31 minutes 43 seconds
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The time is 0 Dark 30. The location, Abbottabad, less than 100 miles away from Pakistan's capital. Nestled here, a fortress of secrets, a haven for the world's most wanted man. You know how this story ends, but you don't know how it started. It begins thousands of miles away, deep in the halls of power of the most technologically advanced nation on Earth, America.
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This isn't just a story of bravery under the cover of night, but 1 of years filled with relentless pursuit, intelligence gathering, and geopolitical maneuverings. Operation Neptune Spear killed Osama Bin Laden, and highlighted the incredible prowess of the Navy SEALs. But it also demonstrated the power of American technology to decipher coded messages and connect millions of invisible threads of intelligence. This is the story of the app that helped catch Osama bin Laden. This is the story of Palantir.
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It's a secretive company.
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Palantir. Customers include the CIA, the FBI, the Army, the Marines, the Air Force. Yet there's so much mystery around it.
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And it frustrates people to no end.
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These guys, Palantir, are the Rudy Giuliani of tech. Confused, full of s***, contradictions, and completely out of touch and b****** crazy. Palantir!
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But they're led by a one-of-a-kind CEO.
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What are we like? We're underpaid, we do it because we love it, and we continue doing it because we love it.
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Understanding Palantir really requires understanding their CEO, Alex Karp. Today he runs a multi-billion dollar public company and is referred to as Dr. Karp by everyone who reports to him. But he took a long and winding road to success. He was born in 1967 and grew up in Philadelphia.
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Both his parents were forward-thinking progressives who took him to labor rights protests on weekends. Despite struggling with dyslexia from an early age, Alex graduated from Haverford College in 1989 and went on to study law at Stanford. While at Stanford, he roomed with a guy named Peter Thiel, the very same Peter Thiel who would go on to build PayPal and Founders Fund. During their time at Stanford, the 2 young men often sparred intellectually. Thiel had established himself as an outspoken libertarian as an undergrad, even founding an on-campus newspaper called the Stanford Review.
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Karp, on the other hand, leaned more socialist. But instead of driving them apart, this actually drew them together. They spent many nights arguing about politics and philosophy and became close friends. After graduation, the 2 went separate ways. Thiel went off to the prestigious law firm Sullivan and Cromwell, and Alex went off to continue his studies in Europe.
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It was at Frankfurt University in Germany that Alex Karp formally became Dr. Karp. He studied under Jürgen Habermas, 1 of the world's most famous philosophers, earning a PhD in neoclassical social theory in the process. This wound up being a turning point for the young Dr. Karp, but not in the way he thought.
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Because even though he had earned his stripes under a world-renowned academic, he realized that he didn't want that life. So he pivoted. It was the turn of the millennium, the dot-com boom was in full swing, and Dr. Karp had developed a network of high-net-worth individuals in Europe who were looking for new investment strategies. He had a knack for investing.
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But at this stage, his aspirations were still fairly modest. He mostly just wanted to build a small nest egg and then settle into a casual life in Berlin. To start building toward that goal, he created an investment company in London called the Cadman Group. But his dream of a modest life was soon interrupted. See, while Dr.
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Karp was off in Europe, Peter Thiel had been building an empire back in the States. He'd started an internet payments company, merged it with a similar project Elon Musk was building, and then taken the combined entity public under the name PayPal. In 2002, PayPal was acquired by eBay for $1.5 billion. This made Thiel a multi-millionaire, and his ambitions were just getting started. Thiel had seen the damage wreaked by the attacks on 9-11, and realized that America was about to change.
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Like in the wake of
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a few years after that, was could 1 do something from a libertarian or civil liberties point of view that would still be tough on terrorism, super intrusive surveillance all the time, you know, wasn't really making us safer."
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Thiel became increasingly fixated on using technology to stop terrorist attacks before they happened. That would require working with the notoriously secretive US intelligence community. But remember that Thiel had been a libertarian for years. He wanted to stop terrorism, but he really didn't want to sacrifice civil liberties in order to do it. He was facing a modern version of a centuries-old philosophical problem.
