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Palantir's Business Model, Explained

By Rachel Warren and Danny Vena – Dec 15, 2021 at 7:00AM

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The secretive data mining company has a history of inking incredibly lucrative deals with the U.S. government.

Software company Palantir Technologies (PLTR 3.68%) has always been something of an enigma, even to its shareholders. So what exactly does this company do? In this segment of Backstage Pass, recorded on Nov. 1, Fool contributor Danny Vena explains.

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Danny Vena: The company I want to talk about is Palantir. What I'm going to do is I'm going to go ahead and just put a slide up that has some basic information about Palantir and what it is that they do. Let me share my screen here.

Palantir is a company that seems to generate strong feelings one way or the other. Some people are very pro Palantir and some people are very anti-Palantir. But I want to talk a little bit about how Palantir evolved and what the company really does. In the wake of 9/11, it became very clear we had a lot of government bureaus that had data, but it was siloed.

You had the FBI that had some data, you had the CIA that had some data and what eventually became the Department of Homeland Security. The government was looking for a way to access all of this data and put it all essentially into one dashboard. Peter Thiel, who was one of the co-founders of PayPal (PYPL 2.08%) envisioned the software tool that would gather data for all these thousands of government intelligence databases and weave together the bread crumbs that would be left by would-be terrorists. And it would use artificial intelligence, machine learning and detect patterns.

This is exactly what Palantir does. The company's database has the ability to stitch together what otherwise might look like unrelated details that are found in both public and private databases. It can fuse together the fact that somebody has bought a one-way plane ticket, they rented a condo, they're making large withdrawals from a foreign bank account, they make repeated calls to a watchlist numbers in the Middle East, they rented a big truck, they're making trips to major theme parks. If you look at any of those things individually, it doesn't look like much.

But if you put it all together, those could be precursors to a terrorist attack. Now, what Palantir has done is, it also has two platforms. It has the one platform that is only used by the United States government agencies and allies, and is used primarily for looking at the potential for a terrorist attack.

It has another platform, and that platform is called Foundry. You have Gotham for government clients, and then you have Foundry. Foundry does a lot of different things and you might not see it immediately. But for instance, Foundry can help banks detect money-laundering. It can help mining operations by monitoring their equipment performance and measuring geo-technical conditions and help improve in place safety. The FAA is actually using Foundry to help with air craft certifications and to detect operational safety issues across airlines.

There's a lot of potential I think with Palantir. 

Danny Vena owns shares of Palantir Technologies Inc. and PayPal Holdings and has the following options: long January 2022 $85 calls on PayPal Holdings. Rachel Warren has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Palantir Technologies Inc. and PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2022 $75 calls on PayPal Holdings. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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