put it in a small box and place it far away.
KS: Bury it.
Come on, go to work, make the white man proud.
KS: Well, my family is Italian. We do not do that, just so you know.
Now, one of the things I think of when you talk like that is … This culture, the Silicon Valley technology culture, talks a lot about change and disruption, but they do not like it.
In fact, they do not.
KS: They hate it.
If I can tell you what I said before in the business section. I think there is a lot of depth … So I am much happier now than I have ever been, but in my happiness, what I will tell you is that I actually have more moments of happiness and elation and sadness. I actually feel the ups and downs and their totality. I am actually more present and therefore I am just happier because I am more grounded in my values, okay?
KS: There is an old saying, if you do not feel the pain, you feel nothing else.
Something else. Yes, I think that's a very good saying. I think many people are very oppressed and they live here in these halcyon days, like, "It's great, disturbance, disturbance, yes, yes." But really what I think is the underlying part – and that's why I think churn is so high, employees are so dissatisfied – is that they are all so deeply unhappy. Silicon Valley people are much more unhappy.
TS: They can be rich, but they are not necessarily happier.
Or they see that they can be rich because of stock options, which we can talk about later, which may not be worth much. But the point is that I think people in Silicon Valley are the most unhappy at the moment that they have ever been personal. They are the most, probably, distant. They are the least socially engaged. They are the least emotionally intimate. They are all things that go together to make people feel really empty. That exists here in spades.
How it manifests itself in companies is that at one point you need a real emotional spark to do something really meaningful, at a given moment. I think a lot of people play the Kabuki theater, the banter show, of a startup, but if you are so busy with your own luck, there is a general malaise that you bring to the office. I think that the things you do at these offices are not that good, and that ultimately the companies themselves are not that meaningful. I think we are in that wave now. How do we deal with it?
KS: I wonder why it happened first, before …
Well, I think it's because you have a lot of really young people who have grown up for phones that are completely disconnected from their real, tactile lives. They do not know how to define happiness, Kara. Your children, my children, Teddy and probably Teddy & # 39; s …
Are super unhappy. Tell the truth. I mean honest, Teddy, tell the truth.
TS: Do I think people in my generation are unhappy? I think that eventually … Yes, I think there is the experience of growing up with a device, all the time. I think you are right.
My generation, we were pretty gung-ho, something like ways to be happy. When I spoke about my accident earlier, it was a level of core emotional accident that came after a long period of research, but at some point you just had to be happy during the day. I just think that I do not see that much anymore.
I wonder why there is so much ideological extremism, why there is so much evil. Thinking at the root of it is deep dissatisfaction with itself. That is what comes out. You see the world as you live it, and so if you live it as someone who becomes increasingly angry and more bitter, you get out and you become more and more angry and bitter. If you see the world as trusting and happy, you see the positive side of a world that trusts and is happy. You can take the same care statistics and one person will say, "My heaven, we are all doomed," and the other person says, "Look at the progress we have had, and thank God for this to happen."
I think companies want people who are generally happy because I think this allows you … Especially startups, which do not necessarily overcompensate, although that is not true now, that works on these lofty goals, has faith required. Faith is not based on anger.
KS: Well, did they start happily? Do you think many of these companies started with that concept?
I think if you look at the generations of the companies when you and I were here for the first time, in the 2000s, why were we here? We were not here for Silicon Valley profiles on HBO, books and all these things.
KS: Yes. It was not cool.
It was not cool to be here and so you had to be happy to be here.
KS: It was very exciting.
It was very exciting. The lower the building, the better. Right? The more stupid and dirty and the hornier the technical well, the better.
Now it looks like all this impeccable shine and shine, and it's all wrapped up to look like something that should be in a movie. But below that, it is just a funeral show and a nightmare for many people.
TS: Do you think the wrong people are coming to Silicon Valley these days?
No no no. I think people are coming … You need the people, but the people are fundamentally unhappy. Part of the reason people are unhappy nowadays is that they got a piece of goods that … they do not really help. This means that you did prophylactically things in a way that you thought it would inform you, more involved, more understood, more sympathetic, more empathy, and it is the opposite. Those things are really sacred things to play with.
At this moment you do not play with them in one-on-one. Stel je voor hoe die dingen op en neer gingen in een relatie die je had op de middelbare school, en hoe verwoestend of opwindend het was. Je had twee of drie van die interacties, misschien, het maximum in je leven. Nu heb je 50 tot 100 van hen per dag. Ze zijn veel kleinschaliger, maar ze gebeuren dag in dag uit, dag in dag uit.