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The problem was most famously stated by Benjamin Franklin. In a letter from 1755, Franklin wrote, those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. On top of the ethical conundrum, Thiel also knew that achieving his vision would be a formidable technical challenge, so he decided to assemble a team of people he'd worked with before, both at Stanford and PayPal. Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, and Stephen Cohen had all met Thiel through either Stanford, PayPal, or Thiel's hedge fund, Clarion Capital. Thiel named the startup Palantir after the seeing stones in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.
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The guys he brought together were all great, but none of them were quite right for the job of CEO, and this was a big problem. Thiel was able to provide initial funding for the company, and the team of engineers was able to build a functional prototype. But they were struggling to get potential investors and customers to take them seriously. This wasn't some viral consumer tech company. Palantir wanted to sell to the biggest customer in the world, the US government.
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It was serious business, and this is where Dr. Karb came up as an interesting option. For a few years, he'd been helping introduce high-net-worth individuals to Clarion Capital. Many of those individuals were connected to global intelligence and defense institutions. Thiel knew that building a software business that could work effectively with the intelligence community would require a CEO who could work with big government people.
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He needed someone smart who could bridge the gap between Palantir and the intelligence community. He thought about it and then he decided to call up his old friend Dr. Alex Karp. Thiel later said that at the time he wasn't sure that Alex was the perfect person for the job, but that he possessed the right qualities. Even though he'd never been a CEO, he clearly understood the mission and could build a solid team.
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The team Alex put together had all the skills to build a good product, but actually selling it to the US government was a different challenge entirely. And if they were going to solve it, they would need to be patient. Because when it came to counterterrorism, progress was measured in years, not days. Despite being their global number 1 target, it took the US military almost a decade after 9-11 to catch bin Laden. The process of finding him was long and winding and full of setbacks and near-misses.
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Effective counterterrorism requires synthesizing lots of different sources of intelligence, intercepting communications between militants, talking to people on the ground, and clever use of informants. And Just gathering the data wasn't nearly enough. You needed to get different agencies to collaborate with each other in order to detect the underlying patterns. The US National Security Establishment made lots of mistakes. The first big 1 came just a few months after 9-11.
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The US government established a program called Total Information Awareness. The idea was to correlate detailed information about people in order to anticipate and prevent terrorist attacks before they took place. The man leading the charge here was Admiral John Poindexter. He was a highly controversial figure. He'd retired from the Navy in 1987 and was convicted of multiple felonies stemming from the Iran-Contra affair, although the conviction was later overturned on appeal.
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He returned to the government during the George W. Bush administration to head up the Information Awareness Office, which was run out of DARPA, the Pentagon's Special Research Projects Agency. On paper, the goal was simple, to bring together as much information as possible about terrorist networks in order to identify the most pressing threats. Poindexter referred to the program as a Manhattan Project for counterterrorism, but it was short-lived. It was heavily criticized for sounding like a program that allowed the US government to spy on all of its citizens.
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Poindexter resigned in August of 2003, and the Information Awareness Office was disbanded, even though the US government secretly maintained much of its core architecture. That didn't matter to Poindexter, who was on the outside, but he was still a useful asset for anyone who wanted to sell security products to the US government. In other words, he was a useful asset to Peter Thiel and Alex Karp.
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What Palantir does, it sort of is a way for patterns and data to be visualized through a combination of computers and human analysts, and then in a way that doesn't simply scour the planet. If there's something suspicious, then you look some more. And In that sense, it's way less intrusive.
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During the PayPal years, TL had struggled to detect fraudulent transactions on the payment network. Even though PayPal had signed up millions of users, the company was losing as much as $10 million every month to credit card fraud. The issue was so dire that Visa and Mastercard threatened to cut ties with PayPal unless the company got on top of the problem. Fortunately, PayPal's CTO Max Levchin stepped up. He built a program to scan through transactions and flag suspicious behavior for manual review.
