By Janey Hoe, Cisco Director
Less than a year ago, I came back to Cisco Investments after many years in product management. Many people have asked me why. Cisco Investments has many things going for it: a top corporate venture in terms of returns, a constant flow of deal activity in the form of investments and exits, a great team with deep market expertise, demonstrated strategic value, and strong senior executive sponsorship and engagement across Cisco. Recently, it had broadened its investing approach to focus on next horizon topics—or what we call “theme based investing”—beyond those areas that are directly tied to Cisco’s core businesses of today. It was clear to me that Cisco Investments was in a pivoting moment to help Cisco move onto the next phase.
Cisco is one of the first companies to make investing strategic and part of its everyday business, and we have been doing this very effectively. When we thought about what needed to happen next, a lot of it came back to the unique value we could deliver to our portfolio companies to accelerate their success. At the end of the day, we are only as good as our portfolio companies. It became a thinking process about what core capabilities of Cisco could be of benefit to our portfolio companies. While start-ups today have access to no lack of money, go to market and scaling the business are often what is most vital to their success and the most challenging to procure.
Cisco is well known for its leadership across the markets where we play. Cisco IT is an influential IT buying center in and of itself, and we have a well-developed, global go-to-market engine. Lastly, we have great customers and partners. At Cisco Investments, we set out to figure out how to connect our portfolio companies to these capabilities that Cisco is known for, with the goal of creating value for all of the stakeholders involved. It should not be a difficult problem to solve.
In the recent months, we made efforts to connect almost 100 startups directly to our business and technical leaders, including our CEO, Presidents, CIO, CTSO, business unit leaders, and thousands of customers and partners through high impact events and programs, some of which are existing and others of which are brand new. Case in point is Cisco Live on May 18, where we will be hosting 22 of our portfolio companies at the center floor of the largest gathering of Cisco partners and customers. In past years, this event alone has attracted over 20,000 attendees and over 200,000 virtual attendees online. Another example is Cisco Investments Connected, an intimate event we hosted in March where Rebecca Jacoby, Cisco CIO, and her entire staff, which included all key buying decision makers for Cisco IT, dedicated six hours to engage with nine of our portfolio companies.
There is no playbook, and there is no “done” on this topic. You will see us continue to find new ways to deliver value to our portfolio companies.
Cisco has long had a history and culture of lending its capabilities to worthwhile missions that will “change the way we work, live, play, and learn.” You see this in Cisco’s past, developing the Internet movement around the world, and you’ll see it as we move forward toward the Internet of Everything. So, it is a natural step for Cisco to open up access to its resources and capabilities in the name of innovation, in the broadest sense of the word.
It is an exciting time to be part of Cisco Investments.