Neem een stap terug en stel jezelf gewoon eerlijk de vraag: "Denk je niet dat dit spul invloed heeft op je psyche en je definitie van jezelf, je kerngeluk? Denk je niet dat dat gebeurt? "Ik zal je vertellen dat het mij overkwam. Ik heb de neiging om te denken dat als het mij overkomt, het met de rest van jou zal gebeuren.
KS: Wat zorgt ervoor dat dat creëert? Een daarvan is geld. Of is dat niet het probleem?
No. Ik denk dat geld een versnelling is om je ware zelf te vinden, dus als je bent voorbestemd om een eikel te zijn, zul je sneller een eikel zijn.
KS: Ja, met meer spullen.
Met meer spullen. Ik denk dat het ding dat dit alles versnelt, is dat we nog niet echt goed werk hebben verricht door een nieuwe generatie helden te creëren die een reeks waarden en keuzes laat zien die de moeite waard zijn.
Ik zal je een ander voorbeeld geven. Toen ik single was, was ik geschokt door wat het tot nu toe in 2019 betekent. Niet geschokt als ik een puriteinse man ben, maar ik was geschokt over hoe waardeloos het allemaal was, zowel de connectiecultuur als zelfs de datingscultuur, omdat niemand begreep hoe je een bloedige relatie kon opbouwen. Niemand wist echt hoe hij moest delen en creëerde eigenlijk een band. Ik dacht gewoon: "Dit is rot. Hoe is dit gebeurd? "Want dat is niet wat ik me herinner dat dating is zoals, als een eenvoudig voorbeeld.
And then I thought, “But these are all good people, how did they end up just so detached and broken?”
I think that there’s an entire suite of experiences, a whole suite of them that are combining in unforeseen ways to just rewrite the norms of society. I think that we haven’t done a good enough job in saying to ourselves that, as that happens, the mental health of me as an individual also matters.
It’s as if, for example, let’s just say Whole Foods didn’t exist and all it was was a candy store. Let’s just say all Safeways and all A&Ps, every single grocery store was replaced with only candy. And we lived in a world where you could only eat candy. Some was healthier for you, some was not, some had protein, so you could roughly get what you needed. It would be completely non-stigmatized to say, “Well, all I can eat is candy from a candy store. There are better candies and worse candies, but I realize what it does to my body, and so I’m also going to get a membership at the gym or I’m going to create a regimen of workout to help me deal with the implications of my food intake.” It seems really like a de-escalated conversation.
Now, if I said, “Well, there’s all of this information that I’m consuming that has positive and negative impacts on my mind, still not clearly well understood, so I’m going to prophylactically do something to help manage my mental health,” you sound like a crazy person.
That’s the tragedy of what, Teddy, your generation, and Kara, your kids and my kids are going to feel head-on.
KS: What about the business of here? What happens there? Because right now Silicon Valley has gotten a lot of pushback on a lot of the things it’s made, as you know. You’ve talked about it.
TS: This is the Stanford speech, right. Facebook …
The Stanford speech was more about just talking about what the impacts of some of those things were.
KS: But this is precisely what you were saying, in a different way. You’re saying the same thing.
Look, I think that people would be crazy to say that, for example, like Google hasn’t advanced humanity by 10 to 100x. Have they done some things that are at points sketchier or could they have done better? Sure.
Would you want to be in a world without Google? I would not. I don’t think anybody really does or understands the implications of …
KS: So you feel the negative impact is overestimated?
I think that the thing that has happened is that there has been a transition from achieving a mission to optimizing a business model and maximizing a business model.
KS: Right, and advertising.
It happens when growth slows. To think about in a company, how a company works, a company is just a complex set of interpersonal relationships, and you need to transition from … You need to keep everybody motivated at all times. First in motivation is, “Oh my gosh, look at all of these new things that we’re building that people want. People want us. We’re popular. We’re popular. Make more of the things. The things are amazing. These things are delicious, delicious. Make the things.”
Then at some point, people stop buying the things because they have the things. Then the team is like, the employees are like, “Should we be sad now that nobody wants our things?” “No. Because we’re going to charge more for those things, and now you’re going to count those things, and those things are called money!”
It’s always a game of hot potato around motivation and morale. As it transcends and filters into a company, that’s how you first focus on product-market fit. Then you focus on growth, then you focus on revenue. In these transitions to revenue, what has happened to all these companies is that they’ve done what they were supposed to do as a for-profit public company. Go and maximize revenue. Go and maximize profits.
The implications are not, in my opinion, for them to bear. The implications are for society to bear and for governments to bear.
KS: And then what? So, this is naturally the way that …
Two-fold. I’ll tell you two-fold.
KS: This was naturally the way that it was going to happen, is what you’re saying.
KS: What a surprise?
This is normal. What a surprise. This is not new news.
