Joe Lonsdale

2022 Millennium Candler Justice Prize Recipient

The Justice Prize honors leadership in effecting positive social change.

Joe Lonsdale – or more formally, Joseph T. Lonsdale V – is being awarded the Millenium Candler Justice Prize for the courage and dedication he has shown as a leader over two decades using innovation, entrepreneurship, and public policy reform to positively impact so many lives in America and around the world.

As an entrepreneur, Joe knows that good jobs and good technology can be an engine for economic change in our country, to make sure that every person has the opportunity to rise to his or her full potential. Companies that Joe has founded or invested in early have generated billions of dollars of wealth all across the nation, and tens of thousands of jobs. 

In 2003, after 9/11, Joe co-founded Palantir Technologies out of a deep sense of justice. The vision of Palantir was to provide the best software in the world to the military and intelligence services of the United States and its allies, defending freedom itself. Since then, Palantir has played a critical role in putting the best technologists to work defending the American homeland, protecting US soldiers on the battlefield, and preserving civil liberties. Its software products have reportedly helped to find the most wanted terrorists in the world and to stop several major attacks so that 9/11 was not repeated.

Other mission-driven companies Joe co-founded include OpenGov, which has helped improve the workings of thousands of local governments and state agencies, and Resilience Bio, which put billions of dollars into bringing advanced bio-manufacturing to the United States, creating thousands of jobs and enabling new medicines including cell therapies and mRNA.

In 2018, after 15 years of advancing the promise of America through entrepreneurship, Joe founded the Cicero Institute, a non-partisan public policy organization. The Cicero Institute researches, refines, and advocates for policies at the state level to help develop a more prosperous and just society for all Americans. 

Cicero Institute issues include education reform to make community colleges, four-year colleges, and vocational training schools more affordable and useful for Americans; homelessness policy to help make sure that Americans on our streets get the help they need and hold local governments and NGO’s accountable to better results; and healthcare innovation reforms to make the best treatments in the world available and affordable to Americans.

We want to particularly highlight Joe and the Cicero Institute’s emphasis on reforms to make our justice system more humane and effective, both for those inside it and the public it serves. By focusing on aligning incentives between corrections departments and the public they serve, Joe and the Cicero Institute have already made a difference. Further reform to state and local parole and probation departments over the next decade, as Joe continues to invest millions of dollars into proven reforms and encourage others to do the same, has the possibility of keeping hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens out of prison, revitalizing communities in need without endangering the public. 

Joe’s work to improve the justice system began years before founding the Cicero Institute. For the last decade, he has been an advisor, partner, and supporter of groups like Recidiviz, which uses innovative data-driven solutions to help local jurisdictions understand and break the cycle of recidivism, and FreeWorld, which helps formerly incarcerated people make positive change to contribute to their communities and families. Each project uses technology in a positive way.

Joe’s other philanthropic works include support for and leadership in organizations that represent and help those most in need of a voice. In recent years, Joe has contributed major support to the Gentlemen’s Retreat, which helps young men from the inner city to learn masculine virtues and behaviors for lifelong success. Years ago, Joe helped his friend Ashton Kutcher to create and then served on the board of Thorn, which uses technology to identify and help stop child trafficking and abuse. Thorn has worked with law enforcement to identify and rescue thousands of children from terrible abuse. And we also appreciate his support of the National Monuments Foundation – by stepping up early years ago with a big gift, he helped to jumpstart historical park projects in Atlanta in historical civil rights areas and support the local economy – which includes numerous organizations tied to prosperity and justice for under-represented communities.

In 2021, Joe embarked on a new and ambitious endeavor, founding a new university to preserve American ideals: the University of Austin. As one of the only major universities to be founded in decades, UATX’s plan to train thoughtful and courageous leaders to bring more courage and justice to our society could to make lasting change in American education.

In all his work, be it business or philanthropy, Joe has strived to build mission-driven organizations, which inspire those involved to work together toward common goals, creating positive social change. In the end, justice can’t exist without the courage to pursue it, and Joe’s career exemplifies that. We at NMF are delighted to present him with this award and thank him for his example. We hope he continues to lead and inspire, showing naysayers and cynics that courageous Americans can stand up for their values and make a long-lasting positive impact on our society.