Alex Karp, CEO of Palantir, on day two of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
Stefan Wermuth | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Palantir co-founder and CEO Alex Karp knows many tech workers in Silicon Valley have misgivings about his data mining firm’s dealings with intelligence agencies and the military.
He has a message for them.
“You may not agree with that and, bless you, don’t work here,” Karp said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, during a conversation with David Rubenstein, co-chair of private equity firm The Carlyle Group.
Palantir sells software to government and private sector organizations that helps them analyze large quantities of data. For years, the firm has been closely tied to government work, which is often secretive in nature.
Karp on Wednesday defended his company’s work with the military and other government agencies, saying it helped reduce terrorism and defeat “human rights abuses largely done by adversaries to the West.”
Palantir has tried to set itself apart from the pack, welcoming government work in the name of patriotism. In 2020, Palantir moved its headquarters from Palo Alto, California, to Denver, Colorado, months after Karp complained publicly to Axios on HBO about what he called the “increasing intolerance and monoculture 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, “one-third only wants to work for your company.”
“We are not everyone’s cup of tea, we may not be your cup of tea,” Karp said.
Karp, who founded the company with Peter Thiel and others in 2003, advocates for the use of technology in national defense.
“We don’t like people who are coming in and saying, we want to kill terrorists and just without data protection,” Karp said. “Bless your soul if you want to distribute carcinogens with your great intellect in the form of consumer internet.”
The logo of big data company Palantir.
Fabrice Coffrini | 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 worked with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify undocumented immigrants, prompting some employee protests.
“We want people who want to be on the side of the West,” Karp said. “And that’s not for everyone.”
Karp said Palantir has assisted the Ukraine military with its MetaConstellation product, which he said allows defense specialists to “use algorithms on large data sets to hone in on adversaries.”
Palantir, which went public on the New York Stock Exchange in September 2020, has lost more than half its value in the past year alongside a broader downturn in technology shares.
Revenue in the third quarter rose 22% to $478 million, slightly above analysts’ expectations. In recent years, the company has diversified into the private sector and, as of the third quarter, is now serving 132 commercial customers, up from 59 a year earlier.
— CNBC’s Ashley Capoot and Cameron Costa contributed to this report.