Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Monday, August 3, 2020
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Palantir, Rackspace Lead a Wave of Tech IPOs 

Cloud and software vendors of various stripes and high-flying big data analytics provider Palantir Technologies have gauged financial market sentiments and decided now is the time to launch initial stock offerings.

For Palantir, which has been racking up a growing list of U.S. government contracts spanning Pentagon data mining technologies to COVID-19 analytics, the question was when, not if, the company would go public.

Others are more problematic. For example, cloud management specialist Rackspace Technology Inc. announced earlier this month it has filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a proposed IPO. An undisclosed number of Rackspace shares would be listed on the Nasdaq exchange. No price range for Rackspace shares was disclosed.

Rackspace, which was acquired in 2016 by the private equity firm Apollo Global Management, has retained high-profile underwriters to handle the proposed stock offering, including Goldman Sachs, Citigroup Global Markets and J.P. Morgan Securities.

San Antonio-based Rackspace and its owners likely took their cue from other recent technology IPOs predicated on the assumption of greater demand for cloud services for remote work and education. That, and a run-up in tech stock prices since the novel coronavirus slammed financial markets in March.

As the financial news website Bloomberg noted this week, shares of fintech software provider nCino Inc. (NASDAQ: NCNO) jumped more than 170 percent this week in its Nasdaq debut.

That investor response bodes well for Palantir, which filed its IPO on July 6. A public listing is expected once the SEC completes its review. (Coincidentally, Palantir has provided the SEC with data mining software used to identify insider-trading schemes.)

Palantir, Palo Alto, Calif., was co-founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, an early Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) backer, along with Stephen Cohen, Nathan Gettings, Alex Karp and Gary Tan. The data analytics vendor has so far attracted at least $2.6 billion in venture funding, according to the website Crunchbase.com, with a valuation reportedly approaching $20 billion.

Palantir executives have in the past dismissed speculation the analytics pioneer would go public. One reason is the amount of classified work it performs for government agencies. For example, Palantir also supplies data mining and database technologies to several military branches, including U.S. Special Forces Command. In March, it beat out long-time DoD contractor Raytheon for a sole-source contract worth $80 million to supply the Navy with a logistics management system.

A recent spate of successful technology IPOs, including software vendor ZoomInfo Technologies (NASDAQ: ZI), likely convinced Palantir that the timing is right for an IPO. In June, Palantir added several new board members, including former Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Wolfe Schiff. California law requires public companies to have at least one woman on their board of directors.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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