A US technology investment company with close ties to the Central Intelligence Agency has set up shop in Australia to scout out local start-ups for tech that could assist US national security.
In-Q-Tel opened an office in Sydney last year. Its website says its mission is to accelerate introduction of cutting-edge technologies that protect and preserve national security.
“Our success is measured by the value our investments deliver to the government’s ability to further national security capabilities,” it says.
That’s not for the exclusive use of the US. It also says it wants to reach start-ups and the venture capital community outside the US and to better contribute to the national security of the US and its allies.
Already it is in advanced negotiations with an unidentified Australian space company, according to Fairfax newspapers, which quoted an industry source who said In-Q-Tel was invited in by the Australian government.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed that was indeed the case.
"Australian agencies work closely with international partners on a range of national security issues, including innovation and technology," the spokesperson said.
"This partnership with In-Q-Tel will help ensure Australian agencies have access to new technologies which can boost our national security capabilities."
The Sydney office is run by former US Marine Mike Ferrari, who wrote on his LinkedIn profile:
“Taking the IQT show on the road to Sydney, Australia to reach start-ups and the venture capital community outside the United States to better contribute to the national security of the US and its allies.
“Innovation knows no boundaries, and a physical presence overseas (incl. London as well) is a continuation of our efforts to obtain a better understanding of technology and market developments outside the United States.”
Fairfax said in recent weeks that Ferrari had been approaching various start-ups with proposals for investment.
In-Q-Tel, formerly called Peleus, was founded in 1999 by former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norm Augustine and video games designer and venture capitalist Gilman Louie, its first CEO.
It was set up as a not-for-profit venture capital firm, based in Arlington, Virginia, also the home of the CIA.
The Q in the names is apparently a direct reference to Q – maker of useful and lethal spy gadgetry – in the James Bond books and movies.
In-Q-Tel’s website lists a very large number of companies with which it has done business.
One of its better known investments was in company Keyhole, subsequently acquired by Google and producer of the ubiquitous Google Earth and related software.
In-Q-Tel has a diverse range of tech interests. Its website cites data analytics, cyber security, artificial intelligence and machine learning, biotechnology, commercial space, communications, and power and energy.
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