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4. Palantir Technologies

Uncovering threats

Founders: Alex Karp, Nathan Gettings, Peter Thiel, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen
Launched: 2004
Funding: $2.7 billion
Valuation: $25 billion
Disrupting: Business services, data mining, cybersecurity
Rival: N/A

Alexander Karp, co-founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies
Scott Eells | Bloomberg | Getty Images
Alexander Karp, co-founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies

For a company as secretive as Palantir Techhologies, there's certainly been enough talk of its recent doings. The 12-year-old Silicon Valley firm, started by Stanford Law School graduate Alexander Karp in 2004, sells software to the U.S. government, Wall Street firms and others to mine massive data sets for intelligence and law-enforcement applications. This software can take wildly disparate mounds of data and transform it into maps, charts and other forms of intelligence. Palantir's engineers can then go through a client's data and report back to them news of potential trouble, whether that be terrorism, financial fraud or human trafficking.

Read MoreFULL LIST: 2016 DISRUPTOR 50

The company apparently has been making its footprint even bigger by taking up more office space in downtown Palo Alto, where it already has workers in about two dozen buildings. In February it bought the web-scraping firm Kimono for an undisclosed amount. That company helps developers grab information from websites without having to spend the time and money to create their own scrapers.

Palantir's biggest clients — the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, among them — don't talk about their relationship with the company. But in March, Credit Suisse Group AG revealed that it started a venture with Palantir that aims to catch rogue employees before they can harm the bank. The 50-50 joint venture, called Signac, will focus initially on detecting unauthorized trading, but the Zurich-based lender has said it plans to expand Signac to monitor all employee behavior, catch breaches of conduct rules, and eventually offer the service to other banks.

Though Palantir doesn't release financials, analysts at PrivCo estimate its 2015 revenues doubled to $1.5 billion. To date, the company has raised an astounding $2.7 billion, from venture firms such as Tiger Global and Founders Fund. That's leading many to wonder if Palantir ever needs to go public. CEO Alex Karp may have given a huge hint when he said of his secretive company back in 2013: "[An initial public offering] would make running a company like ours very difficult."


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