What does an already innovative company like Cisco do more to innovate?  What do we need to do differently to influence or shape the next breakthrough that will fundamentally change our industry and Cisco?  As we embark on a journey to transform Cisco into a #1 IT solution provider, we know we must innovate more and faster – and spot the next industry-shaping change before it catches our industry off-guard.

We believe one of the key strategies for reinventing innovation at Cisco is to embrace openness.  Open innovation is a concept developed and evangelized by leading organizational experts, including Dr. Henry Chesbrough, the Executive Director of the Program in Open Innovation at UC Berkeley.  It focuses on how organizations can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas – and internal and external paths to market1.  Open innovation enables us to stay abreast of and shape the next big change that is going to impact Cisco and our industry.

To bring open innovation into Cisco and make it part of our DNA, we have recently launched a new startup innovation program called Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIR).  Cisco EIR is a program that allows Cisco to directly engage and support early-stage startups working on gaming-changing ideas for the Internet of Things/Everything (IoT/IoE), cloud services, Big Data/analytics and other areas that are strategic to Cisco’s future.  Take the best of what Cisco and our partner eco-system can bring to startups to accelerate their product development and business growth, put that innovative capacity in an environment that embraces strategic freedom – then you have Cisco EIR.  We engage several pre-Series-A startups for six months at a time and give them an opportunity to work closely with Cisco engineering, product and/or go-to-market teams – and co-create deeper synergies on new business models under the expert guidance of some of our best technical and business minds. We also extend funding, co-working space and access to the Silicon Valley startup community to help fuel each startup’s growth trajectory.

We have recently launched our first cohort, which reflects our strategic focus as a company and consists of the following startups:

  • SecureWaters – an IoT/IoE startup focusing on water quality monitoring and management (http://secureaqua.com)
  • Pawaa – a data file security (Data Security as a Service) startup (http://www.pawaa.com)
  • Crowdx – a telco network monitoring and optimization startup leveraging crowdsourced user data (http://www.crowdx.co)
  • DGLogik – an IoT/IoE data visualization and management startup (http://www.dglogik.com)
  • PetaSecure – a security analytics startup taking Security Information and Event Management to the next generation (“SIEM 2.0”) (http://www.petasecure.com)

These five startups are being supported by a team of advisors and mentors who represent a cross section of expertise from Cisco and our partners.

Cisco EIR, in the spirit of openness, leverages partnerships with other like-minded programs outside Cisco to extend our reach into startup hubs outside Silicon Valley and into sectors/communities that are of particular interest to us.  Currently, our list of partners includes: UC Berkeley SkyDeck, Chicago Innovation Exchange, CommNexus/EvoNexus and Kairos Society.

Through our engagement with the startups, we are able to connect the previously unconnected – fresh external ideas connected with Cisco’s (and Cisco partners’) resources and expertise – and see the future direction of our industry as well as opportunities to co-create new business models.

We know we will eventually see many groundbreaking innovations from Cisco EIR and see many of them fundamentally reshape our industry – with Cisco at the heart of that transformation.

We are very excited to bring Cisco closer to startup communities in Silicon Valley and the world over.

1Chesbrough, Henry William (2003).  Open Innovation: The new imperative for creating and profiting from technology.  Boston: Harvard Business School Press.


Mala Anand

No Longer with Cisco