Palantir, the secretive big-data startup which sells technology to corporations, governments, law enforcement and spy agencies, filed confidential paperwork to go public. With a $20 billion valuation as a private company, should its IPO be successful, this could be the biggest Silicon Valley IPO in years. The paperwork revealing who its biggest share owners are is not yet public.
But here are the founders, longest-term executives and board members who stand to gain handsomely should the company please public-market investors.
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Palantir announced late Monday night that it has filed confidential paperwork to the SEC to go public. Such paperwork doesn't guarantee an IPO will happen, but it is the first step, allowing the SEC to review the paperwork and the company to test interest among a small number of investors before opening up its books to the public. Meanwhile, Palantir is also attempting to raise an additional almost $1 billion from private investors, it said in an SEC filing last week. It reached half that goal this month when Sompo Japan Nipponkoa Holdings, a Japanese insurance holdings company, invested, according to estimates from Pitchbook. Palantir's IPO is interesting in Silicon Valley for a lot of reasons. The company, founded in 2004, is notoriously secretive. It's claim to fame is big data projects for corporations and governments, including spy agencies. It has long resisted an IPO — and the kind of public scrutiny that comes with it. Because the paperwork is still confidential, and the company doesn't have a public web page where it shares information about its leadership, we don't know who the company lists as its named executives or its biggest shareholders. (Palantir declined to comment for this story). But through the estimates and disclosures on Pitchbook and Crunchbase, here are the people most likely to win big should the IPO be a success.SEE ALSO: How to get a $100,000-plus career in cloud computing without a college degree, from a guy who did it and now coaches others Peter Thiel, founder
In 2003, while running his hedge fund firm, Clarium Capital Management, Peter Thiel had an idea for a company. Two years after 9/11, he wanted governments to have access to the same kind of big data analysis that his former company, PayPal, used to stop fraud, he told Forbes' Andy Greenberg back in 2013. This could be a way to help them prevent terrorists attacks, he reasoned. So he gathered a few of the young programmers he had on staff and told them to build him a prototype. Palantir was born and he was its chief cofounder. Thiel is already a billionaire, in large part thanks to his early investment in Facebook, worth an estimated $2.3 billion,according to Forbes. Alex Karp, CEO
Alex Karp holds a PhD in philosophy and is known for being a deeply intellectual influence at Palantir, and described himself like this: "He doesn't have a technical degree. He doesn't have any cultural affiliation with the government or commercial areas. His parents are hippies," he told Forbes. Still, he became founding CEO when Thiel, his longtime friend from college, asked him to join the company. With Palantir's $20 billion valuation, some estimate that Karp may already be a billionaire. Joe Lonsdale, cofounder
Joe Lonsdale was an intern at PayPal and then later an intern/early employee for Thiel's first investment company after PayPal sold, Lonsdale told Business Insider in 2017. When Thiel had the idea for Palantir, he tasked Lonsdale to help build the initial product along with another new Stanford computer science grad, Stephen Cohen, and PayPal engineer Nathan Gettings. Lonsdale has long since moved on to other things like his own VC firm. But he remains a visible face and defender of Palantir who has reportedly been urging the company to go public. Stephen Cohen, cofounder
The legend goes that Stephen Cohen and Lonsdale spent 8 weeks working and sleeping at the office to create the first prototype to take to their first investor meeting. That meeting was with Gilman Louie, a former video game designer and founding CEO of In-Q-Tel, the CIA's investment firm, The Washingtonian's Shane Harris reported back in 2012. It worked: In-Q-Tel agreed to fund the new company. Cohen remains at Palantir on its senior leadership team. Nathan Gettings, cofounder
