In-Q-Tel (IQT), formerly Peleus and known as In-Q-It, is an American not-for-profit venture capital firm based in Arlington, Virginia. It invests in high-tech companies for the sole purpose of keeping the Central Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies, equipped with the latest in information technology in support of United States intelligence capability. The name, “In-Q-Tel” is an intentional reference to Q, the fictional inventor who supplies technology to James Bond.
The firm is seen as a trend-setter in the information technology industry, with the average dollar invested by In-Q-Tel in 2012 attracting nine dollars of investment from other companies.
Originally named Peleus and known as In-Q-It, In-Q-Tel was founded by Norm Augustine, a former CEO of Lockheed Martin and by Gilman Louie, who was In-Q-Tel’s first CEO. In-Q-Tel’s mission is to identify and invest in companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve United States national security interests. Origins of the corporation can be traced to Dr. Ruth A. David, who headed the Central Intelligence Agency Directorate of Science & Technology in the 1990s and promoted the importance of rapidly advancing information technology for the CIA. In-Q-Tel now engages with entrepreneurs, growth companies, researchers, and venture capitalists to deliver technologies that provide superior capabilities for the CIA, DIA, NGA, and the wider intelligence community. In-Q-Tel concentrates on three broad commercial technology areas: software, infrastructure and materials sciences.
Former CIA director George Tenet says,
We [the CIA] decided to use our limited dollars to leverage technology developed elsewhere. In 1999 we chartered … In-Q-Tel. … While we pay the bills, In-Q-Tel is independent of CIA. 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 [cf. the parallel data-mining effort by the SOCOM-DIA operation Able Danger ], 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 sold 5,636 shares of Google, worth over $2.2 million, on November 15, 2005. The stocks were a result of Google’s acquisition of Keyhole, the CIA funded satellite mapping software now known as Google Earth.
As of August 2006, In-Q-Tel had reviewed more than 5,800 business plans, invested some $150 million in more than 90 companies, and delivered more than 130 technology solutions to the intelligence community. In 2005 it was said to be funded with about $37 million a year from the CIA.
In-Q-Tel is a Virginia-registered corporation, legally independent of the CIA or any other government agency. The corporation is bound by its Charter agreement and annual contract with the CIA, which set out the relationship between the two organizations. In-Q-Tel’s mission to support the Intelligence Community’s technical needs is promoted by the In-Q-Tel Interface Center (QIC), an office within the CIA that facilitates communication and relationships between In-Q-Tel and government intelligence organizations. While In-Q-Tel is a nonprofit corporation, it differs from IARPA (Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity) and other models in that its employees can profit from its investments.
Many companies listed on In-Q-Tel’s investment website page are secret. In-Q-Tel functions partially in public; however, what products it has and how they are used is strictly secret. According to the Washington Post, “virtually any U.S. entrepreneur, inventor or research scientist working on ways to analyze data has probably received a phone call from In-Q-Tel or at least been Googled by its staff of technology-watchers.”