Palantir Co-Founder Bucks Buzzfeed Report That Company Is Stumbling
Although Lonsdale is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Palantir—one of the world’s top “unicorn” startups with a private valuation that last exceeded $20 billion—he said he decided to respond after being forwarded the story by many people. The founding partner of venture capital firm Formation 8 took to Quora, a question-and-answer site, to voice his opinion.
His most scathing (and smug) line: “The tone was self-congratulatory and negative which is to be expected in the low-paid clickbait environment where some in the media are jealous of the growing and healthy parts of the technology economy and feel it is their duty to ‘hunt unicorns.'” Lonsdale referred to moments in the piece as “frankly just bad journalism” and rounded off his response with a dismissive harrumph, remarking on “distractions like this silly article.”
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“From my perspective, it’s very easy to take a few select facts out of context and paint a negative story, which is what happened here,” he wrote. “[I]n fact, it’s astonishing they are doing so well,” he contended of Palantir.
For one thing, Lonsdale took issue with the report’s characterization that the company has been “losing top customers.” “The article made false implications about customer traction,” he said, calling out that it mentioned only three big name brand clients that had walked away from deals in the past year: Coca-Cola (KO), American Express (AXP), and Nasdaq (NDAQ).
Lonsdale also said that the report omitted that Palantir has a substantial sum of the $2.5 billion in venture capital it has raised still at its disposal. Palantir “has spent far less than half of it and is sitting on a huge war chest and growing at an amazing pace,” he said.
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He did give the Buzzfeed report a teensy bit of credit, albeit in a backhanded way, for spotting a 100-person exodus from the company since the beginning of the year. “The one fair point the article made that Palantir probably wanted to address in private was that its employee turnover rate had temporarily gone up to SV [Silicon Valley] norms versus the amazingly low rate of the past (context the article failed to give),” he wrote. “We almost never lost any key people historically as the company was growing, and the under 10% turnover rates the article cites even from the last few years is amazingly low.”
Lonsdale, also co-founder and chairman of the fin-tech startups Addepar and OpenGov, cited industry dynamics and economic trends—including increased competition in the job market and employees’ vesting stock interests—as factors leading to the company’s decision to raise salaries staff-wide by 20%. He said the pay bump was a sign of strength, not weakness, for the business.
Read more: “Palantir Connects the Dots with Big Data”
“Going forward I hope Palantir uses this as an excuse to show off more of the positive, as the company really has nothing to hide,” he said of the firm, known for its secrecy. “[I]t understandably just doesn’t want to be part of the media circus, or to have its large customers who are often privately working with them on critical projects forced into the limelight,” he said.
Palantir did not immediately respond to Fortune’s request for comment.