Palantir CEO hits out at tech workers critical of its government work

Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, on the second day of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Stefan Wermuth Bloomberg | Getty Images

Palantir Co-founder and CEO Alex Karp knows that many tech workers in Silicon Valley question his mining company’s dealings with intelligence agencies and the military.

He has a message for them.

“You can’t agree to this and, bless you, don’t work here,” Karp said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in an interview with David Rubenstein, chairman of the investment firm The Carlyle Group.

Palantir sells software to government and private organizations that help them analyze large amounts of data. Over the years, the company has been closely associated with government projects, which are often hidden.

Karp on Wednesday defended his company’s work with the military and other government agencies, saying it helped reduce terrorism and combat “human rights abuses committed primarily by Western adversaries.”

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Tech workers have been increasingly vocal in recent years against their employers’ contracts with the military. Microsoft, Google, Amazon and Salesforce have both faced issues related to contention.

Palantir has tried to separate itself from the pack, accepting government service in the name of patriotism. In 2020, Palantir moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Denver, Colorado, a few months after Karp publicly complained to Axios on HBO about what he called “the growing intolerance and growing culture of Silicon Valley.”

Two-thirds of people in Silicon Valley don’t want to work for companies like Palantir, Karp said in Davos. However, he added, “a third of them just want to work for your company.”

“We’re not going to be everybody’s cup of tea, we’re not going to be your cup of tea,” Karp said.

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Karp, who founded the company with Peter Thiel and others in 2003, advocates for the use of technology in national security.

“We don’t like people coming in and saying, we want to kill criminals and without security,” Karp said. “Bless your life if you want to distribute carcinogens with your great intelligence as a consumer internet.”

A trademark of the big data company Palantir.

Fabrice Coffrin | AFP via Getty Images

The CIA was an early investor in Palantir. Along with the FBI and the National Security Agency, the CIA is among the company’s clients.

Since 2014, Palantir has been working with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify undocumented immigrants, which has led to employee protests.

“We need people who want to be on the West Side,” Karp said. “And this is not for everyone.”

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Karp said Palantir helped the Ukrainian military with its MetaConstellation product, which he said allows security experts to “use algorithms on large datasets to support the enemy.”

Palantir, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2020, has lost more than half its value in the past year along with a sharp decline in tech stocks.

Revenue in the third quarter rose 22% to $478 million, beating analysts’ expectations. In recent years, the company has been diversifying into the private sector and, as of the third quarter, it now serves 132 business customers, up from 59 a year ago.

– CNBC’s Ashley Capoot is Cameron Costa contributed to this report.

SEE: Palantir CEO Alex Karp discusses economics and geopolitics

Palantir CEO Alex Karp discusses the economy and geopolitical view from Davos

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