KS: Right. Well, it is a little bit because they said they weren’t like that.
KS: I know, but you know there was a whole …
And you believed them?
KS: They believed them. I didn’t. I never believed them.
TS: Basically, the argument here is these were companies that were always set out to make money, and now they’re making money, and to a certain extent, that’s not their fault.
They’re doing their job.
TS: Doing their job. Right.
KS: You know they didn’t start out … You know their game. They weren’t hucksters, for sure.
No, they were not. They believed that they were doing the right thing. We believed we were doing the right thing. I think we’ve realized that it’s a much bigger thing than we thought it was.
Here’s my point, though. Society has a responsibility. The society’s responsibility is to do what I just said, which is, how do I optimize for my mental health? I’m just going to put it bluntly. The people that think they … I’ll put it differently. Let me just tell you the scale of the mental health crisis. I’ll just use the United States as an example: Men.
Men. Men live somewhere between seven to 10 years less than a woman. Same zip code, same education, same health… Now, you’re asking my personal theory? How is that possible? I’ll tell you. Women have a much better path to mental health than men do. Women talk. Women learn that it’s okay to be emotional.
At a very young age, women learn about emotional intimacy. They’re taught that it’s okay to have relationships where you share intimate details. You may get betrayed. You may not. You’ll get supported. Sometimes you cry. Sometimes you feel really low. Sometimes even depressed. Sometimes you’ll feel amazing. It’s all normal, and you’re normal. There’s an enormous number of people exactly like you in the world.
Guys: “Hey, this is cool. Hey, yeah, sports is cool. Dunk a basketball. Yeah, let’s watch this football. Hey, that girl, she’s hot. Yeah. How you’re doing? Good. Hungry? Yeah.”
KS: This was in my last headache with my sons.
“Beer? Yeah, Beer.”
KS: Not the beer part, but yeah.
Now you see this duality, and it builds. As a result I think what happens are, in my opinion, men, why do they live less? Because they have just taken in so much toxic garbage into their body.
KS: They’ve also spewed it out, Chamath.
Yeah, but they don’t know how to deal with it, and so they compartmentalize and they tuck it in, and I think it destroys men bottoms-up at a very cellular level. I honestly think so. That to me is the state of the mental health crisis in America. It’s at least 175 million people, and it’s growing. We got to just destigmatize it and make it okay for people to talk, and for people to be able to be emotionally connected to other people, and not value obvious things, and also then not vilify the things that were obvious before.
I look at all this stuff around AOC and what’s shocking to me is like, why is it all of a sudden so bad to be successful? It should never have been bad before. If you think about the progress that we’ve made, Civil Rights, medicine, politics, all the things that have happened were fueled in part by money that was created out of a capitalist system. We have a political philosophy in America that works which is capitalism plus democracy. They’re inexorably twined. You can’t have one without the other.
And all of a sudden we have a counterfactual and say, “We would have been the same.” It’s disingenuousness, but the reason why people get so angry is because, a, they don’t like what they are, nor do they like what anybody is that they see. I think step one would be to really fix who one is and try to make oneself a little bit happier around the things that they care about.
KS: I think she’s talking about inequality, which has never been great. She’s absolutely talking about it.
TS: She’s tapping into anger.
She’s tapping into anger. Kara, I know AOC. You know why? I was her. I am her. I’m just a less angrier version than her.
KS: She’s not angry. You’re wrong. You’re 100 percent wrong. You’re missing her completely.
No, I don’t think so.
KS: I think you’re all terrified of someone who is actually …
KS: Talking about something that’s important, which is the enormous inequality of wealth and opportunity in this country.
I’m not actually scared of her at all.
I really don’t. I think that’s she’s an impressive person. If I was able to do what she could do, I would do it too, but I also am smart enough to know hoe I would do it, and I would do it exactly the way that she’s doing it.
I think a lot of it is tapping into a lot of latent anger.
KS: No. I think she’s saying, “Enough,” is what she’s doing. She’s doing exactly what you’re doing. She’s saying “that’s enough of that.”
KS: That’s enough of the #MeToo. It’s enough of this. A lot of women are saying it, for sure, about the behavior of men in Silicon Valley. That’s fucking enough. We’ve had it. People did it 20 years ago. Enough.
I’m not trying to take away from that.
KS: No, but I’m saying …
When I think about 70 percent taxes or like the Green New Deal …
KS: That’s not what she’s talking…
Like a non-binding thing …
KS: It’s the beginning of a conversation. That’s what it is. I think she’s obviously more sophisticated than you at this point because she’s starting a conversation that you know she’s going to come to a compromise about. You have to start saying, “I will not sit in the back of the bus. I will not do this. I will not do that.” It has to start with those kinds of things.
