In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital arm, has apparently made money off its multiple investments in high-tech start-ups since 1999.
“We have net profits but we don’t announce the amounts,” according to an In-Q-Tel spokeswoman, although she was cagey with the details. The reason for our curiosity, of course, is because Mountain View’s Google last week announced it had acquired Keyhole, the online interactive 3D mapping company that functions almost like a flying carpet.
Keyhole, also of Mountain View, is just one of many start-ups the CIA had invested in since it got started in 1999, at the height of the Internet bubble. When the bubble burst, and venture firms started producing negative returns, we asked in 2001: What on earth is the CIA doing in the venture business?
Though we don’t yet know the financial details of the Keyhole deal, In-Q-Tel’s statement about profits is just the latest sign In-Q-Tel is at least holding its own in the investment space. True, In-Q-Tel goal’s aren’t purely financial; they’re largely strategic. Still, Keyhole isn’t the first company In-Q-Tel has managed to sell. In-Q-Tel’s portfolio company, Mohomine, was bought by Kofax, and its Safeweb was bought by Semantic. There have also been some “reverse mergers,” according to the spokeswoman.