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I’ve been lucky to see and experience a lot of industry “firsts” during my more than two decade career in software. During this time, I’ve witnessed how technology has framed and changed so much of what we’re capable of doing and achieving. But I now find myself more excited than ever about what we can achieve at Cisco, thanks to the time I’ve spent mentoring startups through Cisco’s Entrepreneur’s In Residence (EIR) program.

Cisco EIR is a corporate venturing program designed to build strategic relationships with early-stage startups innovating in areas strategic to Cisco. Over the course of six months, mentors like me collaborate with these startups to co-create solutions in areas like the Internet of Things, Big Data analytics, machine learning and more. The program provides startups access to Cisco executives and business units and other resources to help them accelerate their growth – with the ultimate goal of co-developing joint go-to-market opportunities with Cisco. For startups looking to get traction in the highly competitive enterprise space, this is a game-changing opportunity for them to scale their solution, get market validation and tap into Cisco’s extensive ecosystem of customers and partners. For Cisco, meanwhile, working with the startups enables us to innovate faster.

So how does this work in practice?

One recent EIR company that is doing exciting things with us at Cisco is Zoomdata, a startup transforming Big Data into usable data. Zoomdata’s platform allows even non-data scientist users to see “big” data in ways that are more useful by making it “small” (e.g. digestible) and contextual. This is a revolutionary shift away from yesterday’s analytics and BI tools that were designed for data scientists, requiring complex data mapping and other complicated steps before business users could explore data. Zoomdata is changing the paradigm by enabling users to visually consume data in mere seconds and unlock business-shifting insights.

Zoomdata_Screenshot_Cisco Blog

The above probably sounds familiar since Cisco is also building tools to make business data more useful and relevant for our customers with our own Big Data analytics services and solutions. So when Zoomdata came in through the EIR program, my team and I saw they were really well-aligned with other software in our portfolio and their technology could be an interesting compliment to ours. The question was – how would we collaborate?

And this is where EIR makes such a difference. Through the EIR onboarding process, we had a series of meetings with the Zoomdata management team. We found them to be extremely capable, experienced and like-minded in their view of how the market will evolve in the coming years. Nothing was off-limits in regards to what we discussed, especially when it came to how we should position Zoomdata within Cisco. We mutually realized that we could greatly accelerate the deployment of industry-leading analytics solutions by working together. To date, we’ve teamed with them to build connectivity to some of our data management products – including Cisco DV, Cisco Data Prep, and Cisco ParStream – and the results have been excellent for Cisco, Zoomdata and our customers. Meanwhile, it’s been nothing short of amazing watching Zoomdata earn the accolades it deserves in the market.

Incubator programs are very different from 20 years ago when I first started in tech. The number of startups, venture capitalists and the size of investments – everything was much smaller then. Twenty years ago, more time and money would be needed to accomplish anything. And there were less openness to startups and established companies working together. Today the startup landscape is very different. There are tons of incubators and a widely expanded field of investors. Readily available open source tools and cloud computing platforms have made it easier for startups to scale out solutions. However, startups, especially those working the enterprise space, still face the challenge of getting that initial market validation and traction. Which is why I’m thrilled to be part of a program like Cisco EIR that is creating more opportunities for Cisco to co-innovate with cutting-edge startups like Zoomdata.

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About the Author

Kevin Ott
Kevin is the General Manager of Cisco’s Data Virtualization & Analytics Business Units within the Data & Analytics Business Group
About Cisco EIR
Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence is a 6 month startup incubator focused on growth and distribution in the Cisco ecosystem.
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