Palantir Technologies is one of the fastest growing companies in Silicon Valley, and potentially one of the most important.
The data-collating company serves the United States government as well as some of the biggest banks in the world, helping detect terrorism threats and fraud.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek gives the company a closeup in its latest issue.
The story reveals some fascinating facts:
- In the company’s Palo Alto office (formerly occupied by Facebook) “sweeping hand-drawn murals fill the walls, depicting tributes to Care Bears and the TV show Futurama. On one floor, a wooden swing hangs from the ceiling by metal chains, while Lord of the Rings knickknacks sit on desks. T-shirts with cutesy cartoon characters are everywhere, since the engineers design one for each new version of their software. Of late, they’ve run out of Care Bears to put on the shirts and moved on to My Little Ponies.”
- It will reach $250 million in sales this year.
- CEO Alex Karp eats only 1,200 calories per day.
- The company caps salaries at $127,000.
- Here’s one way the technology works: In Afghanistan, U.S. Special Operations Forces use Palantir to plan assaults. They type a village’s name into the system and a map of the village appears, detailing the locations of all reported shooting skirmishes and IED, or improvised explosive device, incidents. Using the timeline function, the soldiers can see where the most recent attacks originated and plot their takeover of the village accordingly. The Marines have spent years gathering fingerprint and DNA evidence from IEDs and tried to match that against a database of similar information collected from villagers. By the time the analysis results came back, the bombers would be long gone. Now field operatives are uploading the samples from villagers into Palantir and turning up matches from past attacks on the spot, says Samuel Reading, a former Marine who works in Afghanistan for NEK Advanced Securities Group, a U.S. military contractor. “It’s the combination of every analytical tool you could ever dream of,” Reading says. “You will know every single bad guy in your area.”
- A question it asks potential hires: You have 25 horses and can race them in heats of 5. You know the order the horses finished in, but not their times. How many heats are necessary to find the fastest?