Y Combinator CEO on leaving Palantir: ‘I’m working like a dog for Peter Thiel… Who’s the real chump?’


MAY 12, 2023

Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan discussed why he left Palantir, saying he was “working like a dog for Peter Thiel.” Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

  • Y Combinator CEO Garry Tan discussed his time at Palantir during its early days at the Axios BFD summit.
  • Tan touched on his departure from the firm and how he learned he “wasn’t meant to have a boss.”
  • “I’m working like a dog for Peter Thiel … Who’s the real chump?” he said.

Garry Tan, the new CEO of startup incubator Y Combinator, was one of the featured speakers at the Axios BFD summit this week, and he had some choice words regarding his former employer, Palantir.

Tan said that his time at Y Combinator as a founder in the 2008 cohort taught him that he “wasn’t meant to have a boss.”

He went on to explain that at Palantir he was “working like a dog for Peter Thiel.” Tan was Palantir’s tenth employee, and his relationship with Thiel dates back to their college days at Stanford.

Tan’s comments came as part of his larger point about ownership.

He said that, at first, during his two years at Palantir as an engineer and designer — from 2005 to 2007 — he looked down at Y Combinator-funded founders, who wouldn’t leave their startups for high-paying firms, calling them “chumps.”

“They would just not quit,” he said.

But after “coding and designing until 4 am” — including sleeping in Palantir’s nap room which he said “smelled horrible” — he began to change his tune.

Those guys might have only gotten $12,000, but they own 93% of their company,” he said, referring to the $12,000 grants Y Combinator funds were given. “I’m working like a dog for Peter Thiel… Who’s the real chump?”

Not long after, Tan left Palantir to join Y Combinator as the founder of blogging platform Posterous.com.

Thiel and Tan did not immediately respond to Inside’s requests for comment.

In 2003, when Tan had first accepted a position as a program manager at Microsoft, Thiel flew him out to San Francisco in an attempt to recruit him to Palantir, writing him a $72,000 check: “Cash this check, quit your job. This is a zero-risk opportunity for you,” Thiel told him.

Tan declined the offer and referred to the moment as his $200 million mistake — the amount of money his share of Palantir would have been worth in 2021.

He did, however, join the software company two years later before leaving to take part in Y Combinator’s accelerator program.

Y Combinator is a well-known startup incubator that offers a three-month mentorship program to budding founders.

It’s a notoriously competitive program to get into, with over 20,000 applications for each given admissions cycle. Approximately 1.5% to 2% of these applicants get in. Generative AI startups were particularly popular in the incubator’s latest cohort.

Tan’s first stint at Y Combinator as a founder resulted in a win:  His Posterous.com was acquired by Twitter in 2012 for $20 million.

He returned to Y Combinator as a partner from 2010 to 2015, and as its CEO in January.

In 2011, Tan cofounded Initialized Capital, growing the firm into a $3.2 billion fund. He still serves as a board partner and advisor.

Courtesy/Source: This article originally appeared on Business Insider