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palantir3At an event marking the opening of its new engineering office in Seattle last night, big data analytics company Palantir gave prospective hires a glimpse of its culture — displaying Palantir corporate memorabilia in glass cases, and framed articles about the company.

One of the items on display was especially interesting: an employee handbook with a chapter titled, “Don’t Be An Asshole.” The handbook, about 25 pages, provided a fascinating glimpse into the mindset of the company, which is funded in part by the CIA’s In-Q-Tel venture capital arm, and is considered one of the most secretive startups in Silicon Valley.

“If you see politics, call it out,” the handbook reads in part. “Investigate and reject it. Assume the best: there is likely a simple misunderstanding at play, but it’s better to be sure.” It continues, “Assholes engage in politics, are impossible to work with, or are just plain nasty. No one wants to work with an asshole, and assholes are not welcome at Palantir.”


The same manual also included a page of “First Order Facts” about Palantir, giving further insights into the company.

We have never given an outside investor a seat on our board of directors. Our board is still founders only.

We have never had marketing or sales departments, and have never paid on commission. We prefer to send engineers to customer meetings.

We choose to work on problems that can have a transformative real-world impact. Sometimes this means missing out on revenue or even losing money.

We have a salary cap. We believe in modest salaries and generous equity. We focus on equity as our collective upside in the value we’re creating.

We really like custom t-shirts. You’ll see.

Palantir is part of a wave of Silicon Valley companies opening engineering outposts in Seattle, but as this handbook shows, the company is certainly unique. The company didn’t allow media into the event last night, but several attendees shared photos and details on social media, and we connected afterward with multiple people who were inside to learn the details. See our earlier story for more details.

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