Palantir Technologies: Getting the NSO Treatment

April 24, 2020

Rupert Murdoch’s real news outfit published “Data Firm Palantir Saw Crisis Coming, Still Faces Pain.” If you want the online version, you will have to pay. The dead tree version of the story is on B5 of the April 22, 2020, edition of the WSJ which is sometimes delivered to me in rural Kentucky.

Enough about the real news outfit. I want to run down some of the assertions made about Palantir. Assertions, I wish to add, from anonymous sources or people close to the vendor of intelware, not verifiable sources.

I highlighted these factoids from the article:

First, Palantir does a lousy job of sharing its financial information. How does the Wall Street Journal get its revenue estimate from 2019? How does the WSJ know that $100 million in costs have be removed from the firm’s operating budget? Easy. People “close to the company” and two unnamed “investors.”

Second, Palantir is pulling back from its rumored initial public offering after the November elections. Palantir has pulled back or put off an IPO for many years. But now Covid enters the picture.

Third, Palantir is providing “a single source of truth about the rapidly evolving situation.” The situation is making sense of pandemic data and the individuals who are infected or infecting. This is a contentious issue. High profile publicity like that the NSO Group has experienced is not a sales booster in some cases.

There are some other factoid assertion like rumors in the write up, but I want to address the three points I selected from the WSJ write up.

  1. With regard to sharing its financial data, privately-held companies are not obligated to share financial data. Palantir does, but it may not be the data investors or employees want to see. Palantir is in the secrecy business, and it is tough for specialist firms to tell anyone anything. This is not something unique to Palantir. Write Blackdot for information. Let me know how that goes, please.
  2. The pullback from an IPO is nothing new. Palantir took shape in 2003. Let’s see. That’s almost 17 years ago. If the firm were in a position to crank out those facing IPO documents and go through the stellar Securities & Exchange Commission process and then hit the road to chat up the market makers, Palantir and its big money backers would have volunteered to drive the minivan from meeting to meeting. There’s a reason why the Palantir IPO is unlikely to happen. Hypothetically the company is concerned about revealing data. Another hypothetical is that companies selling policeware and intelware are not loved by some investors. Check out Verint, please. How much information does the company actually provide about its specialized services? Yeah, about as much as Siemens.
  3. Third, Palantir pitches the single source of truth idea. But that’s marketing, and it is not a tagline that makes potential buyers say, “Hey, I get it.” To make a Palantir-type sales takes time. The reason is that there are not as many customers for these specialized products as some people like high-flying investors assume. Palantir is more than 15 years old, and Herzliya, Israel is chock-a-block with start ups that are spry, hungry, and equipped with better-faster-cheaper specialized solutions. The sales problem is baked into the specialized software sector. Not even IBM can keep some cyber intelligence sheep in line. South Africa selected an intelware vendor from Poland, not the once proud nation of Big Blue.

So what?

From DarkCyber’s point of view, the Wall Street Journal could dive into more substantive aspects of Palantir and actually identify where the information originates. Even middle school students have to provide a footnote even if it is to Wikipedia. That may garner a C. But no verifiable sources? That’s nosing into the murky land of failure.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2020


Comments are closed.

  • Archives

  • Recent Posts

  • Meta