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Palantir’s filing to go public invokes patriotism and attacks Silicon Valley

August 26, 2020, 2:50 PM UTC

This is no run-of-the mill letter from a tech CEO to investors.

In his letter accompanying Palantir Technologies’ filing to go public Tuesday, CEO Alex Karp invoked a spirit of patriotism while disavowing Silicon Valley.

Throughout, the letter echoes terms often used in political texts: “Our welfare and security,” Karp begins, “depend on effective software.” Palantir’s software, the letter continues, is used by “the United States and its allies around the world.” To close, Karp writes that the “strength and survival of deomocratic forms of government” depend on the right technology.

It’s interesting positioning. The company has emphasized its business of selling to enterprises over its government work in recent years, and according to its prospectus, it’s been able to make that shift in operations, too: Some 53% of its $743 million of revenue came from commercial sources rather than government agencies in 2019. 

So why underscore its government work? Well, based on how the company calculates Total Addressable Market figures, the prospectus shows a larger opportunity in government work, a $63 billion market, over the commercial sector ($56 billion by its reckoning). Momentum in the U.S. government sector meanwhile has “accelerated significantly” following Palantir’s successful lawsuit against the U.S. Army, calling federal agencies to consider commercial software—like Palantir’s own—before developing in-house services, per the filing.

Palantir’s decision to lean into that core also comes at a time when many in Silicon Valley have sought to distance themselves from the military complex. And Palantir has been no stranger to some of the reasons why. Activists have criticized the company for its work, including for its dealings with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency—the agency that has enforced controversial child separations. For its part, Palantir said it was not working with the part of the ICE that was responsible for those actions, but rather with a division that oversees drug and human trafficking.

In his Tuesday letter, Karp was not shy about disavowing Silicon Valley, while throwing shade over those in the industry who shy away from military contracts: “ Silicon Valley may know more than most about building software. But they do not know more about how society should be organized or what justice requires,” he wrote. “We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment.”

Ribbit Capital seeks a fintech acquisition: Fintech venture capital firm Ribbit Capital filed to raise $350 million via its blank check company on Wednesday. Known for its early bets on crypto and for investments such as Coinbase, Brex, and Credit Karma, the firm is looking to acquire a company in the fintech space.

As with newer SPAC entrants, Ribbit’s blank check company also seeks to differentiate itself from its bevy of competitors with refreshed deal terms. Just see page seven of the prospectus, which lays out its argument in a handy chart.

Lucinda Shen
Twitter: @shenlucinda


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