Saruman uses a palantir in Lord of the Rings

Dear Palantir, It’s Time to Move Out of Downtown Palo Alto

One of the things I’ve come to love about Silicon Valley is the lack of jealousy. As startup founders and employees, we all have friends or friends of friends who have done well with their startups or investments, and I have almost never heard someone say “that person doesn’t deserve their success.” In general people are happy that other people are successful and wish them the best.

It is even more rare to have someone wish ill will upon another startup company, founder or employee. However, in the past few years, there’s been a persistent drumbeat of ill will directed toward Palantir. Not because they are successful. Far from it. I think most people are happy for their success. The reason for the ill will is Palantir has sucked the life out of the startup ecosystem in Palo Alto because they are the single largest commercial tenant downtown and there is no space left for startups.

Palantir controls 224,000 square feet of real estate in downtown Palo Alto as of March 2015, and recently missed out on taking over SurveyMonkey’s one year old building at Alma and Lytton. I’ve seen estimates saying they lease around 20 buildings downtown. Think of all of the startups of all sizes that could make Palo Alto their home if Palantir moved from of downtown!

A perfect example is the building at 542 High Street. Formerly home to Jungle Copy and then Talenthouse, it now serves as Palantir’s cafeteria. The approximately 7,000 square foot building could easily house ten small startup companies in a shared environment. Because of the lack of startup space, many startups have been forced to move to San Francisco or other parts of the Bay Area. Heck, even longtime VC offices have moved out of Palo Alto. And in speaking with local restaurant owners, I know their lunch businesses would increase if Palantir and their cafeteria weren’t downtown, instead replaced by many smaller companies who couldn’t afford their own cafeterias.

Many successful companies have started in downtown Palo Alto, grown, and moved into larger properties elsewhere, including Google, Facebook, Paypal, Logitech, Stripe, Pinterest and more. And they’ve been incredibly successful. Palantir, isn’t it time for you to do the same? You’re now worth billions of dollars and you’d be doing Silicon Valley startups a solid. Wouldn’t it make both cultural and financial sense to consolidate all operations in one college-like campus as Google and Facebook have?

I, for one, wish you no ill will. But I’d sure love to see more startups thriving in Palo Alto.