5. Palantir Technologies

Connecting data and technology to humans and environments

Alex Karp, co-founder of Palantir Technologies
Getty Images
Alex Karp, co-founder of Palantir Technologies

Founders: Stephen Cohen, Nathan Gettings, Alexander Karp (CEO), Joe Lonsdale, Peter Thiel
Date launched:
$896.2 million
Industries disrupted:
Defense, Enterprise Technology, Software
Disrupting: Amazon, IBM, Oracle
Competition: i2, MongoDB, Skybox Imaging

How's this for a client list: the FBI, the NSA and the CIA. Indeed, these agencies as well as other U.S. counterterrorism and military outfits all look to Palantir Technologies to mine massive data sets for intelligence and law-enforcement applications. The company's software can take wildly disparate mounds of data and elegantly transform it into maps, charts and other forms of intelligence that mere mortals can actually understand.

Employees—otherwise known as "forward-deployed engineers"—can wend their way through a client's data and then clearly spell out potential trouble, whether that means terrorism, financial fraud or human trafficking. Palantir's advisors include folks who know a thing or two about security: Condoleezza Rice and former CIA director George Tenet. In fact, the CIA's venture arm—In-Q-Tel—was an early investor, pumping $2 million into the firm as it was getting off the ground.

Read More FULL LIST: 2014 DISRUPTOR 50

Naturally, talk of an IPO follows the company as closely as security guards trail CEO Alexander Karp. (He's gotten death threats since Palantir was rumored to be involved in the killing of Osama bin Laden.) If the company were to go public—something it hasn't ruled out—Karp is on track to join Silicon Valley's billionaires' club.

On the company's disruptive impact:

"We only do it because the mission is really cool. ... It's basically very simple. ... We tell people you can help save the world." -Alex Karp, CEO


  • The Lenovo logo is displayed on a screen at a press conference in Hong Kong, May 21, 2015.

    Lenovo will be in a “very different” situation in terms of profit in the coming quarters as the Chinese technology giant implements a turnaround strategy, the company’s president said.

  • An Apple iPhone 6 Plus

    One pro thinks Apple should lease its iPhone in order to maintain its market share and margins, but another expert disagrees.

  • The Samsung Gear S2

    Samsung said it would make its next smartwatch technology available to its competitors who also use Google's mobile platform Android.

Latest Special Reports

  • As the world grows more interconnected, it’s harder to manage global risks. Here's some ways to mitigate the biggest challenges.

  • A globe-trotting look at the world of investing, from developed Europe and Asia trends to the least-traveled frontier markets.

  • Financial advisors stress that now is the time for investors to get serious about year-end financial planning checkup.