I think we’re saying the same thing then.
KS: Well, I guess.
It starts from a more angry point, Kara, and then you chill the fuck out.
KS: Yes, but you have to, you have to get angry.
Guess? Kara, I started in a really angry place.
And now I’m a lot less angry. And I bet you I’ll be a lot more effective.
KS: Let me just tell you the strides that gay people had started with silence = death. It started with Act Up.
I’m not saying it’s wrong.
KS: I get it. I get it.
I’m just saying it is.
KS: But you’re not getting it.
You’re getting so offended by the fact that …
KS: Because you’re attacking someone who I think is talking about critical issues in our society.
I’m not attacking it. I was investing in climate change and health care since 2000 and fucking …
KS: Right. You were. That’s true.
2011. I was putting in hundreds of millions of dollars of my own money, so I put my money where my mouth is. Her agenda I agree with, but the tactics, all I’m saying is I’m just looking at it and I’m like, “Oh, I’ve been there before. I was the angry person spouting off about climate change in 2011.” I didn’t do it as eloquently as she did.
My version of that was maybe blathering on at TechCrunch. Her version of that is a non-enforced …
KS: You’re not as charming as she is.
TS: She’s also 29 at this point, so I mean it’s possible there’s a generational thing. Yeah.
All I’m saying is that I’m just observing her toolkit as my toolkit.
We’re doing the same thing.
KS: We’re going to get into the next section about what we’re going to do about all of this, Chamath. I like the happy Chamath but there has to be some … A lot of stuff that pushes Silicon Valley forward is dissatisfaction, anger, insecurity. Those kinds of things do create, the irritation does create good things.
I think anger is a fantastic motivator for the zero-to-one path. I think it’s probably the best. I’ve never seen people who like, happily, are like, “It would be nice to do this.” I think it’s more like, “Oh, I don’t like that. Oh, this could be better.” Maybe anger is not the right word …
KS: Right. Irritation.
Irritation, whatever. So those kinds of negative motivators tend to work really well in that zero to one, but at some point your philosophy has to transition because most people are motivated by irritation and anger. They’re motivated by positivity, and an additive sense to be able to do things.
Right now, Silicon Valley, if you take away the emotional well-being of the employees — which again, I think is in a very precarious state. Ask the big tech companies how many of their folks take them up on the free mental health checks. I bet you’ll be shocked that it’s probably 30, 40, or 50 percent now. But if you take that off of the table, then there’s a structural business issue that we have here now, too.
It’s something that I wrote in my letter last year, which is there’s an enormous tax that we’ve been quietly paying to the big tech startups without realizing it. Those are the costs to AWS, Microsoft, Google, and then for hosting and web services, and then the tax to Facebook and Google specifically for acquiring customers, it’s roughly about 40 cents of every dollar. Then, if you layer in the headcount costs, which is really about 50 to 60 cents of every dollar, you are already in a place where your real net margins are zero or negative.
KS: So, hard to become successful.
Kara, it’s hard to even grow.
It creates a really dangerous, precarious startup culture which is not one of “innovation wins” but one where the person who can get tricked for the most money will survive, and then a lot of the really good ideas won’t get capitalized because they’re too risky.
KS: Yeah. That’s a really important issue. We’re here with Chamath Palihapitiya having an intense discussion, which I’m super enjoying. I’m so glad we’re going to get to be girlfriends now.
I’m ready to be girlfriends!
KS: Oh really?
I am emotionally open.
KS: And braid my hair. Are you?
KS: Can we hug and stuff like that?
TS: I’ll tweet you. So Chamath, you’ve called this [startups] a Ponzi scheme.
TS: The whole startup world.
KS: Explain that.
TS: You released this letter three or four months ago. At this point, basically, I think there’s an element of truth to this, for sure, but talk about where …
KS: He sort of believes it.
Thanks for your fucking millennial backhanded compliment, you douche.
TS: No, no, no.
It’s true. If you actually study the market, it’s true.
TS: The argument here is that … who is getting fleeced? Who are the people who are losing in this Ponzi scheme.
TS: Employees of startups who are fed …
Let me just explain it, so it’s easier. Let’s just say, the three of us here in this room, let’s just assume that we are the ecosystem, and there’s a company right there. The company comes first to Kara, and says, “Kara, invest in me.” She says, “Sure.” She gives him a million dollars and takes 10% of the company.
She then says to him, “Well, I gave you a million dollars, I know you have to spend around $500,000 for engineers. Please spend the other $500,000 on Google and Facebook ads. Grow as fast as you can.” The CEO might say, “Why?” Kara will say, “You have to grow at all costs, or it’s death.” What she’s really saying is, because it improves the odds that somebody now invests after me. That’s what she’s really saying. Okay.
