Investment newspaperSerial entrepreneurs turned angel investors and well-regarded venture capitalists have credited nearly everything under the sun for their ability to identify investment winners from prior operational experience in start-ups to their gut (instincts). Regardless of how they describe their sources for success, a high degree of foresight is quintessential in order to traverse and ultimately thrive in the investment landscape.

In the past decade, many retail investors have pondered how they did not foreshadow Apple’s meteoric rise. Even in the past few weeks or so, I’m sure there are a handful of us scratching our heads in bewilderment over how WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion, earning one of their Series A venture capitalists a handsome return that was roughly 184x their initial investment. I would venture so far as to say that some of us have even wondered how we could get a piece of the investment winnings or the proverbial “pie” moving forward.

At this point, I think a disclaimer is in order as the immense skill and capabilities of these accomplished investors cannot and should not be downplayed in any way whatsoever, let alone their seemingly endless stockpiles of capital to invest. Nevertheless, what if there’s a way to catch a glimpse at the next set of disruptive technologies without spending countless hours conducting interviews with key management of hundreds of start-ups or completing your own financial and legal due diligence. With a few clicks of the mouse, it may be possible to peak into where billions of dollars are invested today to uncover the next set of market making technologies of tomorrow, but first let us conduct a simple thought experiment.

What do the Internet, GPS, touch screen displays, and voice recognition software, all critical components that countless start-ups have so skillfully utilized to their advantage, have in common? If you follow the historical trail of each of these groundbreaking technologies to their infancy or even to their inception as Mariana Mazzucato so insightfully pointed out in her best-selling piece The Entrepreneurial State: Debunking Private vs. Public Sector Myths,” the government has played an integral and in some instances an indispensable role in providing the initial capital necessary to bring these inventions to fruition. Just to name a few, government agencies such as DARPA, the National Nanotech Initiative, and the Advanced Research Project Agency all wield budgets north of 6 to 7 figures dedicated to R&D that often times uncovers the basis of the thousands of patents that make-up coveted products such as the iPhone.

The US federal government to some degree is the biggest risk taker of them all in the investment ecosystem by allocating vast amounts of capital into unproven research opportunities that are often dubbed too risky at the time of initial investment by private actors. As an illustration, some projects that are currently in the pipeline in some of the above mentioned government agencies include thought controlled prosthetic limbs and software that mimics cognitive learning and organization. The countless scientific and technological findings embedded in projects such as these have in the past been the launching point for the next set of investment winners. Having an indication of what the seemingly “outlandish” technologies of today are and which private players are expanding on government findings can be the nugget of foresight needed to get the inside track on the Facebook’s or Apple’s of tomorrow.

So a seemingly logical follow-up question may be: so how can I convert this insight into a profitable investment? Great question. Now this is where you earn the 184x return on your capital…

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