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He named the program Igor in honor of the Russian hacker who'd been the biggest thorn in his side. Igor was so good that not only did it solve PayPal's fraud problem, it actually exposed the identities of 2 Russian cybercriminals who were promptly arrested by the FBI. The experience of searching for a few small criminal operations in the massive data set of PayPal transactions would prove very useful for Palantir.
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Terrorism is asymmetric. Asymmetry presupposes software because you're finding needles in haystacks. It's not exactly like data mining. There's a critique on some of the data mining approaches that had been used at PayPal. And we thought that that approach would be very effective in this context.
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It was 2004. Thiel and Karp had assembled a growing team of hardcore engineers focused on shipping at breakneck speed. The Palantir team moved into an office in Palo Alto, which, in keeping with the Lord of the Rings theme, they nicknamed the Shire. And they got down to work. After months of arduous days, long programming sessions, and too many energy drinks to count, the Palantir team cobbled together a prototype.
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The Palantir prototype was designed to link disparate databases and then let anyone, even if they weren't a programmer, search and visualize the information contained within. Most importantly, everything that happened within Palantir's software would be logged, so it could be audited by authorities. Classified data wouldn't be able to be accessed by just anyone. You needed to have proper clearance and proper justification for an investigation. All of that was critical if they were going to get the US government on their side.
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The team had already put in a huge amount of work building the prototype, but they knew the hardest part of their job was just about to begin.
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So we have this meeting, it's only 2 months away, and we don't exactly have too much product at the time. It was a little, admittedly, light on the back end elements, the initial prototype, a little more focused on the lights and the fireworks and the front end.
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The prototype demonstrated the value that Palantir could provide to the government. And because it had been built by engineers who had experience delivering products that people actually used regularly, like PayPal, it was intuitive. Palantir clearly believed their product could make a difference in the war on terror. But selling to the government is more than just building a functional product. Often, even having the best product isn't enough.
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You have to convince dozens of different decision makers and wade through miles of red tape. In hindsight, I think the Palantir team believed that their product would sell itself, But that's not what happened.
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We did a very bad job making our case. It was very difficult. We didn't understand what they were saying. They didn't understand what we were saying.
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This team of engineers, who were used to moving extremely fast, came up against the immovable object that was the US government. And they were left disappointed. This setback was compounded by the fact that, without any customers, Silicon Valley investors weren't exactly lining up to pour in money. Peter Thiel had invested millions of dollars of his own money into Palantir, but other venture capitalists weren't interested in selling to the government. 1 VC from Sequoia spent the entire pitch meeting doodling, while another lectured the Palantir founders for over an hour and a half about how their company was going to fail.
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This is deeply ironic because Silicon Valley was built on strong partnerships with the American military, Early semiconductor companies were spun out of government-funded research labs, and lots of early tech companies received funding from the Department of Defense. But by the mid-2000s, it was like Silicon Valley and Washington spoke different languages. There's 1 guy in Silicon Valley who became particularly frustrated by this turn of events. His name's Steve Blank, and he's a professor at Stanford who has studied how tech companies have worked with the military over the past century.
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Get companies like Andrew or Palantir or SpaceX, to be major defense contractors, it required a billionaire. That's insane. I mean, people should be in jail for that.
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I wanted to know more about why it's so hard for tech companies to work with the U.S. Government. So I flew to Stanford and asked Professor Blank directly.
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It's not that innovators, whether they're startups or scale-ups or venture firms, etc., don't want to work with the DoD. The DoD has no conception of what innovation at scale could do for us. And fundamentally, they're simply not organized to do that. Their org chart is wrong, they have the wrong people in place.
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See, over the course of the 90s and early 2000s, the US defense industry went through a massive wave of consolidation until it was left with just a handful of prime contractors. These primes won the overwhelming majority of government defense contracts. If the US government wanted a new software system, they wouldn't ask some small Silicon Valley startup. They would just pick up the phone to Lockheed Martin, Booz Allen, or IBM. If Palantir wanted to break through to the US government, they'd need something to change.
