Palmer Luckey, founder of virtual reality maker Oculus and a new defense startup called Anduril Industries, criticized the decision by some tech companies to decline U.S. government contracts after employee protests, saying that blaming their staff was “a bit of a convenient excuse” that masked a desire to work with China.
“I think that a lot of the employee rebellion angle has been hyped up by executives in Silicon Valley who have a very different motive in mind,” he said on stage at Forbes 30 Under 30 Summit in Detroit. “I think that this narrative that the companies are doing what their employees want is very convenient, because it also happens to be exactly what they need to do to be able to cater to the Chinese market.”
In the past year, there have been a spat of employee-led protests at companies like Google, Salesforce, Amazon and Microsoft over the ways that those companies work with the Department of Defense or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). While Google decided not to renew a contract with the DoD to analyze drone footage, Salesforce, Amazon, and Microsoft have all defended their work or declined to comment on their contracts.
Luckey has previously said that Google made a “mistake” in letting its contract with the DoD expire. His new company, founded in 2017, makes drones that can shoot down other drones as well as a threat-detection system. It has contracts with the Marine Corps and U.K.’s Royal Navy, as well as with Customs and Border Protection, for what has been described as a “virtual border wall,” which uses data from sensors mounted on towers, drones, and vehicles to create a real-time, 3D model of an area.