What Big Tech Has Acquired From In-Q-Tel, The CIA’s VC Arm

The government helped shape the Internet, so it should come as no surprise that it is also game to invest in the companies working to bring it to new heights. In-Q-Tel, the venture arm of the CIA, has invested in 172 known startups (more than 20 of which Crunchbase News has reached out to for comment), according to Crunchbase.

But like with any other VC firm, exits matter. And a handful of In-Q-Tel-backed startups have found themselves in the shopping carts of the most well-known tech companies in the world.


In 2004, Google acquired In-Q-Tel-backed Keyhole for an undisclosed sum. But whatever Google spent on this startup was likely worth it. According to the Crunchbase profile, Keyhole “is a software development company that specializes in geospatial data visualization applications.” In more practical terms, the Keyhole acquisition was the foundation for Google Earth, a popular app that provides detailed satellite imagery of nearly everything on the planet. Keyhole received only $527,500 in venture capital investment and counted Sony Music Entertainment as one of its investors along with In-Q-Tel.

It took Google over a decade to acquire another In-Q-Tel-funded startup. Announced in 2016, Google bought API management platform Apigee for $625 million. At the time, the company was already public and had a market cap of $498.93 million, according to TechCrunch. As for why Google acquired Apigee, Ron Miller of TechCrunch provided the following justification: “What we do know is that by acquiring Apigee, Google gets an established player in the API management space with a strong customer list to help companies going through the difficult process of becoming more digital.” The piece also noted that the deal was a way for Google to take on Amazon’s web services platform, which also finds itself on our list of notable acquirers of In-Q-Tel-backed startups.


Like Google, Amazon has acquired two startups that count In-Q-Tel as an investor.

The first startup to be acquired was Portland, OR-based AppThwack in July 2015. The startup, which attracted $610,000 in seed funding, “automatically tests Android, iOS, and web apps on 100s of real, non-emulated phones and tablets, providing reports in minutes so issues are caught well before deployment to customers,” according to Crunchbase. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The startup shut down upon being acquired and joined Amazon Web Services’ team to launch “AWS Device Farm,” according to VentureBeat coverage of the deal.

A little under two months later, Amazon went on to acquire Elemental Technologies, another Portland-based startup that raised $45.7 million. According to Crunchbase, Amazon paid $500 million for “the leading supplier of software-defined video solutions for multiscreen content delivery.” And, like Amazon’s last In-Q-Tel-backed acquisition, the startup found itself under the veil of Amazon Web Services.

Of course, there are other notable big tech acquirers. For a full list of In-Q-Tel-backed startups that have been acquired, go here. Below, you’ll find a chart of the acquisitions that stood out the most to Crunchbase News:

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