Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Terror-Fighting Start-Up Palantir Technologies Just Raised $68 Million — But From Whom?

Few tech start-ups have a more mysterious brief than that of Palantir Technologies. I first encountered the company while still working for Businessweek and I’ve tried to keep track of it since.

That’s not easy. Given what it does — develop software that essentially helps government intelligence agencies root out and track terrorists and other criminals with sophisticated data analysis technology — it’s generally known for keeping its mouth shut. Its name is taken from the mystical seeing stones in the “Lord of the Rings” novels.

The company takes huge reams of data and subjects it to analysis to find connections between people and entities, and to find patterns that aren’t obvious. It has been used to track suicide bombers in Iraq and to sniff out abuse of government stimulus money in the U.S., and naturally most of its business is with the government, though banks, always on the lookout for fraud, are also said to be enthusiastic customers.

Yesterday, Palantir reported in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it had just raised $68 million in funding, though, as is usually the case with Form D, the filing doesn’t say who it came from. This, of course, would come on top of $50 million that TechCrunch reported it had raised in May, and another $90 million it raised in June.

The idea for what became Palantir emerged out of antifraud work at PayPal, but then grew into something bigger. PayPal alum and Facebook investor Peter Thiel talked Alex Karp (pictured) into the idea of building it into something that could root out terrorists. Thiel and his Founder’s Fund led a $12 million funding round in 2006, some of which came from the CIA’s In-Q-Tel. Thiel led another round in 2008.

I’ve got a call in to Palantir and hope to find out more behind the details in this filing, and will update the post if I hear from them. Until then you can watch Karp’s interview on “Charlie Rose” from 2009, and a Peter Thiel interview with The Wall Street Journal from last month.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work