Nathan Gettings is also a member of that original cofounding team and was, for many years, the CTO at Palantir. However, he also went on to become CEO of another Thiel idea: RoboteX, a company that builds robots for police and SWAT teams. He also was called into to help another PayPal Mafia member, Max Levchin, working for a while as founder and chief risk officer at Levchin's fintech company Affirm. Gettings is unusual in Silicon Valley because, for all his highly visible success, he's so secretive that neither his name nor his photo appears on any of the corporate websites of the companies he's cofounded. Shyam Sankar, director
Shyam Sankar joined Palantir in 2006, as employee No. 13, when it was still small and stealthy, he wrote on Quora back in 2012. As the company grew to thousands of employees he retained his senior leadership position, running "Forward Deployed Engineering" according to his personal website and overseeing "all customer engagements worldwide and manages day-to-day operations for the entire company," according to his LinkedIn profile. Colin Anderson, early employee
Colin Anderson has been at Palantir for 11 years, according to his LinkedIn profile, and is another secretive executive. He came to Palantir though Wall Street, hired away from the trading desk at Morgan Stanley to join Thiel's hedge fund, Clarium, back when Thiel hatched the plan for Palantir. He was revealed as the CFO in a 2015 filing with the SEC. As a ramp-up to going public, a company typically hires an experienced financier as CFO to implement all the financial controls required by regulators. As the IPO paperwork is not yet public, its not likely that Anderson is still CFO. He calls himself "entrepreneur" on his LinkedIn profile. Sean Stenstrom, lawyer
Sean Stenstrom is Palantir's self-described "Legal Ninja"aka one of its lawyer. Although he's not the head lawyer, he's been with the company for 10 years, hired away from Cooley Godward. He is also an adjunct professor a Columbia Law School teaching a technology and venture capital course. Adam Ross, board member
Adam Ross joined the board of directors at Palantir in 2015, according to the Wall Street Journal, the first non-founder to join the board. He took the seat vacated by Gettings. He's the founder of Texas-based venture firm Goldcrest Capital and a longtime friend of Thiel's from their Stanford college days. In fact, he was editor in chief of the "Stanford Review," the conservative/libertarian Stanford publication founded by Thiel and Norman Book just a few years earlier. Alex Moore, board member
Alex Moore was Palantir's first employee. He left the company after five years to found a couple of other startups, one of which did well enough to be acquired by Ericsson for an undisclosed sum. He then joined his old Palantir buddy Londsdale at Londsdale's venture firm 8VC. But in 2020, Moore came back to Palantir as a board member when Palantir beefed up its board by adding four people on its path to an IPO, reported the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Spencer Rascoff, board member
Spencer Rascoff is another new member of the Palantir board added in June, 2020. Rascoff is best known for his former role as cofounder and CEO of Zillow, and as one of the cofounders of Hotwire before that. Today he's an active angel investor and partner at A-list Silicon Valley VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. He is Thiel's neighbor of sorts. Both of them reside in Los Angeles. Alexandra Wolfe Schiff, board member
Alexandra Wolfe Schiff made headlines in June when Palantir announced that she, too, had become a new board member as of June 2020, making her the company's only female director. Wolfe Schiff was a journalist who wrote a column for the Wall Street Journal but resigned her role to take the post. The daughter of journalist and novelist Tom Wolfe ("Bonfire of the Vanities"), she is reportedly a friend of Thiel. She wrote a book published in 2017 about Thiel's first batch of college dropout tech fellows and Silicon Valley called "Valley of the Gods." The CIA's investment arm, In-Q-Tel and dozens of investors
Palantir has raised $3.35 billion from investors in many fundraising rounds and all of those investors hope their stock will rise once the company goes public. One of its first backers was In-Q-Tel, the CIA's venture investment firm, which has already seen the stock skyrocket as Palantir's valuation rose to $20 billion. Later investors include Fidelity and Tiger Global Management. Its angel investors, if they still own the stock, should also do well. According to Pitchbook, they include tech billionaire Michael Dell, Adroll founder Jared Kopf, Theil's pal and super angel investor David Sacks, VC Meyer Malka, VC Stuart Peterson and wealth manager Michael Cheung.
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