Palantir, the mysterious decacorn founded by Alex Karp and Peter Thiel that works with government agencies like ICE and the Department of Defense, is lifting a veil. The company, which has never posted a profit despite its over $10 billion valuation, is involved in data mining and analytics, though the general public knows little about the work it actually does as part of its many government contracts.
For years Palantir has had investors, writers and analysts at the edge of their seats with teases of potential IPO filings, and 2020 is finally their year. The company filed for a confidential IPO earlier this summer, and their S-1 could be made public as early as this week. Those eager for the chance to look under the hood at one of the largest and most shady startups in all of Silicon Valley are finally getting what they’ve been waiting for.
To say Palantir has never posted profits is a bit of an understatement; the company lost $580 million in 2019, according to documents the company sent to investors last week. After the failure of several major IPOs and investors souring on inflated startups like WeWork last fall, it was thought that the old ways of doing business with loss leaders would be left in the past. The buzz around Palantir will be seen as a test for whether a startup bleeding cash while racking up ever-higher valuations is a valid model. So, how is the company performing ahead of its IPO?
When we covered Palantir in April, we found that their job listings had dropped 71% since January. While many companies have slowed or stopped hiring during the COVID-19 outbreak, we observed that a slowdown in job postings is often a signal of an upcoming IPO. That turned out to be the case for Palantir, but the decline in listings has persisted for much longer than expected — listings dropped as low as 73% in June — and only recently began to recover. Over the last 30 days, Palantir has opened 20 new positions.
Palantir’s Linkedin headcount has marginally increased, adding 30 employees since January.
Steady job numbers alone won’t do much to save Palantir from its massive losses last year, which will surely put off those who were once excited to invest in the company. Our first look under the hood isn't pleasant, and investors aren't crazy about the exterior either.
Thiel, Karp, and Palantir’s other founders are controversial figures to say the least. That, combined with the increased scrutiny and coverage surrounding the long-awaited IPO, could make Palantir another highly-anticipated IPO that lands with a thud.