By: Omar Mukadam
During the evening of the second day of InnovTrip, our group paid a visit to Palantir, the secretive Silicon Valley based company that fascinated me ever since I heard about the mysteriously enormous impact it has on the world through its powerful data analysis software. It maintains an iron dome of secrecy and surreptitiousness about what it exactly does while growing into a multi-billion dollar company backed by some of the world’s most powerful federal agencies and private investors.
After being greeted by our cordial Palantir host who also happened to be one of their university recruiters, we were whisked away to a spacious conference room where we were treated to cupcakes, drinks, and a Palantir gift bag filled with tokens and artifacts. Two Palantir employees, Alexander Rilee and Shreya Murthy, both of whom attended Princeton and graduated in the class of 2013, joined us promptly. Alex was an Electrical Engineering major and Shreya was a Politics major. They began describing what Palantir was all about (to the extent that they were allowed to) and gave an overview of their specific roles within the company. Following is a gist of what they told us.
Essentially, Palantir’s mission is to solve the world’s most important problems for its most important institutions using a product-first approach rooted in data analysis. Its customers include state and local governments, national and international intelligence agencies, and private companies in virtually all kinds of industries. How does it take on this daunting task? The answer lies in data – LOTS of data. The world’s biggest companies, institutions, and federal agencies have a plethora of data at their fingertips ready to be cracked and analyzed. However, most of these massive data sets are so fragmented and muddled that practically nothing useful can be gleaned from them. This is where Palantir comes to the rescue. Palantir’s flagship data mining system allows its clients to easily and intuitively connect the dots between different points of interest using a natural language based approach that makes it orders of magnitude easier for human beings to sort through and analyze heaps of data. These remarkable abilities are made possible by Palantir’s flagship products like Gotham and Metropolis. While most of Palantir’s success stories are and will remain veiled in a cloak of mystery, some “unclassified” examples stand out, such as the Los Angeles Police Department’s remarkable success with using Palantir software to its defectives and cops to more effectively solve and fight crimes.
After hearing from Alex and Shreya, we had a short tour of Palantir’s NYC office, a multi-story complex filled with sagacious engineers and scientists spread throughout open offices filled with humming computers and servers. Upon concluding our visit, I left with a fresh sense of how enormous of an impact a single company can have on the world if it has the right combination of talent, resources, and a commitment to the betterment of mankind.