By Hilton Romanski, Cisco Senior Vice President
There is no limit to innovation. Cisco has embraced that idea for more than three decades with our build, buy, partner and integrate growth strategy. Part of that strategy is investing in order to gain insights and drive new innovation. True to that spirit, we have just announced the next evolution of the Cisco Investments platform and a set of investments in support of an exciting new investment theme. These announcements build upon the foundation of our current $2 billion investment portfolio, which fuels innovations across many domains and geographies.
In addition to our primary strategic investment activity, we are also allocating $150 million in theme-based investments over the next three years to explore new, disruptive markets, including: big data/analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), connected mobility, advanced storage, silicon, content technology ecosystem, and India innovation. The $150 million in funding builds on our previously announced $100 million plan to invest in IoE-focused starts ups and funds.
These seven themes provide a unique lens into where markets are headed, how customers and the ecosystem are reacting to new innovation, and clues on how Cisco, our customers and our partners can best participate in exciting new trends.
Evolution of Cisco Investments
Cisco Investments has traditionally focused on supporting disruptive ideas that align with Cisco’s current business, including data center/cloud, mobility, security, routing and switching. Our more recent commitment to theme-based investing extends our investment activity to support companies that have ideas that will help shape the overall technology landscape across many domains, some of which may be quite new for Cisco.
As an example, our newly announced investments in IoT startups, Ayla Networks and EVRYTHNG, along with a new IoT-focused commitment to Alchemist Accelerator, perfectly represent the way in which Cisco Investments is looking to tap into dynamic and interesting markets.
What Do We Bring to the Table?
If you are a startup with a great idea, you’re probably looking for capital and you’re looking for help. And as a practical matter, if you really believe in the value of your idea, you want to get both of those things from your investors, not just one or the other. We completely understand these goals and our approach reflects a focus on adding (and gaining) strategic and business value.
We combine the benefits of a strategic investor with those of a traditional venture investor and use a wide range of investment vehicles to nurture innovation in the startup community. Investment types range from small grants to seed-stage companies and winners of business plan competitions, to larger equity investments in later stage and even pre-IPO companies.
Cisco Investments has always sought to bring Cisco business leaders to the table to collaborate with our portfolio companies. Now more than ever, we are driving new programs focused on adding value to our portfolio. These programs are designed to accelerate the development of the portfolio companies by connecting them to expertise and resources such as Cisco IT (as a potential direct customer), Cisco’s business leaders (for guidance on commercial and business matters), as well as our network of partners and customers (for further business opportunities) through our major industry events such as Cisco Live!, Global Customer Advisory Board and Partner Summit.
Why Investing is Important for Cisco (and What We Gain in Return)
Our passion is to see and understand cool stuff before the broader market does, whether through internal development or working with other companies. Our comprehensive investment approach is an important part of this process. It helps us share ideas and work together with portfolio companies, other investors, our internal teams and our customers to drive benefits all around. At the end of the day, we recognize that innovation is happening every day, all over the place and the unique tool of partnering through investment gives us an extraordinary way to engage the disruptions that are affecting us and our customers—and we get to help young companies that are out to change the world.
These are remarkable times. The opportunity to write the future is in front of those who can connect ideas with the ecosystem that can turn those ideas into something important and valuable—maybe even something really big. We’re very excited to be in a position to help accelerate those ideas and are looking forward to continuing to embrace and help nurture innovation, wherever it is.