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Palantir goes mainstream


Investors have always been eager to invest in Palantir Technologies, the secretive data analytics company known for its intelligence work for the NSA, CIA, FBI and the U.S. Army. After landing a $500 million investment last year, the company recently raised $450 million (out of a $500 million funding round), at a valuation of $20 billion. Once completed, Palantir will be ranked as the fourth most valuable venture-backed company in the world behind Xiaomi, Uber and Airbnb. So why are investors bullish on mysterious Palantir? From trying to save the world, Palantir is now trying to make more money by diversifying its business. Initially known for locating terrorists, tracking disease outbreaks, and preventing fraud, Palantir has been busy lately engaging with private companies and has closed deals with financial institutions, healthcare companies, and media corporations, among others. According to reports, about 70% of its business now come from the private sector. Although talks of an impending IPO are rife, Palantir CEO Alexander Karp has squashed the IPO rumours by announcing that it has no plans to go public.

Weekly Featured Company: IBM Watson

FoundedHeadquartersSectorEmployeesRevenueTotal InvestmentRecent Investment
2006New YorkSoftware & Services600$100M$1B$1B

IBM Watson: a new era of AI

Watson, IBM’s supercomputer burst onto the scene in 2011 when it famously beat Brad Rutter and Ken Jennings in the TV show Jeopardy! Watson’s victory over two human contestants clearly showed that a more advanced computing system–one that could learn and reason–has emerged. Today, Watson is considered as the pioneer in cognitive computing, a self-learning computing system that learns through data-mining, pattern recognition and natural language processing to imitate the way the human brain works. Watson can analyse and compare data, apply previous learnings, and change and evolve the more it learns, just like how the human brain works. So how will Watson improve the way people work? By harnessing information learned from big data, Watson can help professionals (scientists, doctors, researchers, etc.) make complex decisions by providing options that lead to higher probability of success and faster results. This is highly important in the areas of scientific research, medicine and finance. Beyond Jeopardy!, Watson has expanded its presence across multiple industries. Through DeakinSync, Watson provides information to all Deakin University students. Watson also empowers the financial teams of ANZ Bank, as well as helps treat cancer by providing evidence-based treatment options to top cancer clinics in the US. Recently, IBM invested $1 billion to Watson and established a new business unit dedicated to the development and commercialization of Watson.

Groupon’s appetite for growth

With more and better options available for online food ordering, more people are shopping online for their meals. In the US, the food delivery sector is now viewed as a $70 billion industry, with Chicago-based GrubHub heating up the scene with a successful IPO in 2014 raising $192 million in the process. Competitors like Yelp’s Eat24 and Square’s Caviar are also competing for a piece of the pie. Early this year, UK’s food delivery service leader Just Eat gobbled up SinDelantal, a Mexico-based food ordering website, and Menulog, a takeway platform in Australia and New Zealand. Last week, group-based social ecommerce giant Groupon announced that it has acquired OrderUp, an on-demand food delivery startup based in Baltimore. According to Groupon, OrderUp has 25 million North American customers, offers services in almost 40 markets, and has processed more than 10 million orders. The acquisition is said to be part of Groupon’s strategy to expand its ecommerce offerings. With Groupon’s huge customer and merchant base and OrderUp’s operational capability, the food delivery business could be a great way for Groupon to bolster its growth and give the company a foothold in the multi-billion dollar food ordering and delivery industry.

Weekly Featured Company: Xiaomi

FoundedHeadquartersSectorEmployeesRevenueTotal InvestmentRecent Investment
2010Beijing, ChinaMobile & Apps3,000$12B$1.4BUndisclosed

Unstoppable Xiaomi

In 2013, Google lost its top Android executive, Hugo Barra, to Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi. Joining Xiaomi as Vice President of International, Barra’s move to Xiaomi was considered as an important milestone for the company. It provided some much-needed legitimacy to an otherwise unknown company. Fast forward to the present, Xiaomi is now a global smartphone manufacturer and ranked as the third biggest seller of smartphones worldwide. The company sold 15.8 million units in the third quarter of 2014, a whopping 300% increase from the same period in 2013 when it reportedly sold 3.6 million units. In December of last year, the company raised a massive $1.1 billion worth of funding and received a valuation that has reached $45 billion, making it one of the most valuable tech startups in the world. What sets Xiaomi apart from others is its strategy. It sells Android-based phones with premium specs at rock bottom prices. By selling quality phones at near cost, it has become a serious threat to Apple and Samsung. Although it’s too early to say if Xiaomi can beat high-end giants Apple and Samsung, it will most likely try to make a dent in their market. After all, the company can beat them hands down on price.