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34. Palantir

Founders: Alexander Karp (CEO), Joe Lonsdale, Nathan Gettings, Peter Thiel, Stephen Cohen
Launched: 2003
Headquarters: Palo Alto, CA
Funding:
$2.8 billion (PitchBook)
Valuation: $20.5 billion (PitchBook)
Key technologies:
Artificial intelligence, machine learning, software-defined security
Industry:
Business services, data mining, cybersecurity

George Kavallines | CNBC

As the drumbeat of a potential IPO this year grows louder, Palantir keeps expanding. In March the secretive Silicon Valley data analytics company co-founded by PayPal founder and Trump advisor Peter Thiel won an army contract worth up to $800 million. As CNBC reported, it is the first time that a venture-backed firm has been named a "defense program of record," meaning that it basically falls into the category of the biggest, multiyear project awarded by the Pentagon. It beat out Fortune 500 company Raytheon for the contract. This comes after a smaller, yet still significant, contract with the federal government's National Institutes of Health signed in September. The three-year contract is another sign that the government values Palantir's offerings, and it enables the company to push further into the rapidly growing health-care and biosciences market.

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In its early days, Palantir 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, whether it be 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.

Earlier this year, a Palantir executive revealed on French TV that the company had revenue of $1 billion in 2018. About half came from government agencies and the rest from corporate customers, a segment that is growing rapidly, thanks to a new product called Foundry. The service automates much of what Palantir does, allowing the company to sell ready-to-use software at higher margins. CEO Alexander Karp won't comment on IPO rumors, but that hasn't stopped investors from talking up its expected 2019 debut. The company has raised an astounding $2 billion and is valued at $20 billion.