Cisco’s Investment in Belly - Cisco Investments

By Rakesh Soni, Cisco Manager

The proliferation of mobile devices has empowered the convergence of offline and online experiences – allowing enterprises and services providers to engage with their customer base in ways not possible in the past. The traditional offline & in-person experience when combined with new elements of mobile, social & local, now provide unique and differentiated experiences. Here at Cisco, one way that we are helping drive this phenomenon is through our Connected Mobile Experience initiative or CMX. Cisco CMX personalizes the offline to online journey for consumers using their own mobile devices. Regardless of the type of establishment, whether retail, hospitality, transportation, healthcare, education, or government, visitors in every venue are always on, always connected. CMX lets you tap into this connected lifestyle and provide relevant mobile content while gaining meaningful analytics. For instance, the solution engages consumers with relevant value-added content and offers—and does so in real-time, based on their in-venue location. It captures and analyzes location analytics to give retailers visibility into customer movement and patterns. This solution enables unique customer experiences together with added operational efficiencies; the goal is enhanced customer service and increased revenue.

Let’s take a coffee shop as an example. When I check into a coffee shop through a mobile device, the business owner now has the ability to know my preferences, visits, recognize location proximity and gather immediate feedback that can enable customized rewards that are meaningful both for the business and for me. Mobile devices and applications can and should know what I’ve ordered, my preferences, what I’ve tried and what I could think about trying. The best cafes crave to know their customers & their drinks. Mobile services now democratize this capability for each and every merchant. In my particular case, it is great to get rewarded every time I walk into my local coffee shop and purchase my medium sized latte & whole wheat bagel.

To capture this secular trend, we at Cisco Investments launched the Connected Mobility Investment theme, one of the various themes that we at Cisco are now leading. At its heart, the theme’s charter is to invest in companies that are leading the pervasive shift in mobility in a way that enables the convergence of offline and online to create experiences that are truly unique. The theme looks to focus on areas such as location based mobile products & services, mobile payments & promotions and contextual advertising – all of which empower enterprises and service providers to own the relationship with their customers – rather than giving that away to over the top services. Cisco is one of the leading Wi-Fi vendors in the world. Viewing this phenomenon through such a unique lens creates an opportunity to lead, enable and enhance this pervasive shift.

As we looked for opportunities that align well with our investment thesis, we were introduced to Belly, a Chicago-based mobile rewards company whose mission is to transform the in-venue mobile experience starting with mobile rewards & loyalty. The company appeared to be very unique in a few areas:

– A talented executive team led by Founder & CEO Logan LaHive
– Elegant product that fully utilizes mobile trends:

A consumer facing iPad through which consumers can redeem rewards and merchants can track activity

An elegant and easy to use mobile app for the consumer

– Belly is a standout leader in its market category. They have grown their presence to thousands of merchants and millions of members. 7-Eleven is one its biggest customers and have one of my very favorite reward programs “Name your own Slurpee”!

– The product allows merchant to customize rewards and campaigns for their loyal customers. Customers on the other hand can now use a single mobile app for all the stores in the Belly network. The network effects of a strong merchant and consumer ecosystem lead to strong opportunities beyond loyalty.

I was introduced to Belly through a friend running a mobile startup. Logan and his team learned the ropes of retail technology through their experience at Redbox, the movie rental kiosk familiar to many of us. Logan’s background at Redbox and previously at Pay by Touch, a biometric payments company in retail settings, was ideal for solving the problem that our investment theme is built upon. When I first met Logan, he seemed somewhat skeptical, trying to understand Cisco’s motivation to develop a relationship with a mobile rewards company. After he learned about Cisco’s vision of CMX and our investment theme, he quickly understood the value of a strategic investor like Cisco. As Logan met with some of the executive sponsors of Cisco’s mobile initiative like our VP Corporate Development, SVP Enterprise Networking Group & CTO Enterprise Mobility, he soon realized there was a growing and irrefutable opportunity for Belly to work with Cisco, starting with Cisco’s investment in Belly’s most recent fundraising round. Today, we are honored to have partnered with Belly and look forward to them building a transformational company that can disrupt the in-venue mobile experience.