A year passes, now that same company comes to me and says, “Chamath, I’ve taken Kara’s million and I’m growing super fast. I did exactly what she said. Will you give me $5 million? I want a $25 million valuation.” I say, “Okay.” Now, all of a sudden, I invested $5 million, now he has another $5 million. Kara looks like a genius because she’s got a 2.5x return in a year. Wow! That is amazing. She puts in a little bit more. I put in the most and then I say to the CEO, “Hey, this is all fine and good, but growth or die, dude. It’s all about growth. You’ve got to grow.”
He says, “Well, what does it mean? I’m spending so much on Google.” “No, spend more. Hire more engineers, build more features, hire more salespeople, spend more.” Then again, he starts to spend 50 cents of every dollar on Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, etc. Then he shows up and now the greater fool shows up — you, Teddy.
TS: Yes, I am the series C investor here.
Series C investor. And Kara calls you and then I call you. “Teddy, you have to take a look at this. It is going gangbusters. Remember when we would always have picnics at the Harvard School of Business and you know you held up my fleece vest one day right before it started to rain? Well, think of this as a payback.”
TS: Is that what the idea of the Harvard School is?
Think of this as the payback.
TS: And I talked to Kara. I talked to you. I see markups. Everyone’s happy.
Remember when we were strolling the quad in the Stanford School of Business …
KS: I didn’t go to Stanford, my friend.
… and Kara, you lent me a pair of espadrilles, and I said, “Thanks, Kara.”
KS: Espadrilles? You’re not going to be my girlfriend now.
Consider this a payback.
TS: Relationship’s over.
So, you go and invest $20 million at a $100 million valuation. Now Kara’s investment has 10x. My investment is 4x.
TS: You guys are telling your LPs, “Everything’s great.”
Now Kara goes to her LPs and says, “I did amazing. I put in a million bucks and it’s worth almost $10 million. I want to raise a $10 million fund now and I’ll do it again.” I say to my LPs, “Hey, I put in money and I 4xed it. I want to raise a $300 million fund.” You eventually find somebody else and then you’re like, “I’m going to raise a billion dollar fund.”
So what has really happened? One, the company is not really any more incrementally successful. Okay? All we’ve done is inflated the cost of him running his business. Two, Kara’s raised more money, which means she has to put more companies to work, which by definition means unless the quality of the companies increases, she’s going to be putting more money into crappier companies.
I’m going to keep doing it. You’re going to keep doing it. So, this is all about passing the buck. Who gets rich in this scheme? Kara, me, and you get rich. Why? Because, we don’t put a lot of own money in the game.
TS: Working fees off the fund.
Yeah, if you’re an entrepreneur, here’s a great litmus test. Entrepreneurs, write this down. When you go and raise money, ask your GP when you get multiple term sheets, “How much of the fund is GP capital?”
KS: Almost none.
And you’re going to be shocked.
TS: Is it 1 or 2 percent on most funds?
Yeah. I was 30 percent. Thirty cents of every dollar was me. You should take the term sheet from the person that has the most skin in the game because they will be the most rational. Because now if they tell you to spend it all on Facebook and Google ads …
TS: It’s your money.
… it’s my money. You know, I used to tell this to my team all the time. Hey, I get that you want to write a $30 million check, but do you understand that if you say, “Yes,” I’m going to wire out $10 million tomorrow? So, let me pay attention. It’s amazing how much more you pay attention when your own skin is on the game.
So, the VCs win, because you get paid a salary. Eventually, the dirty little secret is if you raise enough funds, Kara, and I raise enough funds, we make more money in his failure, because we’ll have many more of his kind of companies than if they’re successful. And then in some crazy, sadistic way, VCs actually want you to fail. And they want you to take a long time to fail, because by that point they’ve stacked up so many funds …
KS: You can’t get out.
They’ve collected so much fees …
KS: They’re a hit.
Your outcome is irrelevant. Think of how gross and misaligned that is.
KS: It doesn’t matter about the company.
So, No. 1, the company loses. No. 2, the VCs win. No. 3, the limited partners who then put in money in the future also lose. Why? The Muscular Dystrophy Association shows up and says, “My God, I’ve heard you’ve made money for Harvard and Stanford and Yale and Princeton and MIT. Can you help us, we’re just trying to help cure muscular dystrophy?” I’m like, “Yeah, I’ll take your $50 million.” But, they’re in like the seventh fund. I’m already tired and rich.
TS: They haven’t caught up to the Ponzi scheme yet.
KS: Tired and rich.
