First Round: Spy games

First Round came across this nugget courtesy of an announcement by the US Department of Defense that it had awarded a $5.9 million contract to Signal Innovations Group, which is apparently a subsidiary of CIA-backed In-Q-Tel (presumably other magazine intro sections could have told us about this before, but then they’d have had to kill us).

In case you were wondering, SIG – along with NYSE-listed Science Applications International Corp – have been awarded a total of $16.2 billion of the US taxpayer’s finest bucks to work on the Object Physics for Exploitation and Recognition (OPERA) project. Apparently the plan is to “isolate and model physical mechanisms responsible for exploitation performance earlier in the exploitation development process.” 

First Round doesn’t know about you, but it really hates it when physical mechanisms turn up late, especially if there’s some exploitation to be developed.

Anyway, this little snippet aroused First Round’s Woodward-and-Bernsteinian journalistic instinct, so it promptly logged on to In-Q-Tel’s website, hoping to catch a murky glimpse through the inevitable veil of secrecy.

But lo and behold: In-Q-Tel turns out to have one of the most revealing websites in the whole of private equity! There’s a nice section on its mission and back-story, a complete listing of its entire portfolio (past and present, split by sector), detailed bios of its entire management team, full contact details and even outstanding job vacancies!

All very admirable – though some might argue that as an industry, you know you’re in trouble when the CIA is setting the benchmark for openness and transparency.