Fundraising values Palantir at $20B

Hannah Kuchler and Richard Waters

Palantir, the big data start-up that began life catering for the intelligence services, is raising funds at a $20 billion valuation, more than doubling its worth in a year and a half.

The CIA-backed company is fundraising as its bookings — forward revenue — have more than doubled this year, according to a person familiar with the matter. The investors participating in this round are not known.

The fundraising would make Palantir one of the most valuable private companies in Silicon Valley — behind Uber, which is seeking a $50 billion valuation, according to other people familiar with the matter, but more than Snapchat, which was last raising funds at a $16 billion valuation.

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Palantir has moved beyond its original business of providing intelligence and analytics to government agencies, which won it initial funding from In-Q-Tel, the CIA's not-for-profit venture capital firm.

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It is now selling its software globally to industries from banking to the media. It offers anti-fraud services, warnings about insider trading threats and programs to accelerate research and development in pharmaceuticals.

The company raised money at a $9 billion valuation in December 2013, according to people familiar with the matter, and is reported to have been valued at roughly $15 billion late last year.

Read MoreSemi-secretive CIA-backed data company to shun IPO, for now

Palantir is one of a new generation of highly valued start-ups in Silicon Valley that are remaining private for longer. The 11-year-old company was founded by chief executive Alex Karp; Peter Thiel, the ex-PayPal venture capitalist; Joe Lonsdale, now at VC firm Foundation 8; Nathan Gettings; and Stephen Cohen.

Mr Karp said in 2013 that the company would not pursue an initial public offering because it would make running a company like Palantir "very difficult".

Investors include Mr Thiel's Founders Fund, 137 Ventures, and Reed Elsevier Ventures. The fundraising was first reported by BuzzFeed.

Palantir has denied that its Prism product, which it licenses to the financial industry for research, is the same as the US government program of the same name that was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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