Disruption at Eye-Level: How Cisco Investments Scouts Disruption in Mobility 

To say that the mobility landscape has changed in recent years is an understatement. And as an investor with Cisco Investments, Matt Carbonara has an enviable perspective – and position – on spotting what’s new and next in the industry and welcoming new mobility-centered startups into the Cisco Investments Portfolio.

Matt and his colleagues are responsible for Cisco’s investments and acquisitions in the mobility market, from the beginning where startups are vetted for their potential to the conclusion of the process where startups gain investment from Cisco and collaborating with Cisco.

“I was an engineer by education, so I have a love of technology and how it affects markets,” said Matt. “In my role, I play at the intersection of finance and technology. When working with our business partners, I’m always thinking about how to transform Cisco business and how technology and market dynamics affect our strategies.”

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Matt shared that his teams spends about half of their time “scouting” companies and meeting innovative entrepreneurs that may be relevant to Cisco’s long-range growth and disruption plans. Companies are traditionally brought to the Cisco Investments team’s attention through multiple sources: their own searches, through business partners or directly from startup leaders themselves who feel their companies could benefit Cisco.

With so many startups eyeing Cisco’s attention, this process can be highly selective.

“I would estimate we end up transacting on just one or two percent of the companies we see,” said Matt. “But, we do a deeper dive on approximately ten percent. We strive to be helpful to all the companies we meet.”

Recent mobility trends Matt has observed are the sheer amount of disruption occurring across enterprise networking and enterprise WiFi. Regarding market potential, Matt and his team have broken mobility down into four segments – location-based, app enablement, loyalty and promotions and mobile payments – noting that for Cisco, one holds a wealth of promise.

“What’s exciting for us is location-based services and how we can use them to create unique and customized experiences for Cisco’s customers,” he said. “The ability to augment the consumer experience in various setting such as retail, healthcare, manufacturing and hospitality is exciting. Consumers’ expectations have been raised; for example, Uber & Lyft have transformed the user experience for on-demand transportation.”

One company that’s strengthening Cisco’s playbook in this area is Phunware. Founded in 2009 and dubbed the “pioneer” of “Multiscreen as a Service™ (MaaS), Phunware’s products act as the software component of Digital Transformation, enabling high-value touchpoints between brands and end users—supported by Cisco infrastructure, hardware and bandwidth.

“Our team identified mobility as a relevant area for Cisco. We broke down that landscape around location-based services and segmented the market. And after meeting Phunware, we decided they were a market leading company and a fit with our areas of interest.”

Through the strategic lens, Phunware interested Matt due to the incremental value they would add to Cisco customers. From an investment perspective, it was their leadership, product, growth rate and customer quality that excited Cisco Investments. And for Phunware, being able to jointly market their value proposition with Cisco, and to be added to the Cisco Price List was a tremendous benefit.

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“The breadth of their offering and being a ‘one-stop-shop’ to engage customers anywhere in the mobile journey is what sets them apart,” he said. “They can intersect customers at any point and they have a broad set of customers to demonstrate that fact.”

The mobility landscape has not just changed in regards to expectations, but like other industry verticals, has also become increasingly competitive. For Matt and his team, leading Cisco’s efforts to invest in companies like Phunware brings insights to Cisco and elevates Phunware’s status in the playing field. For Cisco customers and end users, the investment provides Digital Transformation and a commitment to engaging and contextually relevant mobile experiences.

“Mobile devices are more powerful and users have higher expectations of the computers they now carry in their pockets,” he said. “We’re able to complement and empower Cisco’s strategy because we can see how the ecosystem is evolving and witness technology and market disruptions play out in real-time.”

About Matt Carbonara

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Matt rejoined Cisco in 2016 after several years at Comcast Ventures where he led investments in a number of sectors including data center, cloud, big data, devops, machine learning and AI.  Matt leads investment and acquisition efforts for Cisco’s portfolio surrounding Internet of Things, collaboration, and enterprise networking. In his earlier career in Cisco Corporate Development, Matt was responsible for a number of acquisitions and investments primarily in the data center, storage and virtual infrastructure domains. Examples include Insieme, Virident and Desktone.

Prior to Cisco he was at TeleSoft Partners where he invested in infrastructure companies such as Matrix Semiconductor, Jungo Software and Validity Sensors.  Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, he was at Terayon Communication Systems, where he initially architected and designed ASICs for Terayon’s cable modem systems before moving into product marketing and product management.

Matt received his B.S., Summa Cum Laude, and M.S. in Electrical Engineering from The Ohio State University.

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