This just makes no sense. Palantir is a mix of software and services, delivering very bespoke, high-end analytical transformation projects and platforms to a very small number of very large customers - 125 or so in total per the S-1. They're a 17 year old company, so not new, so their numbers should be pretty stable. Any idiot with a calculator should be able to run a services business on around 15% margin. A stable software business should be a raw 70-80% margin, set against a significant (but not overwhelming) sales and marketing cost, leaving the remainder for R&D and profits.
From those 125 customers they're taking about $750M dollars. This is a damned respectable amount. Most software companies would kill for an average-revenue-per-customer of $5-6M. And yet somehow they have managed to lose money. Not a small amount of money either. Not a one-off blip. Five hundred and eighty million dollars. Somehow this company of 125 customers and 2,400 employees managed to spend $1.3Bn (with a B!) on who-knows-what last year.
That's a spend per employee of about half a million dollars. It's a spend per customer of about ten million dollars. That is not a sustainable business. One could argue then that they'll try and use the IPO cash to trim the fat and turn into a more lean, mass-market business to compete on the cloud, but this is a direct listing, so they're not even going to raise any money! It could equally be early employees wanting to cash out before the business gets serious, but there's talk of a significant lockup period as well.
Either Palantir are playing 12 dimensional chess the rest of us mere mortals simply don't understand, or this is a company that has been bled dry for the benefit of a few, so has no foreseeable future.