Palantir Philanthropy Engineering: Software to Improve Lives

By Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen, Sarah Murray
2015 | Case No. SI125 | Length 15 pgs.

By 2014, Palantir Technologies, a fast growing Silicon Valley company with global impact at the heart of its mission, had spent several years donating the same software to nonprofits that it sold to commercial customers to help solve some of the world’s most pressing problems.  It had consolidated these philanthropic activities in 2011, when Jason Payne, a long-time software engineer at the company, made an internal transition to found the company’s Philanthropy Engineering Program.  Palantir developed software that pulled diverse and extensive data into a unified platform, allowing customers to generate new insights by analyzing and exploring their data.  The company’s software could be used across a wide range of sectors.  It helped organizations detect fraud, defend against cyber attacks, drive operational planning and strategic decision-making, track disease outbreaks, improve standards of care, and respond to crime.

Palantir had recognized early on that its suite of applications were also extremely valuable to social sector organizations—those with the potential to make significant global impact, but that lacked the resources to purchase Palantir’s technology.  The company therefore decided not only to make its software and engineering support freely available to these organizations, but also to engage closely with them to support their work.

It was an approach to corporate philanthropy that differed significantly from the traditional model.

Learning Objective

a. Demonstrate the role that “big data” can play in solving critical societal issues. b. Showcase best practices in corporate philanthropy. c. Provide an example of a for-profit company that is reshaping partnerships with the social sector through its innovative work.

This material is available for download by current Stanford GSB students, faculty, and staff, as well as Stanford GSB alumni. For inquires, contact the Case Writing Office. Download