Remember to thank CIA for funding technologies like the multi-touch screen on iPhones and Google Earth:
In-Q-Tel: The CIA's Tax-Funded Player In Silicon Valley
For more than a decade the CIA has run its own venture capital fund called In-Q-Tel. It was founded in the late 1990s when the CIA was drowning in data and didn't have the tools to connect the dots. Today, In-Q-Tel has become one of the most unusual investors in Silicon Valley.
Jeffrey Smith, the former general counsel of the CIA, was one of a small group of intelligence community insiders who helped set up In-Q-Tel more than a decade ago. At the time, the idea of a government-funded venture capital firm was completely new. Even though this company would be part of the intelligence community, Smith and the others knew it would need to attract entrepreneurs' attention, beginning with its name.
"We really needed something that also had appeal to a wider audience and, frankly, had some sex to it," Smith says.
So they named In-Q-Tel after Q, the fictional character who makes gadgets for James Bond.
The Funder Behind The Curtain
Whether you have realized it or not, over the past 13 years In-Q-Tel has changed your life.
"Much of the touch-screen technology used now in iPads and other things came out of various companies that In-Q-Tel identified," Smith says.
In-Q-Tel was also an early investor in a company that stitched together satellite images and maps. That company was later bought up by Google and became Google Earth.
Other data-crunching startups backed by In-Q-Tel have been bought by IBM and Hewlett-Packard. Today, the CIA's venture capital fund has more than $170 million in assets. And up and down Silicon Valley, it's investing millions of taxpayers' dollars in dozens of new startups
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