Palantir’s stockmarket prospectus reveals both losses and promise

“ONE NEVER really knows who one’s enemy is.” The words of Jürgen Habermas, a noted Frankfurt School philosopher, are a good point of departure for understanding Palantir Technologies. On August 25th the controversial software firm, named after a magical orb in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” that lets users see and speak across space and time, filed the paperwork to list on the New York Stock Exchange. Its direct offer of existing shares to public investors, without raising fresh capital, could happen within a month.

The company sells programs that gather disparate data and organise them into something usable for decision-makers, from soldiers in Afghanistan to executives at energy firms. More than a technological project, it is a philosophical, even political one. In the early 2000s its co-founder and boss, Alex Karp (who used to sit on the board of The Economist’s parent company), wrote a dissertation about aggression in politics at Frankfurt’s Goethe University, though not under Mr Habermas, as is often claimed. And Palantir itself is a child of the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001, which America’s sundry law-enforcement outfits failed to avert because they did not share data. In a preface to the prospectus, bleak by the upbeat standards of the genre, Mr Karp writes of government agencies that “faltered”...

via Business Feeds

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