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Fortunately, Dr. Karp wasn't just going to sit around and hope to get lucky. 1 of the VC funds that had turned Palantir down for investment was willing to make an introduction to In-Q-Tel, a non-profit venture capital firm run by the CIA, in order to fund innovation that could help the intelligence community. The Palantir team met with the head of In-Q-Tel, a man named Gilman Louie, and pitched him on their idea for an integrated data platform.
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That's how Palantir got started. I mean, Palantir was this, Peter Thiel and Alex basically meeting with me and saying, we got these algorithms on fraudulent transactions. We think there might be some value for the intelligence community. And then immediately we took that team and put them inside the building to work out what we call a CT counter-terrorist problem.
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We're still just a couple years into Palantir's journey. George W. Bush was president, the US military was still in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Bin Laden was still at large. But Palantir's luck was finally starting to improve. After struggling to get his foot in the door for months, Dr.
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Karp was able to meet with lots of government officials and start learning what it would take for them to buy Palantir's software. But that didn't mean the meetings always went well. The cultural divide seemed as big as ever. The agency officials Dr. Karp met with were often skeptical of his relaxed style, and they had lots of questions for him.
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Was his team cleared to work with classified documents? Had they ever worked with intelligence agencies before? Did they have senior advisors with government experience? Was their sales force built to work with classified information? The answer to all these questions was no.
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But that didn't discourage Dr. Karp and the Palantir team. For them, no didn't mean never, it just meant not yet. Everyone they pitched could tell that, even though they lacked the credentials and experience from working with the government, this team could deliver. On 1 visit to the Palantir offices, a senior intelligence official saw sleeping bags under the engineers' desks.
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Clearly the pace of play at Palantir was completely unlike anywhere else. Gilman Louie, the head of In-Q-Tel, acted as an anchor for Palantir at the CIA. In-Q-Tel invested $2 million and helped connect Palantir to CIA analysts in Langley, Virginia. Every 2 weeks, Palantir engineers would fly from Palo Alto to Langley with an updated version of the software they were building. The CIA analysts would test it out and offer feedback.
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Then the engineers would fly back to California to implement the suggested changes. Today, this kind of arrangement is standard practice at Palantir. They even have a name for employees who embed themselves within the customer they are building software for. They call them Forward Deployed Engineers, and it's been a critical part of their success.
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1 of the kind of points that I think demarcated an element of success was when my government sponsor was introducing me at 1 of these meetings and he said, everyone I want to introduce you to Mr. 2 Weeks. He can build anything you ever want in 2 weeks, so ask away. It's another 1 of those, that's what you want to hear. Definitely increased my Red Bull consumption.
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Word was spreading within the US government about the intensity that the Palantir team brought to problem solving. They were building and iterating extremely quickly, and most importantly, they knew where they should be focused. 1 In-Q-Tel executive said that the most impressive thing about the team was how focused they were on the problem of how humans would talk with data. Things were beginning to go in the right direction, but Solving the problem of human-computer interaction in a way that would scale past a single organization would take them years.
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The basic idea was how do you extend the human mind into an enterprise to get the full power of the human mind. The problem with that idea is there's not 1 data set. There's 5 or 10 or 50.
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Palantir needed to build a system that allowed humans and computers to work together effectively.
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Well, there's a tremendous amount that we can do in combining computers with humans. We either have all human solutions or all computer solutions. There's a lot to be done with these intermediate hybrid solutions and it turns out that if you get the division of labor right,
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you can do a lot." Dr. Karp had always been focused on building a world-class team, and not just in engineering. In 2006, he'd hired Shyam Sankar to serve as the chief operating officer of the company. He's still with Palantir today, although he's switched his title to the chief technology officer. Shyam was convinced that real-world problems could only be solved by combining the abilities of humans and computers.
