Palantir's IPO Plans Are Just As Secretive As The Company Itself

Palantir Technologies is a privately-held software and services company that has taken Silicon Valley by storm since its launch back in 2004. It was founded by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, Garry Tan, and Alex Karp (now CEO) with the idea of “creating the world’s best user experience for working with data, one that empowers people to ask and answer complex questions without requiring them to master querying languages, statistical modeling, or the command line.”

While its name is derived from the palantÍr, a “seeing stone” in J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy series Lord of the Rings—even its motto is “Save the Shire,” in reference to the home of the hobbits of Middle Earth—Palantir actually emerged from mobile payments giant PayPal’s PYPL anti-fraud efforts (its co-founder Thiel also co-founded PayPal).

It’s also often considered to be one of the most secretive tech unicorns out there today. And by secretive, I mean a couple of things. For one, many people just haven’t heard of the company, especially outside of the tech and investing worlds; its Big Data focus is not nearly as flashy and exciting as ride-hailing or home-sharing. For another, Palantir and its technology is still best known for antiterrorism and spycraft, two avenues that must be secretive in order to thrive. It’s “Minority Report come true,” writes The Guardian.

What They Do

If you have heard of Palantir, then you know that the company’s technology has been used in several notable cases, including the discovery of the infamous Chinese espionage networks, GhostNet and the Shadow Network. There’s also their rumored-but-never-confirmed efforts to help take down Osama Bin Laden.

Even though its role in Bin Laden’s takedown will likely never be established as fact, what can be recognized, however, is Palantir’s extensive relationship with the U.S. government. Just as recently as six years ago, Palantir sold exclusively to the government sector.  The FBI, CIA, IRS, CDC, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and several branches of the armed forces have all been customers, and up to 50% of the company’s business is tied to the public sector. Even In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, was an early investor.

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