Investor Chamath Palihapitiya Says We’re At An ‘Absolute’ Low Point In Startup Quality

Chamath Palihapitiya, a former Facebook executive and founder of investment firm The Social+Capital Partnership, said today that the tech world should be “utterly ashamed,” because “we are at an absolute minimum in terms of things that are being started.”

Palihapitiya was interviewed onstage at our Disrupt NY conference. He argued that in contrast to past decades, where tech entrepreneurs were inventing silicon chips, putting computers on every desktop, or wiring the world, we’re now “rehashing ideas from 2003.” He didn’t name a specific company, but when Palihapitiya talked disdainfully about an instant messaging app that allows you to send photos of everything from an apple orchard to your genitalia, and that the message disappears after a short period of time, it’s not too hard to decipher who he’s talking about.

“That was a bad business plan 10 years ago, and it’s a bad business plan now,” he said.

All of this seems particularly frivolous, Palihapitiya said, at a time when people are “dying left and right” and there’s significant inequality: “Everybody should be focused on this big ideas.”

What kinds of big ideas is he talking about? Well, Palihapitiya mentioned a couple of sectors, including health care, but he said he also likes to invest in startups in sectors where “we know nothing,” because then the firm doesn’t have a lot of preconceptions and it learns along with the company.

These issues came up again when Palihapitiya discussed, the political advocacy group that he’s involved with, which focuses on issues like immigration reform. One reason why immigration is important — international companies are focused on “higher order problems” while U.S. startups are focusing on “1 percent problems.”, he said, is promoting a framework to make sure the country continues “to attract the best,” as well as programs to ensure that kids have a strong technical education.

Everyone should learn to code, Palihapitiya added: “This is the time when people should be building really big, crazy things.”