They haven’t caught up yet. So, the really earnest LPs that are late in the game, they get screwed. And then the employees get screwed because the employees are left getting these options. The valuations go crazy because now once Teddy gives his entrepreneur $50 million, that entrepreneur goes to Dropbox or somebody else and says, “Hey, leave Dropbox. Hey, leave Square. Hey, leave Airbnb. Look at how fast my equity is going up.”
But, now what happens? If you’re not realized, that person gave up real money for fake money. So, now what is his or her choice? The next time is to be much more skeptical or to say, “Well, if I’m going to play this game, I’m going to be really promiscuous. I’ll be here for a year, I’ll be there for a year, because they could all be lying or they may all not know better and hopefully this whole thing just doesn’t catch up while I’m still in Silicon Valley.”
KS: So wait, one…
“I can make enough money and move to Austin.”
KS: When does it catch up? When does the bill come due, Chamath?
I think that we are going to have a non … I think it’s probably in the next three to five years. It will not be from our industry. It will be in the debt markets and this is the way it plays out, I think.
If you thought the great financial crisis was a big deal, around mortgages, oh my God, wait till you see the amount of debt companies have. The complexity around all of that is far beyond what we can all talk about. But when companies start defaulting on their debt, what it really means is those same LPs, Harvard, Stanford, Yale, MIT, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, all these people, right? [They] will lose an enormous amount of money. Because in all of their asset allocation models, the debt part of their portfolios is much, much bigger than venture capital. Venture capital is like 1 or 2 percent, it’s an afterthought.
But if you start to suffer huge losses over there, huge, you’re going to start to just redeem, and you’re going to want to be super liquid.
TS: To pull money from venture and then …
Well, you’ll pull money from everywhere. First, you’ll start with hedge funds because they have easier redemption cycles. But it won’t be enough, because take Harvard, just a simple example. They still have to pay teachers, buy buildings, pay tuition, whatever. Or the Knight Foundation, they have to pay their programs and then they’re going to look around and say, “Okay, well, sell this other portfolio.”
So when it hits venture, it’s going to hit it that way. That’s where I think people will say, a very dispassionate financial buyer will say, “These assets are worthless. Teddy, why did you think this was a $100 million company? The valuation is really somewhere between Kara and Chamath’s original value. This company doesn’t make any money. It loses money.”
TS: So at that point then, when Kara says lets raise her next fund, or you raise your next fund, or I’m raising my next fund, suddenly the LP doesn’t have as much cash to put in.
Yeah, and so that’s why. Why do you think Kara raises funds every two years now? Why do you think Chamath raises money every two years? Which means Chamath and Kara have to put the money out faster. Which is why you wake up every day and you see 50 deals a day and you think, “Where is all this money coming from?”
KS: There aren’t 50 good ideas.
This is the Ponzi scheme that we are living in.
KS: So, how do you get to the good ideas? One of the ways I think about it, when you talk about Amazon, Google, and Facebook is three semi trailers running down a highway that nobody can get around. You use the term tags …
KS: I think of it as nobody can get around. How do you get the good ideas? Where are they? How you create … you know, you mention some others, Airbnb, Uber, others. Good ideas, right? Interesting ideas.
Right now, I think you’ll be well compensated in looking at the parts of the American industry that have largely been nonprofit and making them for-profit. To me that’s roughly … and I know health care, you’ll say, is for profit, but it basically behaves as a really horrible, pathetic nonprofit. Education. I think those two areas will really have enormous amounts of outcomes. Like big, big, big, multi-hundred billion dollar outcomes. Climate change will be enormous. And then making us less dependent on the earth in general, space, all that stuff will be enormous. So, those are like four areas that are pretty obvious.
The way that I look at things now is, I look at the product of two concepts. One, is this a hard thing? And I try to ask myself, “What is super hard about this?” And it takes a while because some things are non-obvious because when somebody presents you something it’s like, “Oh, I built this thing and here’s how it behaves.” You’re like, “Well, that’s pretty straightforward.” But you’ve got to find the hard thing.
And then what I like is this idea of how much courage does it take to start it? Right now I’m infatuated with this idea that you want really low courage to start something. Because then all of us take a shot on it, because we’re like, “Well, what’s the big deal?” But it has to have a path where it gets much higher, where you have to have more and more courage as it gets bigger. So, for example, I just saw Free Solo.
KS: Yeah, I’ve heard it’s great.
TS: It’s good.
So, that’s an enormous outcome because it’s the product of a hard thing and this initial courage threshold. Hard thing, HT, is just, it’s huge. I’m going to free solo El Capitan. It’s an enormous thing. It’s undebatable, right? But the initial courage is de minimis, it’s take the first step. You’re on the ground. Take the second step. You’re still on the ground. The tenth step. Nah, you’re still functionally on the ground.
