Palantir, the Silicon Valley data-analytics company known for taking on controversial work for the US government, filed paperwork Tuesday indicating its intent to go public.
The company, which has long shrouded itself in secrecy, reported that it has never turned a profit and that about a third of its revenue came from its three biggest customers. In the first six months of 2020, it reported revenue of $481 million, up nearly 50% from a year earlier, and losses of $164 million, down from $280 million the same period a year prior. It lost $580 million on revenue of $743 million in 2019.
In the 17 years since it was founded, Palantir Technologies has received financial backing from the CIA, has become one of the most valuable private companies in the United States, and earned a seat at the table alongside the biggest tech companies in meeting with President Donald Trump. Cofounder Peter Thiel, a member of the so-called “PayPal mafia” and a longtime Facebook board member, supported Trump’s 2016 campaign.
The paperwork indicated the company would go public through a direct listing, the same method used by Spotify and Slack. This method means it lists directly on a stock exchange without relying on underwriters to help assess demand and set a price.
Named after the seeing stones in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novel “The Lord of the Rings,” Palantir has two products that customers use to organize and glean insights from mounds of data: Gotham, which was initially developed for government clients, and Foundry. The company, which was long based in Palo Alto, indicated in its paperwork that it is based in Denver, confirming a report on the move.
CEO and cofounder Alex Karp distanced Palantir from other Silicon Valley technology companies in a letter included in the filing, writing that “we seem to share fewer and fewer of the technology sector’s values and commitments.”
“From the start, we have repeatedly turned down opportunities to sell, collect, or mine data. Other technology companies, including some of the largest in the world, have built their entire businesses on doing just that,” he wrote. “We have chosen sides, and we know that our partners value our commitment. We stand by them when it is convenient, and when it is not.”
As part of the listing, the company is seeking to create a third class of shares that would give Thiel, Karp and fellow cofounder Stephen Cohen “49.999999%” of the total voting power.
Palantir, which provides governments and corporations with tools to help with everything from tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus to zeroing in on terrorists, states in the filing that one of its goals is to “become the default operating system for data across the U.S. government.”
Revenue from government contracts made up $345.5 million, or 53%, of its overall revenue in 2019. In the filing, Palantir said the US government agencies using its software include the Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Homeland Security, the SEC, the FDA, the NIH, CDC, Department of Veterans Affairs, Army, Navy and Air Force.