Palantir Technologies works with organizations both large and small to help them solve their toughest data-related challenges. Since its founding, some of Palantir’s most fruitful working relationships have been with the United States Government (USG). USG Business Development Lead Susanne Hake explains that Palantir has been able to push forward technological advancements that have applications beyond national security.
Can you tell me a bit about how Palantir began working with the United States Government? What did the initial stages of the partnership look like?
Palantir was founded in 2004 to support the U.S. intelligence community by giving them access to the kind of cutting-edge technology that government agencies often lack. To achieve that goal, we built the Palantir Gotham platform: our flagship data integration software that has since allowed us to quickly expand to support other government missions, from defense to regulation to healthcare and beyond.
We have always worked really closely with users and customers to build a product that will solve their most difficult challenges. In the early years, our founders would sit side by side with users in Washington, D.C. to understand what they needed to do their jobs better. They'd go back to California and build prototypes, then come back to D.C. to get feedback. Though we've expanded to work with commercial companies and international governments, this is still the way we work.
How has that program continued to grow? What shape has it taken in recent years?
Over the past 14 years, our customer base has expanded beyond our roots in the defense and intelligence space and we are now working with agencies across the U.S. government including public health, regulatory enforcement, law enforcement and prosecution — not to mention with governments around the world and dozens of commercial institutions, as well.
All of these organizations face a common problem: they have massive amounts of data and no way to manage and analyze it in one ecosystem. Before I joined Palantir, I worked in the national security and counterterrorism space, where I saw firsthand how siloed data could cause analysts to miss key linkages or insights.
It's been really exciting to see how our products have evolved over time into powerful platforms that solve a variety of problems. Working closely with users is still critical to our product strategy — though now we look at observations and feedback from our entire customer base holistically, instead of building to one specific customer.
There is some pushback in the media today regarding companies contracting with the USG. What might you say to someone who was concerned about such a connection? What might the general public not understand?
Palantir was founded on the belief that there's no harder or more important challenge than protecting national security, and that giving government institutions access to good technology is critical to gaining an edge on that challenge.
I was drawn to Palantir because it sits at the intersection of government and technology. Working here was an opportunity to support national security that was different from what I'd done as an analyst. I had limited experience in tech, but Palantir was interesting to me because it represented a different way to support a mission that has always been a driving force for me.
Being at Palantir gives me the opportunity to make an impact on the future of both tech and the government.”
Many people think of the government as being bogged down with archaic technology, processes, and bureaucracy — they don't know that historically, government has been a space for technical innovation.
A lot of the most transformative technologies are the product of U.S. government R&D to support its most important missions: the internet, jet engines, GPS and more.
The U.S. government pushes tech forward, and tech pushes the U.S. government forward. Being at Palantir gives me the opportunity to make an impact on the future of both tech and the government.
How do you go about building a team that works on these types of projects? What qualities and specifications do you look for?
As our company grows, we are looking for people with a variety of skills and backgrounds. When designing teams to work with customers or tackle particular problems, we try to bring together individuals with complementary skills, who can work well together but also know how to challenge each other.
We don't have a lot of hierarchy at Palantir, so we want people who can speak up and share their thoughts so the best idea always wins. At the same time, we're looking for people who can understand and empathize with the challenges that our customers face, and who are motivated by helping our users figure out how our software can help them do their jobs more effectively.
What are some of the most exciting challenges Palantir is currently working on?
I'm really excited about deploying the Palantir Foundry platform across the USG space. Foundry was originally developed to meet the needs of our commercial customers but has many applications across the government from cybersecurity to readiness to analytics. And as Gotham continues to be an integral part of our USG work and beyond, we’re investing in its future using modern web technologies to create a more cohesive experience that spans many different workflows. This includes developing capabilities that allow analysts to sift through the increasing volume of data available to them so they can apply their intuition and judgment against it.
It’s exciting to see the immediate impact of the Palantir Gotham and Foundry platforms in the present — and even more exciting to imagine where they will take us in the future.