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He had extensively studied the work of a man named J.C.R. Licklider, a pioneer in the field of man-computer symbiosis, and an important figure in the development of the internet. Cheyenne believed that the key to making good decisions in complex situations wasn't depending on predetermined programs, but instead for man and machine to cooperate to test hypotheses. If this sounds slightly abstract, it had real-world applications to the work Palantir was doing.
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Computers don't detect novel patterns and new behaviors, or Humans do. Humans using technology by asking machines to do things for them.
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Osama Bin Laden was not caught by artificial intelligence, he was caught by dedicated, resourceful, brilliant people in partnerships with various technologies.
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After months of trying, Dr. Karp had won over the CIA, and Palantir's software was finally starting to have an impact in the fight against terrorism. But the fight was happening on several fronts. After all, terrorism was a threat in American cities, but it also posed a threat to members of the US military stationed abroad. The army needed to identify and track potential attackers just as urgently as the CIA.
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So Palantir saw an opportunity to expand their product offering. But if they thought selling software to the CIA was tough, they were about to face an even bigger challenge. Part of the reason why selling to the Department of Defense was so tough was because of the defense primes. So rather than take on multi-billion dollar leviathans, Dr. Karp and his team adopted an unorthodox strategy.
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Instead of focusing on lobbying the Pentagon like other major defense contractors, they introduced their product to soldiers directly. The plan worked like this. Palantir would contact soldiers and offer free training on their software. They would also give out funding to support the work of soldiers who would be working with data when they deployed. This approach helped to create internal demand for Palantir's software inside the military.
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Soldiers already knew how well the software worked and could start advocating for it internally, but getting troops to be comfortable with complicated software wouldn't be easy. A couple months ago, I sat down with the COO of Anduril, Matt Grimm, who worked at Palantir around the time they started deploying software to troops in the Middle East. He remembered just how difficult it was.
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And then Palantir at that time had just deployed to their first customers. They thought that their product was so intuitive and so easy that we would just deploy it
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and it would just be like that aha moment, which is just not, not. So then it was like just a litany of helpdesk."
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It was yet another culture shock. After spending ages trying to learn the language of the government, Palantir now had to learn how to deal with the military. And the first thing they had to learn was that getting soldiers comfortable with the software was just as important as actually building the software. Over time, the plan worked, and soon high-ranking military officers were meeting with the Palantir team to discuss using the software in Afghanistan. Now, this could have been completely smooth sailing, except for 1 thing.
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The US military had already signed up for a $10 billion project to build a similar system internally.
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It was created in the late 1990s by US military services called the Distributed Common Ground Surface System, known as DSIGS. The program was designed to be a massive data sharing system and a major weapon for the war on terror." All
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of the biggest defense contractors had signed on to build DSIGS. Basically, DSIGS was too big to fail. But it was still failing. It was clunky and prone to crashing. But military officials had spent years developing the requirements for the software and wanted to see their internal programs see the light of day.
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Palantir wasn't built by the military. It was built by a team of Silicon Valley engineers who had no prior experience working with the government. But remarkably, it was still winning the battle for hearts and minds.
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We had a unit come to us and say that it actually saved lives because they were able to plot out where all the IEDs were. And they said they actually had a huge increase in IEDs found, and that's a big deal because IEDs are the number 1 killer and wounding mechanism of the bad guys in Afghanistan.
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Palantir was winning over both ground troops and the people who led them. General Jim Mattis supported the program, as did Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, but not every higher up liked Palantir.
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And a situation that was already complicated became even more complicated when Congress started asking questions about how much the program was costing American taxpayers.
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We have more capability today in our intelligence than we've ever had. A company commander today with D-Sig-Zay has 20 times the capability I had as a division commander in 2003. Our intel organizations move forward greatly.
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Despite intense scrutiny from some military officials, Palantir was still overwhelmingly popular with soldiers. According to a 2012 study commissioned by the Army, 96% of military personnel deemed Palantir's software effective. You'd think that this would have been amazing news for Palantir, but it wasn't. Think about it, they had all this support from soldiers on the ground, and they still weren't getting anywhere. The military basically ignored that report and kept doing business as usual.