By the time you’re 400 feet in the air, wow, your courage has to go way up. Every next step is incrementally harder. But the product of all of that, if you’re successful, is an enormous feat of humankind. I think that every time I look at a company now, I first look in only those four categories because I’m deeply infatuated …
TS: Anything that’s nonprofit right now?
TS: Anything that’s the four categories?
No, no, I’m … if I want to be specific: health care, education, space, climate change, and the fifth one for me is AI. Meaning like hardcore chips and chip design in AI. Those five areas, but I ask the same question. Is it relatively non-courageous to start but will it get deeply courageous to keep going? And, if it were to happen, is this an unbelievably hard thing that would just shock people? Both of those questions are relatively easy to answer, actually.
If you look at Airbnb, you can paint it in this example. What is the hard thing? Make every room in every building that’s not a hotel bookable and behavable like a hotel. That’s a hard thing. You could value it as high or low, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a hard thing. What’s the initial courage threshold? It’s super low. I scraped a bunch of listings on Craigslist and I stuck them on my website. But now, look where they are. You have to be much more courageous. “Oh my God, we may need to get into airlines.” “Oh my God, we may need to be into vacations.” Oh my gosh, now you have to have real courage.
Take Uber. What’s the hard thing? I’m going to eliminate all car ownership in the world. It should be a rentable usable resource like water. Okay, that’s super hard. Initial courage threshold, super low.
KS: Get some limos.
I’m taking a couple of these guys’ black cars. But now look at the courage threshold you have to have. How do you deal with passenger safety? Hey, how do you deal with autonomous vehicles? Hey, how …
TS: How do you deal with New York City?
It’s complexity on top of complexity and you have to have more and more courage. So, I like to take those two ideas and apply it to those five markets and see if there’s things that I like.
KS: Are you just investing alone now? Right? We just have a few more minutes, but you’re just doing it by yourself? Do you have partners again?
I have partners, yeah. I have like 25-30 people that help me.
KS: That work for you. Just work for you.
Yeah, they’re my partners. They help me. They lead certain areas. I have a great partner that I work with that leads a lot of stuff in space. He’s wonderful. I have another partner that leads a lot of stuff in sort of marketing and then software and …
KS: Is it different than before?
Well, it was more of acknowledging what it was before. It was a benevolent dictatorship in disguise as a democracy.
KS: Ah, those are the worst.
It was never a … those are the worst.
KS: I have a benevolent dictatorship, as you know.
TS: Constitutional reform right there.
KS: I love a benevolent dictatorship, as you know.
Now it’s more of a thing where what I would love to do is do what sort of Buffett and Munger have done. Be evolving my mind, be increasingly detached and dispassionate, be more emotionally aware of myself, make fewer much bigger decisions of impact.
KS: Which you have talked about.
And then not answer to anybody except my life partner and my children. That’s it. And everybody else can go fuck themselves.
KS: He’s a very happy person, Warren Buffett, I have to tell you. I just had dinner with him. He seemed the happiest.
KS: So happy.
KS: He’s happy. That’s exactly … I’ve got to say.
He’s happy. I mean, honestly …
KS: He did eat seven lamb chops during our sitting.
TS: This in Omaha?
KS: We had a good time.
I remember this lunch we had and he didn’t eat because he was just talking. He had a Caesar salad. It’s just funny. We were talking and he made some comment about Crestor or something. He’s like, “Oh, I take 20 milligrams or 30 milligrams of Crestor.” Or maybe it was something, Lipitor, I don’t know. He’s like, “It’s the most incredible drug that’s ever been.” As soon as he says it, the timing was impeccable. This enormous sundae lands on his table and he just starts digging into this.
KS: He likes his sugar. Oh yeah, he does.
KS: He likes ice cream.
KS: He’s happy.
I would love to be happy.
KS: He is a happy man.
I’m reasonably happy right now.
KS: All right. And then so, are you bullish on Silicon Valley or … and then I’ll let Teddy ask the last question.
KS: What has to happen for everyone to undergo a Chamath? And that’s what it will be called. It will be a like verb. “Did you have your Chamath yet?”
No, I think that the way that people express this now is people, in their dissatisfaction and disillusionment with this place, leave. So you’ll see better and more companies get built outside of the Valley.
KS: A lot of people have left recently. Dan Rose went to Hawaii. A lot of people, you’re right, they leave.
They’re unhappy, Kara. All the money in the world doesn’t make you happier.
KS: Oh, I know that. “You’re so poor all you have is money,” that’s what I always say.
It gets you to the point of realizing how unhappy you are faster.
TS: What would you tell an entrepreneur out there who right now is like …
KS: “What, Chamath?!”
