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VC Firm Social Capital Set Out to Fix Capitalism. Now It’s In Turmoil

Staff have departed and investors have expressed dismay, but CEO Chamath Palihapitiya says the firm hasn’t wavered from its goals.

Chamath Palihapitiya

Chamath Palihapitiya

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

Seven years ago, Social Capital made its debut as one of the hottest venture funds in Silicon Valley, the brainchild of a former Facebook Inc. executive with some grandiose ideas about backing startups that might help humanity. Now, after a flood of prominent departures from the firm and a failed expansion strategy, a number of investors have lost confidence in the remnants of the leadership team and its ability to make good on its initial promises.

At least five investors will not reinvest in the firm’s next fund, people with knowledge of their plans told Bloomberg. Those defections come at the same time the firm most needs to fortify such relationships. Social Capital has postponed fundraising at least three times during the past year, and roughly 90 percent of the $600 million from its last fundraise in 2015 is already committed, according to two firm investors.