In this weekly series, CNBC looks at the companies that made the first Disruptor 50 list 10 years later.
Palantir is politically savvy. The data mining and software company started out on government contracts. Nineteen years after its founding, Palantir’s government work is still at the heart of its business.
Initially, Palantir’s business came directly from the FBI, NSA, and even the CIA. His In-Q-Tel, a CIA venture arm, was one of his early backers for the company. His CEO and co-founder, Alex Karp, is a self-proclaimed American patriot. For Karp, data and defense are intertwined, and his company’s contracts with government agencies reflect a commitment to using technology to strengthen the West. The company’s first splash was reportedly helping find Usama bin Laden more than a decade ago, and this year Palantir began working in Ukrainian military operations.
In the meantime, the company’s patriotism has sparked some criticism both inside and outside the company. It sparked a national debate about the role of technology in the United States and the line between protecting civil liberties and promoting government obligations.
Karp founded the company with prominent conservative tech investor Peter Thiel, and the two have been openly bickering over politics and technology. In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Karp commented on the split within his Palantir leadership. “Look, I think one of the problems in this country is that we don’t have enough people like Peter and me…we’ve been fighting over things for 30 years,” he told CNBC’s Andrew Ross. Still, they’ve run the company together enough to consistently secure contracts with governments around the world, and their success has been attributed to companies like BP, Merck and Sanofi. of private sector contracts.
CNBC published its first Disruptor 50 list in 2013, shortly after reports surfaced that Palantir helped track down bin Laden, and Palantir was a regular on the list until 2020, when it went public via direct listing. Palantir The stock has risen about 12.6% since going public, but the stock is down more than 55% in 2022.
Most of the business is still for government agencies, but there are more jobs outside of that.Commercial revenue increased 120% and in-state commercial customers increased more than 200% in the last earnings report in August. Wall Street analysts covering stocks were split, with a quarter rating the stock a ‘buy’, a quarter expecting an underperformance, and the other half rating Palantir stock a ‘hold’. doing.
What Palantir actually does for its customers, whether in the United States or abroad, public or private, often remains unclear. From the beginning, the company’s goals were to be secretive and suitable as a contractor for the Department of Defense or the FBI. However, despite the market capitalization of his $16.7 billion public company, Palantir’s performance remains murky. Karp was the first Western CEO to visit Ukraine during this year’s civil war to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and Ryan Taylor, Palantir’s chief of operations and general counsel, said the company “has to address the most important issues.” We are on the front lines.” All over the world, from the war in Ukraine to fighting famine and monkeypox. “
However, it’s unclear how exactly Palantir addresses these issues.
In a CNBC interview at this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos in May, Alex Karp estimated that there was a 20% to 30% chance of nuclear war in Ukraine. A relatively solitary prophecy at the time, Karp doubled down on the possible dangers ahead in his September “Squawk Box” interview, and in doing so would help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. I emphasized my position. You can really beat giants. “
Secretive as it may be, Palantir is clear about one major pivot: the CIA’s roots in health care.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Palantir helped deploy vaccines nationally and internationally. We partner with CDC, NIH, FDA in the US and NHS in the UK. In the private sector, it is currently working with Japanese non-life insurance, Merck and Sanofi’s healthcare businesses.
COO Shyam Sankar told CNBC in August that the company’s work spans the entire healthcare value chain. “We are working with government agencies to efficiently distribute vaccines, connect pharmaceutical companies to the biomanufacturing processes that create vaccines, drive hospital operations to get those needles, and drive healthcare outcomes. and clear the backlog. Covid Awakening.”
Palantir is likely to remain as secretive as it initially was, and Karp, who is committed to nuanced politics and patriotism, is likely to remain outspoken about both. data mining and analysis software has been the subject of notable successes and protests. Despite the backlash, its technology garners hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts each year, is being adopted by the world’s biggest geopolitical players, and is moving chess pieces around the world.
Beyond the annual Disruptor 50 list, sign up for our original weekly newsletter detailing the companies making the list and their innovative founders.