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Top VC (Chamath Palihapitiya) Disses Top CEO (Jack Dorsey) -- And Silicon Valley Survives

Silicon Valley denizens prefer to diss each other in hush-hush sotto voce. Not Chamath!

Today, in a Quora session, Chamath Palihapitiya — the voluble VC who runs Social Capital, is an owner of the Golden State Warriors and calls himself a “Merchant of Progress” — actually spoke his mind, making critical remarks about Twitter/Square CEO Jack Dorsey, smacking those worried about the existential threat of artificial intelligence (that would be Tesla’s Elon Musk, among others) and totally destroying Jar Jar Binks of “Star Wars.”

Also, his VC firm may go public, and he did throw some kudos at Snapchat.

In any case, it was nice to see this bit of outspoken public honesty from such a prominent character in Silicon Valley, whose denizens prefer to diss each other in hush-hush sotto voce.

Not Chamath!

Chamath Palihapitiya is not shy.
Chamath Palihapitiya is not shy.

Most likely to get attention is Palihapitiya’s answer to the question: “Was it a good decision by Twitter to name Jack Dorsey CEO, even though he runs another company as well?”

Let me just put his whole response in here, because he is veering into becoming the anti-Chris Sacca (the high-profile investor who has been a vocal Dorsey supporter) when it comes to the social communications company:

No. I don’t know Jack and can’t opine on his intellectual capability but it seems from far away that this decision by twitter’s board is both a) emblematic of them abdicating responsibility and b) an emotional, ego-driven process vs something that was driven by clear, incisive thinking. several reasons why:

a) jack seems like a 0 to 1 guy. he’s done it twice. that is special, but that doesn’t qualify him to lead a large, unwieldy organization looking for a strong business model and repeatable growth … let alone two.

b) people mistakenly mythologize this to steve jobs running pixar and apple. nothing could be further from reality. when jobs ran those two companies, it’s important to realize that both were on multi-year product cycles where they released 0 to 2 products every 1 to 2 years. but twitter probably needs to release 1-2 products or features per hour! so does square. that is the reality of being an internet product/service competing with other internet companies on internet time. as such, the ability for ANYONE to run two of these is impossible … one is hard enough … ask Zuck, Larry or Marissa if you aren’t sure.

c) the culture of twitter seems broken and needs a hard reboot observing the talent departures. this, again, can’t be solved part time …

he may be able to run one successfully but the odds of two, especially these two, are zero.

Well, it’s a good point to make and something investors should be monitoring closely.

As to those expressing fear of “Terminator” outcomes with AI, Palihapitiya dismissed it. “I think the term AI is overloaded and mostly used by fear-mongering technophiles or wannabe intellectuals,” he said. “I think its mostly ‘smart’ people trying to sound really smart …”

And poor Jar Jar Binks: “Jar Jar Binks is one of the most truly incompetent and annoying characters of modern cinema.”

More than the entire cast of “American Pie?” Sheesh!

But Palihapitiya could throw a compliment, too, saying the Snapchat “guys are the content barons of the new generation.” All guys, indeed, although the VC was still worried about value extraction from all that teen chatter.

Lastly, he raised the interesting idea that Social Capital would go public, which very few VC firms in Silicon Valley have done:

I suspect that we will. Social Capital is more and more like some of the best companies in Silicon Valley:

a) we have raised a lot of money; we make a lot of money

b) we have a very ambitious mission and aspirational set of values

c) we work on really hard problems that advance humanity

d) we attract amazingly talented people who want to work here and move the world forward

Over time, i think that there will be so much upheaval in the public markets via the disruptive value of technology that many incumbents will be destroyed, many new companies will be created and the cycle time will shorten on this process (ie today’s winner becomes tomorrow’s loser). in all of this “chaos”, a company who can navigate this technical upheaval and offer a public market investor a “proxy” to invest in all of the upside of this change can do very well.

there are a few of us trying to do this including Alphabet and Facebook. the big difference between us and them is:

a) we can take a pure investing approach

b) we are not encumbered by a legacy business we have to manage

c) we can buy anything anytime, jettison anything anytime

This last element is the ultimate flexibility that will allow us to thrive as a high value public company when we eventually go public.

Re/code’s newest podcast, “Too Embarrassed to Ask” with Kara Swisher and Lauren Goode debuts on Jan. 15

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