Palantir, a big data company whose clientele includes the US Army and several government agencies, has been busy this week. They’ve announced the purchase of two startups, Poptip and Propeller. Palantir’s exact motivations for these acquisitions remain nebulous.
Tuesday saw the announcement of the Poptip acquisition. Poptip is a social media startup who offer tools for running surveys which take input from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, as well as dashboards and alerts for specific terms mentioned in tweets. The team cut their teeth at the Techstars NYC accelerator, and have since expanded to work with nearly 60 brands, including household names like Budweiser, L’Oreal, and Spotify.
A social media startup and a company with a product simply called “Palantir Government” might seem like an odd couple, but its possible that Palantir’s interest in Poptip lies in its natural language processing capabilities. NLP is certainly a hot topic at the moment, with AlchemyAPI, Synapsify and Clarabridge all announcing healthy funding rounds in this domain. Social media content without the NLP could still be of interest to Palantir; yesterday, Twitter announced a 46% rise in the number of government takedowns on its site.
However, the acquisition of Propeller remains shrouded in mystery. Propeller is a mobile app development startup, who graduated from Stanford’s StartX accelerator in the autumn of 2012. What exactly Palantir see in a startup working in a field far beyond its remit is still open to speculation. The statement of Propeller’s website offers little clarificiation:
We set out to change the way mobile applications are made. Over the past year, Propeller empowered businesses and individuals to create their own great mobile apps in a matter of minutes. Those apps have been downloaded many thousands of times, and we are incredibly proud of what we achieved.
We have great respect for the people and the work accomplished at Palantir, and getting to know them over the past few months made it clear just how well our teams are aligned. Having tackled many technical challenges facing mobile app creation, we’re eager to solve important problems at Palantir on a global scale.
What “important problems” Propeller will be solving remains to be seen. But, with an impressive $107.5 million funding round under their belts, Palantir have more than enough money to purchase and experiment with intriguing startups.
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