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The CIA startup taking on BuzzFeed

From a truly weird Fortune piece, Palantir CEO Alex Karp leads employees in a tai chi class.

Need to Know

Big data unicorn Palantir has long been one of Silicon Valley’s spookier startups, more Richard Nixon than Jeff Bezos.

Founded by Peter Thiel and seed-funded by the Central Intelligence Agency, the 12-year-old data analysis company has been tied to everything from attempts to destroy Wikileaks to controversial government surveillance programs.

Or, as the company itself puts it, “Palantir builds software that connects data, technologies, humans and environments.” That software has earned the company a valuation north of $20 billion.

But a BuzzFeed piece, published late Friday, suggests all might not be well in spook-ville. With access to confidential internal documents, BuzzFeed reported “…Palantir has also lost blue-chip clients, is struggling to stem staff departures, and has recorded revenue that is just a fraction of its customer bookings.”

The attack stings not only because unicorn hunting has become big sport in the last year, but also because Palantir have not been quite so adept at managing their public image. A bizarre Fortune magazine profile of CEO Alex Karp presented him as a sort of benevolent Lord of the Rings nerd with Malcolm Gladwell hair and a penchant for breaking out into tai chi poses at inappropriate times.

Last night, Palantir cofounder, and current advisor to the company, Joe Lonsdale responded to the allegations on Quora.

He was mostly left slinging insults: “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’…”

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