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This is What Chamath Palihapitiya Thinks About Products

There's a lot of podcasts out there -- many for Product Managers and many added more day to day.  There's a lot of content out there including our own blog which we all hope that you find different, useful, refreshing or at least enlightening.

One of the best ones that we keep going back to is This Week in Startups.  Of the guests that Jason Calanis has interviewed through his 800+ episodes is Chamath Palihapitiya.  The latest episode that featured Chamath had him talking about where he's taking his investment company, Social Capital.  There's been any information in the news of changes, some drastic changes being made in the last 18 months and he spoke a little about those changes.

One of the great things about Chamath is that he's definitely someone that's firm on his opinion and speaks plainly and candidly.  Some would say his views are polarizing but even if you don't agree with him, I think everyone who's heard his talks would all walk away being provoked in some way to either support their own differing opinion more strongly or walk away being confident that there is someone else out there that feels the same way.

Chamath Palihapitiya on Products

At around the 30 minute mark of the talk, he starts talking about his opinion on VC firms.  He goes into a bit of a rant and how the funding model is not good for everyone but that's not the important point.  He gives us some clear insight into his own experience as a VC and distills some wisdom to those of us who are would-be Founders or product managers in getting a glimpse of what Chamath things when backing a business.

First of all, he splits companies in this 2-dimensional graph.

  1. Capital-Light or Capital-Heavy.
  2. Obvious versus Non-Obvious

According to Chamath, this is what he tells his team: venture capital excels at Obvious versus Capital-heavy.  He gave an example of how Scooters now seem to be popping up everywhere that's funded by VCs but he says it's nothing new or nothing original.  Apparently hundreds of millions have gone into this sector. 

Capital-heavy and non-obvious is like what Elon Musk has done.  Look at Space-X and Telsa cars.  Rocket-ships and electric cars!  It's super-risky and honestly no one should do it unless they are highly confident or skilled or both.

However, Chamath does say that while you might not know things are non-obvious before and likely only after do your realize it, that the capital-light aspect is something that's in your control.

What kind of product do you work on as a Product Manager?  Where do you fit in the spectrum that Chamath has espoused?