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For 2 years, everyone was treading water. That was, at least, until the army finally decided that enough was enough. They realized that the DSIG system would never work like they wanted it to, so the DoD began soliciting bids to develop a replacement to DSIGs. Dr. Karp and the Palantir team finally had the breakthrough they'd been waiting for.
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Except it wasn't quite like that. The army refused to allow Palantir to participate in the new bidding process because its software was an off-the-shelf product. They only wanted to hear from defense contractors who had promised to build an entirely new system from scratch. Now, to some degree, that made sense. Everyone wants something tailor-made to their specific needs.
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The army wanted a system that would be perfect, but this would be a disaster if it went forward. 96% of soldiers already thought that Palantir software was good enough for the army, and the software was getting better every day. When the Palantir team made improvements for 1 government agency, it would be easy to make those improvements available to the army. But the army didn't have much experience building and running successful software programs, so they rejected Palantir. Yet again, a government agency and a Silicon Valley startup just didn't speak the same language.
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Dr. Karp and the team were backed into a corner. They knew that Palantir could make a difference on the battlefield, but government bureaucracy was getting in the way. As the old saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. So Palantir sued the US government.
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The federal court only took 3 months to rule in Palantir's favor. The judge said that the army had acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner, and ordered that Palantir be included in the bidding process. This was a big win for Palantir. They would finally be a first-class citizen in the world of military contractors, rubbing shoulders with the primes. But just as they'd solved their DOD problem, a new problem emerged.
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See, at the end of the day, the government just didn't spend all that much money on software. Sure, the United States spends trillions of dollars every year on the military broadly, but only a tiny amount of that goes towards software. D-Cigs was a $10 billion program, but that was spread over decades, and besides, people were getting uncomfortable with even that amount of spending. Palantir had ambitions to grow to the same size as other Silicon Valley tech giants, but getting a small part of a $10 billion contract simply wouldn't be enough. They needed to expand, and fast.
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Despite their early problems raising money, Dr. Karp and the rest of the Palantir team had actually gotten pretty good at it over the years. They now had a clear goal, take the company public at a valuation in the tens of billions of dollars. But that goal looked a long way away. Things were getting kind of desperate.
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Palantir needed something big to happen involving their technology, and in the early hours of May 2, 2011, in that compound in Abbottabad, they got just what they wanted. It's actually hard to say for sure just how big of a role Palantir's software played in finding Osama Bin Laden. The US Army just doesn't share those kinds of details, especially when it comes to killing the world's most notorious terrorist. But the whispers started right away. No 1 at Palantir ever said anything about it.
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The whole thing, much like Palantir itself, is shrouded in secrecy. But something that is clear is that, in the years following Bin Laden's assassination, Palantir became the government's go-to company when they needed to make sense of big datasets for military and law enforcement purposes. Part of that is the rise of big data in general. Around 2012, there was a major turning point. Big corporations were starting to store increasingly large amounts of data.
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This realization that companies and governments were sitting on valuable troves of data opened up big opportunities for Palantir. Dr. Karp and his team started expanding on Palantir's offerings to solve a variety of problems for non-governmental organizations. They partnered with JP Morgan to build financial software, they worked with airlines to help optimize flight routes, and they landed a big deal with Airbus to improve nearly every aspect of how they built airplanes. The Airbus deal is a particularly good example of how Palantir helps large organizations.
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And unlike the Bin Laden case, we can actually talk about this 1. In 2016, Airbus was ramping up production of its new A350 jet. But they quickly ran into a problem. Going from manufacturing 1 single plane to building dozens would increase the complexity of all their processes exponentially. Missing parts, production mistakes, communication glitches, all these problems would slow down the assembly process and cause millions of dollars of cost overruns.
