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Palantir is one of 'our best weapons' against the coronavirus: Co-founder

·Anchor
·3 min read
In this article:
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Palantir is “one of our best weapons in the war against this virus,” co-founder Joe Lonsdale told Yahoo Finance. Lonsdale started Palantir with Peter Thiel and a handful of other entrepreneurs in 2004.

The data analytics company, more closely associated with the CIA than the CDC, is now working with public health agencies, hospitals and companies to track cases, ICU beds, and supply chain problems. While no longer working directly at Palantir, Lonsdale is advising the company during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the worldwide case totals for coronavirus surge past 3 million, Palantir is seeing its data technology software being used in over 30 countries and by more than 130 agencies. “Palantir has always been ... able to be stood up very quickly to solve very important problems,” Lonsdale said.

Palantir’s close ties with government intelligence agencies have roused controversy, but Lonsdale sees the conversation changing as Palantir’s focus on public health “creates an awareness of what Palantir is doing in a way people care about.”

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01:  Joe Lonsdale of Formation 8 speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City.  (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images  for TechCrunch)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 01: Joe Lonsdale of Formation 8 speaks onstage at TechCrunch Disrupt NY 2013 at The Manhattan Center on May 1, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for TechCrunch)

‘People are really innovating right now’

Lonsdale now heads up 8VC, a $3 billion venture firm focused on investing in industries such as health care and logistics. His portfolio of investments includes Oscar, Oculus, hims and Joby Aviation.

At the moment, Lonsdale is particularly focused on two of his portfolio companies he thinks could help amid the coronavirus contagion: Citizen, the crowdsourced safety app, and SwiftScale Biologics, a rapid antibody manufacturing platform.

Lonsdale says Citizen is already used by 19% of New Yorkers and can partner with the likes of Google (GOOG, GOOGL) and Apple (AAPL) to help figure out how to make contact tracing work.

Lonsdale calls SwiftScale’s research “a bit of a Hail Mary,” but the company, which was created last year, is designed to bring antibody therapeutics to market faster. “I think there's actually a decent chance this year you'll see [an] antibody therapeutic that works.”

‘Seen the pace of check-writing slow down’

Lonsdale notes that while the pace of innovation is picking up, the pace of investment is slowing in Silicon Valley. “We are writing some checks … to shore up our existing companies. I think we've done only two or three new checks in the last few months. And most of those were early-stage townspeople we already knew,”

You can do a lot on Zoom or a Google Meet, but when it comes down to it, Lonsdale says “it's really hard to write a check when you don't get to meet people in person.”

Jen Rogers is an anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @JenSaidIt.

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