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February 13, 2021

Chamath Palihapitiya has already drafted the next chapter in his charmed-life story.

The immigrant kid who bootstrapped his way into riches at Facebook Inc., made billions as a risk-hungry investor and became the pied piper of the current blank-check craze now envisions himself as nothing less than the Warren Buffett of the Reddit era.

"Nobody's going to listen to Buffett," Palihapitiya, the founder of Social Capital, said in a Bloomberg "Front Row" interview. "But there have to be other folks that take that mantle, take the baton and do it as well to this younger generation in the language they understand."

The language, of course, is social media. That's where the 44-year-old billionaire talks up his deals, trolls the establishment and hypes "all things Chamath." Recently, he stoked speculation he might run for governor of California. Occasionally, he tweets out shirtless selfies to his 1.3 million followers. His feed is a digital stream of consciousness.

Together with Ian Osborne, a public-relations soothsayer turned financier, he has sponsored six SPACs, raised a total of $4.34 billion and acquired businesses in space travel, health insurance, financial services and real estate.

Lightning Rod

Along the way, Palihapitiya has made a fortune for himself and his investors and helped whip up a frenzy that has everyone from Colin Kaepernick to former House Speaker Paul Ryan racing to market their own SPACs. He's also a lightning rod for sceptics who pooh-pooh his success as the product of relentless self-promotion and see blank-check companies as proof of a bubble inflated by massive government money-printing.

If SPACs are emblematic of a speculative mania, then Palihapitiya is the face of that moment.

Palihapitiya said anything that popular will lure its share of copycats and wannabes, and inevitably many will fail. He's confident his brand and investing acumen will not only make people rich but help democratize finance and level the playing field.