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And airlines don't like waiting for delivery of the planes they've ordered. They often demand compensation for any delays. To solve all these issues, 5 Ford-deployed Palantir engineers flew to the Airbus factory in Toulouse, France and set up shop. While on site, they merged 25 different data silos related to the production of the A350. This produced results immediately, reducing the number of delays to fix production mistakes and realizing hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
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Palantir was eventually rolled out to thousands of Airbus employees. And today, information from nearly every Airbus plane flows through Palantir for analysis to improve reliability and safety. Building out this air travel business seemed like a good idea at the time, and it was a good idea at the time. But then, at the start of 2020, the whole world got an important lesson in why air travel is a volatile business. Governments responded to the outbreak of COVID by introducing restrictive lockdowns.
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Planes everywhere were grounded. And if you can't fly, why do you need planes? But you should never let a crisis go to waste. As the pandemic started to spread globally, Dr. Karp and his team started to see an opportunity to help.
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By now, they had 15 years of experience working with governments and handling sensitive data. So there had to be a way for Palantir to make a positive impact.
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And then to offer our product for free to combat COVID, rebuilding supply chains, figuring out who and under what conditions people were becoming infected.
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They wound up working closely with the US Department of Health and Human Services to merge around 2 billion data elements related to the outbreak to help government officials get a clearer picture of how the virus was spreading. They even partnered with the United Nations World Food Program to help get food and supplies distributed during the pandemic. This kind of work came as a surprise to Palantir's many critics, who thought that the company could only work with the military. And despite the difficulty of the pandemic, there was another silver lining. Prior to the outbreak of COVID, Dr.
00:28:49 - 00:28:54
Karp was extremely focused on getting engineers embedded with the organizations they were helping.
00:28:54 - 00:29:10
It's better to have engineers figuring out what the core issues are and then iterate against them. We are not planning to hire salespeople, we still haven't hired any, we don't really hire non-technical people very often, and we don't have a marketing department. And we're not planning to get any of them."
00:29:10 - 00:29:33
The problem was that all these forward-deployed engineers were extremely expensive. Palantir was spending millions of dollars flying these people around the world and putting them up in hotels while they helped their customers implement the software. But COVID revealed that maybe they could be just as effective while working remotely. Without the option to travel, Palantir just naturally cut costs significantly. And interestingly, revenue kept climbing.
00:29:33 - 00:30:01
17 years after it was founded, Palantir IPO'd in September of 2020 at an initial valuation of $15.2 billion. Today, the company is in a much healthier position and poised to continue growing. Part of this positive outlook is that it's also at the heart of the next big technological trend, AI. Large language models have taken the world by storm and every company that can claim even a tangential relation to the technology has benefited. But Palantir has actually been working on artificial intelligence for years.
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Yeah, Unlike most people, we've been involved in what people call AI for the last 567 years in the classified environment, building systems that will allow you to identify adversarial positions.
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You can tell that he's a little annoyed there because Everyone is jumping on the AI bandwagon, so it's easy to put Palantir in the same bucket as all the other companies that are just riding the hype wave right now. But they're happy for their work to do the talking. Palantir has faced lots of criticism over the years. Some of it has come from other tech companies, who turn their nose up at working with the military. Lots has come from civil libertarians who believe that Palantir helped build technology that's been used to spy on American citizens.
00:30:39 - 00:31:05
And some of it has come from people who believe that Palantir is more of a consulting company than a software company. Basically, their criticism is that Palantir builds too much custom software for each customer, which hurts the versatility of the core Palantir product. But as AI becomes more useful for processing information and gleaning insights from large datasets, their products should naturally become more generalizable. The story is far from over, though. Palantir is now a 20-year-old company.
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But Dr. Karp, the former philosopher who went rogue, is still the CEO. Does he wrestle with the ethics of the company he runs? Maybe he does. But he also believes that everything we take for granted in our democracy is underpinned by national security.
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America continues to need the support of tech companies, and Dr. Karp understands the importance of a stable world order. Big tech has had a tumultuous history with the Department of Defense. Palantir had to sue the government to get a fair shot at a contract. Google, on the other hand, dropped out of a major military AI program.
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To understand why, you just have to watch this video next. Thanks a lot.
Omnivision Solutions Ltd