From the December 1999 issue of Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurship probably isn't the first thing that comes to mind when you say "CIA." But that's about to change, thanks to a new business initiative launched by the intelligence agency.

In-Q-It Inc. is a private, nonprofit corporation that will work with private-sector companies and individuals to develop technology to solve problems in four areas: Internet security and privacy, generic Internet and intranet security, sophisticated knowledge engines (search engines), and the cataloging of disparate bits of information (such as finger prints, photos and videos) into one system.

"This is a hybrid model: It can act like a virtual incubator or it can act like a venture fund--it can even facilitate strategic alliances and joint ventures. It depends on what the entrepreneur needs," explains Gilman G. Louie, president and CEO of the new company.

The corporation is located in California's Silicon Valley. Interested entrepreneurs can contact Louie at (202) 220-0200.

Spare Some Change?

Congress puts finishing touches on major overhaul of the financial system.

The financial services industry is about to undergo a change that may alter the way you handle your money forever. If passed by Congress, the Financial Services Act of 1999 (H.R. 10 and S.900) will essentially break down the barriers currently existing among banks, insurance companies, brokerage houses, savings and loans, and other financial entities.

According to David Runkel, a spokesman for the House Banking and Financial Services Committee, small-business owners should see an increase in available credit and a reduction in the cost of that credit if the act passes due to the added competition it will facilitate.

"Allowing banks and security and insurance firms to get into one another's business should make more services available," says Runkel, adding that this will be particularly true for those doing business with community banks.

Another provision of the act is expected to give community banks access to more funding. It would allow community financial institutions to take advances from the Federal Home Loan Bank System for small-business, agricultural and rural development, and low-income community development lending.

At press time, the act had attained preliminary approval from the House of Representatives.

Fast Track

Name and age: Seth Goldman, 34

Company name and description: Honest Tea Inc., based in Bethesda, Maryland, is a manufacturer of "less sweet" teas.

Starting point: 1998 with $500,000

1999 sales: $1.6 million

We'll drink to that: In the frenzy of investment in dot.coms and other high-tech Wunderkinds, it's easy to believe there's no interest in decidedly low-tech ventures--especially in industries many see as saturated.

As president and TeaEO of Honest Tea, Seth Goldman knows better. When he followed through on a college case study and created a less sweet tea to fill a niche with no players, the former Yale School of Management student tapped family, friends and a professor (co-founder Barry Nalebuff, 41) for funding. Later, when he sought an additional $1.2 million for expansion, it was customers who opened their wallets. Goldman says at least half his investors said they contacted him because they liked his product.

Flying without a Net: "We're as un-high-tech as you can get," says Goldman of his eight-employee company, which produces seven flavors of tea made from spring water and real tea leaves, at just 20 to 35 calories per bottle. "I think diversification is an appeal. [There may be] some hot air in Internet companies, but our sales are real; we're making a tangible product.

It's in the tea leaves: In addition to his unique concept, Goldman says the potential longevity of his product may also be what's so attractive to investors. "People are familiar with the Snapple story. It was a small company that created a whole category for itself. We've got a niche with the less-sweet beverage line. If we can capitalize on that and command the category by being the first entrant, then I think we'll really dominate."

Contact Sources

Honest Tea Inc., (800) 865-4736, http://www.honesttea.com

House Banking and Financial Services Committee,http://www.house.gov/banking