TS: No, no, no. I think you correctly point out, there are a lot of people who are quietly unhappy. How do they deal with their unhappiness given, I think there’s a lot of pressure here, right? Everyone feels pressure, if you’re a CEO, if you’re a VC. What’s our two-sentence life advice default?
If your health is degrading and you’ve been eating chocolate every day, step one, stop eating chocolate every day. Step two, get some exercise. What is the version of that for being mentally healthy? I think it’s compartmentalize these things in a way so that you put them in context.
There should almost be a disclaimer, like on cigarettes, “The shit you are about to consume is not true. It may make you feel like somebody else is kicking ass while your life sucks ass. It’s not true. Now go on.” You know what I’m saying? You just really need to have good boundaries for yourself. That’s step one.
Step two is for me what I did was I read a book that profoundly changed my life. I grew up in an alcoholic family and the book is called The Adult Children of Alcoholics by Joan Woititz.
KS: Oh, great book.
It was fucking transformational in my life because it basically disarmed all of my dysfunction and said, “Chamath, you’re like everybody else.” It made me feel so understood and seen for the first time in my life.
So, there are either books or therapy or all this stuff that I think is just so profoundly helpful to people to disarm the things that right now they feel are exacerbated when they’re online, and that then will result in a much emotionally healthier and well-balanced person capable of being an incredibly productive founder.
TS: Because to some extent these are founders that are unhappy and think they’re alone and unhappy, right? But the reality is there …
It’s not correlated.
TS: There are a lot of these folks who are … there are a lot of people here who are unhappy. They just don’t really … no one talks about it.
KS: Or they don’t express it.
TS: They don’t express it, right.
KS: They don’t have the access to express it, so they don’t feel it.
I think they express it. They express it by job-hopping. They express it by having a bunch of fleeting relationships. They express it by feeling relatively disconnected. They express it by being angry. They express it. It’s just that we’re not doing a good job of actually looking at these things and actually putting it all together into a mosaic.
KS: Can I ask you a personal question? What do people think of you? What are your real friends saying, like, “What the hell, Chamath,” or what?
They were shocked at how much I went through, personally. I think they’ve been really open to who I am now. What’s funny is that I haven’t lost the charismatic crazy guy part…
KS: That’s clear.
… but it’s much more compartmentalized and it’s more whole. It’s healthier. You have to understand, Kara, my life back then used to be nuts. It was not sustainable. Like fucking Vegas and LA and it was nuts.
KS: I’m telling you, that dinner I came back. I said, “Chamath has lost…”
TS: I remember you telling me about this time.
Kara, you went to bed! I’m telling you … if you had followed me around for the four hour … it’s …
KS: I went to bed.
That lifestyle …
KS: I’ll be honest, I couldn’t wait to get away from you all.
Well, that lifestyle was me self-medicating my unhappiness. That’s what I was doing.
KS: Yeah, I called it forced fun.
There was all these people on the periphery that always wanted to be around that lifestyle. I get it. It can be really kind of intoxicating to see it, touch it.
KS: Michael Cohen talked about it yesterday.
But it’s not, it just leaves the person in it, I think, or it left me completely broken and unhappy.
KS: Well, can Silicon Valley change? Because a lot of things, you want to create beautiful things.
I think so. I’m working on a lot of things right now. One thing that I love is this idea of disarming the concept of mental health. Disarming it and then giving people a better, simple toolkit, and I think there are simple things that can work for a lot of people to make them feel like they’re not alone and that they’re seen and they’re understood. That’s it. Those three goals, and I’ve been working on something that maybe I can come back and tell you when I’m ready.
KS: All right, well, it’s a lot about self-reflection, right?
KS: The other day I was talking to some Silicon Valley people. I’m like, “It’s a miracle any of you can see in the mirror because you don’t have any self-reflection.”
The best thing that ever happened to me through all of this is my kids looked at me and they said, “Dad, you are so much nicer.” If you had talked to my friends, they would have said, “You know, he can be crazy from time to time, but he really shows up as a dad.” So, I always thought that I was really doing a good job not being my dad to my kids. But even when my kids saw the delta in the last 18 months, I was like, “Okay, I’m doing the hard work. Nobody else gives a fuck, but they care.” And that’s all that matters.
KS: Oh, Chamath, I like this new Chamath. I like new Chamath! I liked old Chamath too. Old Chamath was funny.
We’ll merge the two and then…
TS: Merge the two.
KS: All right, the best Chamath. All you Silicon Valley people, you’re going to undergo Chamath. Just so you know. Chamath, it was great talking to you. I hope you come back again. I want to hear the things you are working on all the time. You’re a very creative and interesting person.