Wait A Minute… The CIA Has Its Own Venture Capital Firm?

in q tel cia venture capital firm

Ordinarily, the headlines surrounding how encrypted messaging platform Wickr has secured more than $1.6 million in funding wouldn’t be something we’d take note of, much less cover in the editorial sense. The source of Wickr’s funding, however, is drawing further attention from several publications, not just BH. You see, the public disclosure records reviewed by Motherboard indicates Wickr is being bankrolled by a non-profit investment firm called In-Q-Tel — otherwise known as the venture capital firm established by the Central Intelligence Agency to “support US intelligence capabilities” and “deliver cutting-edge technologies that address national security needs.”

Record scratch moment. Since when did the CIA have an entire branch dedicated to handing out seed capital? More importantly, how does it work? As it so happens, In-Q-Tel – formerly known as Peleus before rebranding with a direct reference to James Bond’s own quartermaster (yes… really) – was founded by former CIA Director George Tenet, former Lockheed Martin CEO Norm Augustine, and veteran venture capitalist Gilman Louie back in 1999.

And while the idea of a CIA venture capital firms immediately has our neurons firing with punchlines about “investing” rocket launchers towards the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan, only to yield █████████ ███ ████ ██████, not only is there a certain degree of separation – In-Q-Tel involves non-combative avenues of R&D (as far as we’ve been told); and is actually viewed by the industry as something of a trendsetter within the realm of information technology. Apparently, the average dollar invested by In-Q-Tel in 2016 attracted $15 from third-party investors.



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“While we pay the bills, In-Q-Tel is independent of CIA,” explains George Tenet.

“CIA identifies pressing problems and In-Q-Tel provides the technology to address them. The In-Q-Tel alliance has put the Agency back at the leading edge of technology.”

“This collaboration enabled CIA to take advantage of the technology that Las Vegas uses to identify corrupt card players and apply it to link analysis for terrorists… and to adapt the technology that online booksellers use and convert it to scour millions of pages of documents looking for unexpected results.

in-q-tel  cia venture capital firm google earth keyhole

You’d be surprised at the overlap between espionage and civilian applications when it comes to the tech which firmly has In-Q-Tel’s attention. For instance, in the early 2000s, the CIA’s venture capital arm decided to fund a satellite mapping software operation known as Keyhole, Inc. That same operation would later be acquired by Google and rebranded as Google Earth. On November 15th of 2005, In-Q-Tel sold the 5,636 Google shares it received as part of said acquisition for over $2.2 million.

While it all functions partially in public, the products owned by In-Q-Tel and how they’re used is strictly confidential; though it’s painfully obvious the core focus is data processing, communication, and pretty much anything you could leverage to zero in on a person of interest’s exact location. According to The Washington Post, “virtually any US entrepreneur, inventor, or research scientist working on ways to analyse data has probably received a phone call from In-Q-Tel or at least been Googled by its staff of technology-watchers.”

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“There’s GitLab, the software developer platform looking at a $10 billion IPO later this year,” outlines Kevin T. Dugan of Fortune.

“There’s Peter Thiel’s analytics firm Palantir, cybersecurity giant FireEye, cloud company Cockroach Labs, and Internet of Things company Swam Technologies.”

“The CIA-backed firm doesn’t list all of its investments — Wickr isn’t on the site, for what it’s worth — nor does it say whether it’s still holding any stake, but it’s still a wide list.”

As of late 2020, In-Q-Tel held US$625 million (AU$850.9 million) in assets. Here’s a list breaking down some of In-Q-Tel’s investments below – and you can check out (most of) its current portfolio here.

