How Did Alex Karp & Peter Thiel Get Along To Build Palantir?
Alex Karp was recently asked in an interview about his relationship with Palantir Co-Founder, Peter Thiel. The premise of the question was built around the intrinsic political differences both Karp and Thiel share. One is a progressively who generally supports more causes on the left (Karp) and the other supported Trump in 2016 and is known to be more libertarian (Thiel).
It's an interesting question, and one that Karp gets asked about many times. Most of the interviewers that challenge him on this are perplexed that two people who see the world in such fundamentally different ways actually had the ability to build an entire company together that may potentially be one of the most important technology companies in the world.
I can't lie - I also felt the same when I was younger. Before I learned about what it meant to accept disagreement in a civil way and understand that you can't monopolize the world's knowledge production with your thoughts, I also felt it would have been impossible to work with people who don't agree with you politically.
My thoughts have changed dramatically. It's gotten to the point where I could honestly care less about what someone's political beliefs are. They don't affect me and I certainly cannot change their minds in a conversation. Humans are incredibly complex. Our belief systems derive from incredibly complex moments in our lives. Our political beliefs cannot change nor should they simply because we meet people who may think differently than us.
Maybe We Can Learn From Each Other
The beauty of disagreement is that it creates a debate around conflicting ideas that are fighting for relevance. One idea can only beat the other idea if there's enough logic and support behind that idea.
In order to gain that support, the idea must be communicated in a meaningful way. Communication ultimately becomes the variable leading to a potential changing of someone's mind.
Karp agrees with this deeply. He explained,
“I think that’s a huge problem in our society; I’d like to hear what someone else thinks, and by the way I kind of think I’m right so if you have your argument we can argue about it,” he said. “I think a lot of my progressive friends have a little bit of an inferiority complex – if you’re right, why do you care that you’re having a dialogue with someone that’s wrong? I like that.”
“I have pretty strong opinions; prove me wrong, I’d love to hear it,” he said.
One of the reasons Karp and Thiel have been able to survive and thrive together is because they both have strong beliefs. As a result of those strong beliefs, they aren't insecure. They can handle when someone else disagrees without having to cry or ruin an entire friendship because they simply aren't concerned about getting their feelings hurt from differing opinions.
One of Karp's main points was to encourage having dialogue with people you disagree with over agreeing with because if you only talk to people you agree with, no one would ever be able to prove you wrong.
And if your beliefs are strong enough to actually be articulated, you should encourage the ability for someone to poke holes in them and at least try to challenge the validity of your claims, which is likely what Peter and Alex have done over the past 20 years.
I did a video on this a few month backs that dives deep into their relationship:
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