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Amazon climbing, we’ve crossed rubicon in climate change: Chamath Palihapitiya

Chamath Palihapitiya

May 09, 2016 (LBO) - Chamath Palihapitya, the Sri Lankan-born venture capitalist and tech visionary, highlighted several industry trends recently, ranging from Amazon's valuation to funding fallacies in Silicon Valley. Commenting on climate change, Palihapitiya said humanity had crossed the rubicon, and new technologies will be needed to fix the problem. "Nothing takes away from great company building. At the end of the day that is still as hard as it has always been," Palihapitiya said, speaking to CNBC. Venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, with cheap and easy money, had made several bad investments in the recent past and a correction from that trend was now taking place. Silicon Valley is waking up from a funding 'hangover' he said.
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Palihapitiya's prediction that Amazon could grow to become a three trillion dollar company in 10 years drew significant interest at the Sohn Investment Conference last week. According to him, since the launch of the Amazon Web Service (AWS), the e-commerce giant has cut prices once every two months. Amazon introduced 700 features to AWS last year, a 40 percent increase over the prior year. "When you're doing those two things at same time, what's happening is you're disrupting existing incumbents who have no ability to actually offer the same capability at the same price." Amazon's cloud threatens to become tech's Wal-Mart, and Palihapitiya said Alphabet's Google Cloud is perhaps the closest competitor with a focus on machine learning capabilities that interest a subset of companies. Palihapitiya is the CEO of Social Capital, a 1.2 billion dollar fund focusing on early stage investments in education, health care, financial services, and enterprise and consumer segments. He was also a member of the original Facebook team. "When you see great companies being built, that year over year continue to grow, that can manage their expenses, that recruit great people, that have a really profound mission and values, those companies are always sought after." A recent trend has been artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, and Palihapitiya believes it should be understood as a way to make life easier, rather than a situation where a computer becomes your friend. "All this automation and machine learning and AI, that's going into just making your life much easier. That's just the beginning of a big wave that we are going to see." He is backing the Google Loon project in Sri Lanka which he helped negotiate between Google and the Sri Lankan government. The project is an effort to deploy high-altitude balloons that can bring Internet connectivity to remote areas. After decades of war between the government and Tamil Tiger separatists, new technologies such as social and new media deployed through greater connectivity are expected to help reconciliation efforts. Commenting on climate change, Palihapitiya said humanity may have crossed the point of no return, and we will have to explore new technologies to fix the problem. "We will not be able to take all the carbon in the air out. We have weather patterns we can't predict. We are at the beginning of something I think we have to legitimately think about," he said.
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