Software

  • MemSQL – distributed, in-memory, SQL database management system for real-time analytics
  • Keyhole, Inc – geospatial visualisation application (Acquired by Google in 2004 & would go on to become Google Earth in 2005)
  • Boundless Spatial – geospatial software
  • Huddle – cloud-based content collaboration software
  • Oculis Labs – visual cyber security solutions
  • Destineer – games FPS training simulation
  • GeoIQ FortiusOne – visualisation on maps
  • Forterra – virtual worlds for training
  • Quantum4D – visualisation technology
  • Visual Sciences – real-time visual analysis
  • Spotfire – visualisation data analytics
  • Algorithmic — infrastructure for deploying & scaling AI/ML models
  • Palantir Technologies – data integration, search & discovery, knowledge management, & secure collaboration
  • PiXlogic – visual search
  • Agent Logic – event detection & response software – Webspector webpage change software
  • ArcSight – secure software
  • Zaplet – email
  • Authentica – secure messaging & secure document sharing
  • Teradici Corporation – desktop virtualisation
  • Connectify – Wifi & VPN
  • SafeWeb PrivacyMatrix – browsing
  • Visible Technologies – social media monitoring
  • Silver Tail Systems – website fraud prevention
  • InnoCentive – crowdsourcing websites
  • Fetch Technologies -Internet Data Management (bots & RSS)
  • SRA OrionMagic – CMS software
  • Recorded Future – web intelligence & predictive analytics
  • Traction Software – web 2.0
  • Internet Evidence Finder – digital forensic tool
  • Basis Technology – multilingual text analytics & cyber forensics
  • Language Weaver – automatic language translation
  • Lingotek – translation services
  • Cassatt – desktop software
  • Tacit Knowledge Systems – internal software
  • FMS – analysis, visualisation, & knowledgebase to the Federal Intelligence Community
  • Initiate Systems – real-time multiple database software
  • TerraGo – location intelligence applications & software GeoPDF
  • Geosemble – unstructured data analytics & geospatial software
  • NovoDynamics – Arabic character recognition
  • Adapx – Microsoft Office & GIS
  • Digital Reasoning – Synthesys v3.0 – review facts & associations at a glance
  • CallMiner – phone speech analytics software
  • Carnegie Speech – speech recognition
  • AzTE] PRISM – handwriting recognition
  • A4Vision – 3D facial imaging
  • SRD – identity resolution software
  • Inktomi Corp – network infrastructure software
  • Mohomine mohoClassifier – organises mass data
  • Stratify – organises mass data
  • Endeca – search data repositories
  • Inxight – search engine
  • Convera RetrievalWare – search engine
  • MetaCarta – search engine
  • Attensity – search engine
  • Platfora – big data analytics & visualisation
  • Intelliseek – search engine
  • FireEye – malware protection
  • ReversingLabs – malware detection & analysis
  • zSpace (company) – 3D holographic imaging displays
  • Socrata – Open Data Solutions for government innovation
  • Interset – Security Analytics/User Behavior Analytics
  • Nozomi Networks – OT & IoT security & visibility
  • D2iQ (formerly Mesosphere) – Apache Mesos & Kubernetes consulting firm
  • Fuel3D – 3D scanning
  • TRX Systems – 3D mapping

Material science

Biotech

  • Biomatrica – biolab tech anhydrobiosis storage
  • SpectraFluidics – detection of trace airborne chemicals
  • Arcxis Biotechnologies – sample processing & pathogen detection
  • febit group – DNA
  • Boreal Genomics – DNA fingerprints
  • T2 Biosystems – medical diagnostic devices, miniaturised magnetic resonance (MR)
  • OpGen – microbial genome analysis
  • Infobionics – biotech cellular database
  • Microchip Biotechnologies – analysis instrumentation for biodefense
  • Cambrios Technologies – biomaterials for solid-state electronic devices
  • Seahawk Biosystems – diagnosis biosensor products
  • Sionex – chemical & biological sensors
  • Polychromix – material analysis & chemical sensing
  • IatroQuest – detect biological & chemical agents
  • IntegenX – NanoBioProcessor & molecular diagnostics
  • Seventh Sense Biosystems – health monitoring & medical diagnostics
  • Sonitus Medical – transmits sound via the teeth
  • MedShape – orthopedic devices from shape memory materials

Electricity

  • Electro Energy – nickel-metal hydride batteries for satellites & aircraft
  • Qynergy Corporation – long-lived batteries, Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems
  • Infinite Power Solutions – micro-batteries
  • Skybuilt Power – solar, wind, fuel cells, batteries, fossil fuels, telecommunications (Mobile Power Station 3.5 kW to 150 kW)
  • Semprius – solar energy
  • AdaptivEnergy – miniature piezo generators
  • Power Assure – managing power consumption
  • MiserWare – reduces energy

Electronics

Video

Infrastructure

Hardware

  • Xanadu Quantum Technologies – photonic quantum computers
  • Tyfone[22] – digital security for mobility, cloud, & IoT
  • Genia Photonics – fiber-optics products
  • Advanced Photonix, Inc. – fiber optics
  • SitScape – Command & Control room hardware
  • SpotterRF – micro surveillance radar
  • QD Vision – monitors, displays & lighting
  • GATR Technologies – inflatable satellite dishes
  • CoreStreet – door access control systems
  • Redlen Technologies – CZT x-ray & gamma ray detectors
  • Etherstack – radios
  • Paratek microwave – smart scanning antennas
  • D-Wave Systems – quantum computers

Sensor networks

  • ThingMagic – RFID
  • Dust Networks – low-power wireless mesh networking systems
  • Ember Corporation – ZigBee – wireless semiconductor
  • Gainspan – low power WiFi
  • Tendril Networks – software for wireless sensor & control networks
  • TenXsys – telemetry systems for remote monitoring, NASA
  • StreamBase – real-time data in government/military, RFID/sensor networks
  • Thetus – software for remote sensing instruments
  • Soflinx defender – Wireless Sensor Network for fences
  • PlateScan – automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) sensor network

Data centers

  • Bay Microsystems – packet processing & data traffic
  • Cleversafe – data storage clouds & massive digital archives
  • Cloudera – data storage & analysis
  • Asankya – hypermesh data streams
  • CopperEye – data retention
  • Systems Research & Development – real-time data warehousing
  • Network Appliance – Decru (networked data storage)

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