(Forbes) Since rumors began to spread that a startup called Palantir helped to kill Osama bin Laden, Alex Karp hasn’t had much time to himself.
On one sun-baked July morning in Silicon Valley Palantir’s lean 45-year-old chief executive, with a top-heavy mop of frazzled hair, hikes the grassy hills around Stanford University’s massive satellite antennae known as the Dish, a favorite meditative pastime. But his solitude is disturbed somewhat by “Mike,” an ex-Marine–silent, 6 foot 1, 270 pounds of mostly pectoral muscle–who trails him everywhere he goes. Even on the suburban streets of Palo Alto, steps from Palantir’s headquarters, the bodyguard lingers a few feet behind.
“It puts a massive cramp on your life,” Karp complains, his expression hidden behind large black sunglasses. “There’s nothing worse for reducing your ability to flirt with someone.”
Karp’s 24/7 security detail is meant to protect him from extremists who have sent him death threats and conspiracy theorists who have called Palantir to rant about the Illuminati. Schizophrenics have stalked Karp outside his office for days at a stretch. “It’s easy to be the focal point of fantasies,” he says, “if your company is involved in realities like ours.”