Why the CIA would be so interested in these companies, we can only guess. But the agency does invest in lots of enterprise software companies, including the secretive data-mining startup Palantir.
The report also highlights that both Mesosphere and Docker have previously-unmentioned customer deals with government agencies: Mesosphere has a $90,000 deal with the United States Department of the Treasury; Docker has a sole-source deal with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) to provide its technology.
Those deals are publicly viewable, per United States transparency laws, but had gone unnoticed.
Most recently, Mesosphere raised a $73.5 million investment led by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, with Microsoft named as a “significant” participant. Other Mesosphere investors include prominent Silicon Valley venture firms Andreessen Horowitz and Khosla Ventures.
Docker’s latest fundraising was in April 2015, where it raised $95 million, plus another $18 million that November. Docker’s investors include Goldman Sachs and Sequoia Capital.
Mesosphere has risen to prominence on the back of its Data Center Operating System, which makes it easier to run software in the data center and cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. It’s based on Apache Mesos, a technology used by Twitter and Airbnb.
Meanwhile, Docker is at the center of Silicon Valley’s ongoing craze over software containers, which make it easier to build and manage software at large scales and across cloud platforms. That’s the technology Docker will be providing to the CFPB.
What’s interesting is that In-Q-Tel, despite its ties to the secretive world of espionage, apparently has a good sense of what’s ahead of the curve: Docker and Mesosphere alike are still currently considered to be bleeding-edge outside of Silicon Valley, but the CIA clearly sees some potential for their technology.
It’s probably fitting that the “Q” in “In-Q-Tel” refers to the gadget-master of the same name from the James Bond books and movies.
The full report at the Intercept has even more data on In-Q-Tel’s undisclosed investments, including the revelation that several of its portfolio companies are working on mining social media data.
Mesosphere and Docker did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.