Peter Thiel is one of the most notable founders out of the dotcom race. Made publicly famous through the Social Network film from his initial stake in Facebook, and more recently with support for Donald Trump. But his company Palantir, is probably the most important company you’ve never heard of.
Palantir Technologies is a public American software company that specializes in big data analytics. Headquartered in Denver, Colorado, it was founded by Peter Thiel, Nathan Gettings, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Alex Karp in 2003. Data is powerful, we all know this, and Palantir represents this at its fullest.
In short, what do Palantir do? They power real-time decisions.
“Institutions have the data they need to make the best decisions for safety, stability, and prosperity. But too often, their data is fragmented and locked in silos. The people on the front lines of our most important problems don’t have the information they need when they need it most.
At Palantir, we build software that lets organizations integrate their data, their decisions, and their operations into one platform. Our software empowers entire organizations to answer complex questions quickly by bringing the right data to the people who need it.”
They do this by selling two big data software products, Foundry and Gotham. Although the latter sounds like a Batman project, it’s a serious military focused product, design exclusively with combat zones in mind. Not convinced? On their site, General James N Mattis, Former Secretary of Défense is a reference stating “[Palantir] are giving us advantages right now that we need”. The product simply connects all moving parts of a military set up and collates it into one accessible data interface.
“Gotham is an AI-ready platform that improves and accelerates decisions for operators at every echelon and in every domain — land, sea, air, space, and cyber.”Palantir
This is why are they the most important company you’ve never heard of. They have commercial contracts with the majority mainstream United States Governments departments (including the CIA and the DHS). As reported by TechCrunch in 2019, Palantir won an $800 million contract to build the US Army’s next battlefield software system. They also have held a contract relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, most notably in the United Kingdom with access to the NHS data. What raised eyebrows is the details of the Palantir contract, for provision of its Foundry data management platform services the company charged a mere £1 ($1.27) for services provided. Odd.
Palantir have changed the game for enterprise level data and clientele fitting this criterion especially the US Government. Their dealing is vast, but TechCrunch summarised it as such:
In 2018 “the Army named Palantir and Raytheon as finalists to compete for the contract, which will totally overhaul the Army’s “system-of-systems” that provides comprehensive data to “to assist the commander’s visualization and understanding of the threat and other relevant aspects of the operational environment.”
While the DCGS-A contract marks Palantir’s only deal with the military big enough to have its own line item with Congress, the company does have existing military ties. The largest contract that Palantir has previously entered into with the Army was for $22,401,901, starting in 2015. The company also picked up a number of contracts with the Navy over the years, though none approaching the scale of the new potentially $800 million project. Palantir’s largest Navy contracts were for $23,750,000 and $35,804,181 in 2014 and 2017, respectively. The company’s largest previous military contract to date was $216,872,321 for software services for U.S. Special Operations Command. That contract was awarded in 2016 and is set to run through next year”.TechCrunch
Taylor Hatmaker@tayhatmaker / 12:26 AM GMT•March 28, 2019
Within a few words, it’s fairly obvious why Palantir is one of the most important companies you’ve probably never heard of, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. There are a collective of thousands of big data companies who help make the world go round, and with the hyper-shift in technology use within incumbent businesses, often they will turn to the de facto market leader who they can trust. Palantir is controversial due to their Founder and contracts, however as a publicly listed business on the New York Stock Exchange they are now open to public sentiment. How they respond to public sentiment may not be important to Palantir, but in a world where a collection of Redditors can sync up and challenge a company’s stock price, they may have to check this from time to time.