33. Palantir

They know you, even if you don't know them.

Founders: Stephen Cohen, Nathan Gettings, Alexander Karp (CEO), Peter Thiel
Launched: 2004
Headquarters: Palo Alto, California
Funding: $2.8 billion (Pitchbook)
$20.5 billion (Pitchbook)
Key technologies: Artificial intelligence, machine learning, software-defined security
Business services, data mining, cybersecurity

George Kavallines | CNBC

For a company that prides itself as being a secretive outfit, Palantir has certainly been in the news lately. In March, as Facebook was vilified for not adequately protecting the data of up to 87 million users, it was revealed that a former computer engineer for Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that worked for President Donald Trump's campaign, testified that a Palantir employee helped the consulting firm develop profiles of individual voters based on their Facebook data. (The company has said the employee worked with Cambridge Analytica on his own time.)

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The incident, nonetheless, shows just how stealth the Silicon Valley firm is. It was started by PayPal founder Peter Thiel and some other company alumni, and in its early days did most of its work for the Pentagon and the CIA in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its software can take mounds of data from an organization — financial reports, cellphone records, social media postings, for example — and transform it into maps, charts and other actionable forms of intelligence. Palantir can then report back to a client any news of potential trouble, such as acts of terrorism, financial fraud or even human trafficking. The government success has led to contracts with the private sector, including BP, Merck, Airbus and Fiat Chrysler's North American factories.

Though the company doesn't release its financials, SharePost estimates that Palantir had revenue of up to $600 million last year and a market cap of about $20 billion. CEO Karp won't say when or if the company might go public, but that hasn't stopped it from raising an astounding $2.1 billion in venture funding from 137 Ventures, Tiger Global and Founders Fund.