Welcome to GISWeekly! Some corrections to last week's story on the EGUG Conference in Albuquerque: the event drew 350 attendees including international, and the Public Service of New Mexico (PNM) was incorrectly listed as Power of New Mexico.
On another note, the ever increasing focus on information sharing between multiple agencies of the U.S. government has spurred the signing of many deals and the subsequent development of many important technologies.
This week TerraGo Technologies, known for its GeoPDF and MAP2PDF products based on Adobe PDF technology, announced that it has entered into a strategic agreement with In-Q-Tel, an independent strategic venture capital fund that focuses on geospatial technologies and identifies innovative technologies to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the larger Intelligence Community (IC). Read about it in this week's Industry News.
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TerraGo Partners with In-Q-Tel
By Susan Smith
This week TerraGo Technologies, known for its GeoPDF and MAP2PDF products based on Adobe PDF technology, announced that it has entered into a strategic agreement with In-Q-Tel, an independent strategic venture capital fund that focuses on geospatial technologies and identifies innovative technologies to support the missions of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the larger Intelligence Community (IC).
In-Q-Tel is a nonprofit organization independent of government that receives government funding to deliver and identify innovative technologies, and focuses on market trends and technology analysis to know what current needs could be met by future capabilities. In-Q-Tel conducts a range of investigations in R&D, universities, start ups, and venture capital. The company creates connections with the vendors and also helps to guide further development in some of the new technologies in the commercial market. Consequently, the flow of private sector capital helps innovators improve their products and develop and further advance their technological capabilities, lower costs, etc.
In the words of James Davis, TerraGo president and CEO, “In-Q-Tel serves as an accelerator for emerging technologies, proving the ability of these tools to positively impact government organizations. In-Q-Tel's support of TerraGo is validation of the increasing importance of using GeoPDF to distribute and collaborate on geospatial data and confirms the advantages of a tool that can be used anywhere, anytime by anyone.”
Davis said that In-Q-Tel has made a number of investments in companies such as Keyhole, which was acquired by Google, and is now known as Google Earth. @Last Software, another Google acquisition, was also a company that In-Q-Tel invested in. “We're excited In-Q-Tel is a partner of ours now,” said Davis.
Recapping In-Q-Tel's history, Donald Tighe, VP of External Affairs for In-Q-Tel, said the company was founded in 1999 by the CIA. The director of the CIA was also the director of Central Intelligence for the nation, and thus that began a process of In-Q-Tel being a resource for helping deliver innovative technologies to the intelligence community, in the form of gap analysis or a technology problem set for intelligence capabilities. “Since 1999, we have continued to expand the number of agencies in the intelligence community that we deal with directly,” said Tighe. “In late '04, with the director of National Intelligence Office being formed, we became a resource for the entire intelligence community, but obviously geospatial capabilities are a very big part of that. We have more in common both with each other and with other organizations (non-intelligence organizations) than regular citizens might imagine.” One example, noted Tighe, is that the information management requirements are similar to that of large Fortune 500 companies, in that you need to be able to analyze and search vast amounts of data, and require application integration.
In-Q-Tel is not part of the intelligence community itself. “Venture capital tends to have an equity component,” explained Tighe. “In our case it's usually a very small component because we're not a merger or acquisition kind of management company at all. We just help connect entrepreneurs and innovators with the problem sets of the intelligence community.”
Many government agencies are already using TerraGo's GeoPDF and other products, so how is this beneficial to them? “There are two primary benefits of In-Q-Tel being in a relationship like this,” said Tighe. “One is, by virtue of the equity component of the deal, it develops a relationship very different than a normal vendor-to-customer relationship where government organizations may be already using this capability. We spend a lot of time with the scientists, engineers and innovators in a given company. This allows us the ability to offer that company guidance and insight into future needs of our government partners. They might love a current capability but also may be able to give us feedback to say it'd be great if we could have more layers, etc. so it tightens that connectivity of us being able to offer insight to a company for future product development.
Secondly, our public profile of working with companies attracts further private capital investment. The greater these companies are doing in the marketplace, the more funding and non-governmental dollars they receive to improve their product, and do advancement in subsequent releases and lower costs, etc. It is a very different kind of relationship that the government benefits from by an In-Q-Tel deal, as opposed to just finding a good product that's on the shelf. That's great in the immediate term, but we work to provide benefits down the road.”
Tighe noted that government comes to In-Q-Tel with problem sets, generally an annual problem set to solve. In-Q-Tel seeks innovation from a range of sources, including the national laboratories, universities and small companies and startups.
“Once we've identified a current or nascent technology capability, we then do due diligence to make sure we're finding best of breed,” Tighe said. Sharing and comparing information for decision making is a big priority for the government, which is looking for solutions to implement as a team, to facilitate multiple organizations working together.
Reflecting back, Tighe said the focus on information sharing among government agencies really harkens back to 1999 when 1) the leadership of the CIA and their brightest science and technology minds realized that not only had the bulk of funding for R&D segued from the private sector as opposed to cold war government driven, but that 2) the information technology explosion bubble burst, with the advent of the internet, information management, and the volume of information exploding. “They realized they couldn't afford to fail to capture the IT innovation that was occurring in the private sector. That is what resulted in the establishment of In-Q-Tel, and then obviously, two years later, with 9/11, the national demand for greater information sharing has allowed us to provide great value to government because we are one of those shared sources,” concluded Tighe. “A source of shared technological capability. I think TerraGo's innovation exactly reflects that goal, so for us it was a real sweet spot.”