CIA suffering James Bond envy?|
September 29, 1999, 6:00 p.m. PT
WASHINGTON--The CIA said today that it has set up a company headed by a computer-game whiz to stay on the cutting edge of information technology advances.
The Washington-based venture capital company, called In-Q-It, takes its name from "Q," the Ian Fleming-created master gadgeteer who supplied the fictional James Bond with lethal wizardry. The two other parts of the name stand for Intelligence and Information Technology.
Unlike its Langley, Virginia-based sponsor, In-Q-It will recruit far from bars, back alleys, and exotic bazaars, turning instead to the burgeoning crop of Silicon Valley high-tech start-ups.
The fund was formed to give the CIA a pipeline to the best information-technology talent to solve the most pressing intelligence problems, said William Harlow, the agency's chief spokesman.
CIA director George Tenet said the unprecedented rate of technological change "dictates a change in the way the intelligence community does business."
"In-Q-It answers this challenge by creating an innovative engine for the community to work together with individuals, industry, and academia to explore new and unconventional approaches to common problems," he said in a statement put out by In-Q-It.
In-Q-It will invest in start-ups or partner with others to help solve the spy agency's information-processing needs, said Gilman Louie, the 39-year-old president and chief executive of the new company.
"Our first job is to find out what exists today," he said in a telephone interview. "We're going to create a baseline of today's best technologies."
Louie, former chief creative officer of Hasbro Interactive, said In-Q-It will be structured "in a way that will be familiar to many of the information-technology companies we hope to attract as partners." He said he plans to eventually hire 20 to 30 people.
As in a normal private-sector business model, this will create "spin-off value" for those working with In-Q-It, who can then take products back to market.
The company plans to leverage its investments to help the CIA in four basic areas: integrating Internet technology into work groups; developing information security products; creating tools to help the CIA mine its vast data banks; and modernizing the agency's many computer systems.
The CIA put up $28 million in "seed money" from funds appropriated by Congress last year to finance the creation of In-Q-It, Louie said. He said it was incorporated as a nonprofit under Internal Revenue Service Section 501(C3).
Louie's background is emblematic of Silicon Valley, the fast-paced, entrepreneurial world that the CIA is hoping to tap to keep it more closely tied to the Internet revolution.
He made his name creating video games, including the Falcon air-combat simulator, beloved by computer buffs worldwide.
Louie--who describes himself as a fourth-generation Chinese-American and son of a WWII veteran of the Army Air Corps--started his first company on his mother's dining room table when he was a 22-year-old student at San Francisco State University.
Last year, he sold his computer gaming company, Microprose, to toy giant Hasbro. Harlow said Louie was elected CEO by the board of the new venture, which was incorporated in February.
"He's a great choice," Harlow said. "He brings great technical expertise, start-up experience, and understanding of the Silicon Valley."
Lee Ault, former CEO of Telecredit, is chairman of In-Q-It's board of trustees. Other members include John Seeley Brown, chief scientist, Xerox; Michael Crow, executive vice provost of Columbia University; Stephen Friedman of Marsha & McLennan Capital; Norman Augustine, chairman of Lockheed Martin; and William Perry, former secretary of defense.
Story Copyright 1999 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.