Careers at Palantir Technologies
Palantir Technologies’ mission is to solve the most important problems for the world's most important institutions.
In the early 2000s, PayPal developed an analysis software system called Igor to identify and stop cyber fraud. The solution was an example of machine-augmented intelligence – machines helping humans; it was shown to be more effective than using standard artificial intelligence. After the company was acquired by eBay in 2002, some former employees began thinking about how the data analysis approach could be applied at a larger scale. PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel decided to be proactive, incorporating a new company for this purpose in 2003. He wanted it to be “mission-oriented”, applied for purposes such as reducing terrorism while maintaining civil liberties.
In 2004, he financed the development of a prototype by Stanford graduate students Joe Lonsdale and Stephen Cohen and PayPal engineer Nathan Gettings. Later that year, he recruited former colleague Alexander Karp to be the company’s CEO. Named Palantir, its offering was described as data fusion platforms for integrating, managing, and securing any type of data, at massive scale. The specific systems were Gotham (an enterprise knowledge base focused on analyzing organizational data) and Metropolis (a platform focused on performing complex computations). Applications for fully interactive, human-driven, machine-assisted analysis were layered on top of each.
Palantir initially had difficulty attracting interest, but found an unlikely partner in 2005 when the Central Intelligence Agency became a customer. After that more government agencies joined its roster, mostly through word-of-mouth. In 2009 Palantir signed its first private sector client, JP Morgan Chase, who needed assistance with fraud detection. More private firms joined to the point that in 2013 less than 40% of its revenues were believed to be obtained from government entities.
Palantir’s growth excited investors and its valuation grew from $6 billion in September of 2013 to $9 billion two months later. In 2014, its annual revenues were estimated to be $1 billion, up from $450 million a year earlier. Despite this explosive growth, the firm’s founders have expressed no interest in an IPO, believing that it would make running a company like theirs “difficult”. This is partly because its heavy government client base might not welcome scrutiny of transactions. The company seems to be doing fine without going public. It currently has nine international offices and four in the U.S.
Business model of Palantir Technologies
Palantir has a niche business model, which serves a specialized customer need. Its software systems assist organizations seeking human-driven, machine assisted data analytics. While most of its clients are private, it has a significant population of government agency customers and also works with non-profit organizations.
Palantir Technologies offers two primary value propositions: accessibility and customization.
The company’s products are used in the private, public, and non-profit sectors. Within these, its systems can be used for a wide range of applications, which include the following:
· Case Management
· Cyber Security
· Disaster Preparedness
· Healthcare Delivery
· Insurance Analytics
· Law Enforcement
· Trader Oversight
|· Capital Markets
· Crisis Response
· Disease Response
· Insider Threat
· Legal Intelligence
· Pharma R&D
Employees at client firms have used the product to do everything from unravel complex financial crimes to uncover human trafficking rings. Thus, it has offered value to a wide variety of people.
The company also offers the benefit of customization. Its data fusion platforms are open and enable users to integrate commercial third-party data, which helps to support existing Palantir workflows within the client firm. Palantir actively encourages this kind of incorporation.
Palantir’s main channel is its website, through which it markets its products and provides support to platform users through a dedicated customer service portal. It also offers the Palantir Mobile app that offers many of the same features as its software system.
Palantir’s customer relationship is primarily of a personal assistance nature. The company describes its analysis processes as “human-centric”, and this is supported by the fact that it sends its engineering staff into the field to work directly with clients. The employees assist with tasks ranging from deploying systems to integrating data to optimizing workflows.
Palantir also offers the aforementioned dedicated customer support website that requires a log-in to use.
Palantir’s key activities focus on platform management. The company’s responsibilities primarily involve maintaining, updating, and enhancing its Gotham and Metropolis products for customers.
Palantir operates a program called “Palantir Partnerships” through which it works with the following groups:
- Data Providers: The company invites third-party data providers to integrate their sources into its platforms in order to complement clients’ enterprise data. The firms receive training on the systems, and benefits include a prominent listing on Palantir’s website, showcases at its events, and “coffee chats” with its engineers and analysts. Its current partners are as follows: Morningstar, Thomson Reuters, Dun & Bradstreet (D&B), Dow Jones, Epidemico, LexisNexis, IHS, Inrix, and Digital Globe.
- Third-Party Programmers: Palantir works with programmers who want to build something on top of its systems. After establishing a clear use case for the proposal, the company offers developer resources to the programmer, including an API guide and a starter developer kit.
- Service Providers: Palantir partners with selected companies in order to extend its reach and respond sufficiently to customer demand for extra services such as personalized trainings, analytical support, and systems administration. Its current partners are PVM, SHINE, and IMSL.
Palantir’s main resources are its proprietary software platforms, Gotham and Metropolis.
It also depends to a great extent on its engineering employees who have significant expertise in big data processing, data science, user experience design, and distributed systems infrastructure. Another important human resource is its customer support staff.
Finally, as a start-up it has relied heavily on the capital of investors, raising $2.42 billion in 15 rounds from 12 investors as of December 2015.
Palantir has a value-driven structure, offering a high-degree of personal service with little emphasis on costs.
The company’s biggest cost driver is likely customer support and operations (a fixed cost), as it relies heavily on its human resources to ensure client comfort with its offerings. Other major expensive drivers likely include sales/marketing and administrative expenses, both fixed costs.
Palantir has three revenue streams – product charges, maintenance fees, and training fees:
- Product Charges: Palantir servers are priced per core. They cost $141,000 per core, a figure that includes one year of maintenance services (support and software upgrades).
- Maintenance Fees: Starting the second year of server use, a separate maintenance fee of $28,000 per core is applied.
- Training Fees: Palantir charges a training fee of $2,000 per system user.
info: Alexander earned a Bachelor’s degree from Leland Stanford Junior University, a law degree from Stanford University, and a Ph.D. in Neoclassical Social Theory from the University of Frankfurt. He previously founded Caedmon Group in 2002.
info: Nathan is also the Co-Founder of RoboteX, which designs robots for challenging environments. He is a Director at Rexante Systems and previously worked at PayPal, developing its anti-fraud models.
info: Joe earned a degree in computer science at Stanford University. He previously worked with the financial arm of PayPal. He is a Founding Partner at Eight Partners and a Co-Founder of OpenGov, Addepar, and Anduin Ventures, a seed fund that helps tech start-ups.
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