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Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) marked its two-year anniversary this past August – and what a remarkable couple of years it has been! Here are my few favorite highlights:

  • We have incubated 17 companies to date, and a majority of them continue to develop ground-breaking innovations for Internet of Everything (IoE), Smart Cities, analytics, mobility and security opportunities with Cisco and our customers.
  • From our humble beginning as a small program in Silicon Valley, our geographic footprint has grown significantly. We have launched joint incubation programs with local incubators to support startups in innovation hubs outside Northern California. We now co-incubate with EvoNexus in San Diego, Chicago Innovation Exchange at the University of Chicago and MassChallenge in Boston. We also have a virtual regional program based in Vienna, Austria to support European startups.
  • Our list of program partners and affiliates continues to grow. We now offer the entrepreneurs in our program access to a vast network of early-stage VCs (18 in total and counting) and other startup experts in Silicon Valley.
  • Five more startups are just now kicking off their incubation with Cisco EIR in Europe – and we will be announcing our next US cohort very soon.

We are proud of them all – and we could not be more pleased with the way Cisco EIR has become a catalyst for startup innovation at Cisco.

Where It All Began…

People often ask us about the origins of Cisco EIR. Like many startup ventures here in Silicon Valley, our story started with informal conversations among colleagues here at Cisco – including at least a few after-hours brainstorming sessions and a casual backyard BBQ or two. The initial spark was the realization that Cisco, already an innovative leader, must accelerate our pace of innovation to remain ahead of disruption in our industry – especially as we continue to transform ourselves as a leading software and IT solution provider. Drawing from the best of the startup ecosystem around us in Silicon Valley was imperative to achieving that goal.

Too often, however, we heard it was difficult for startups to make headway with Cisco. We all had come across entrepreneurs with great technologies and ideas who simply could not find the right door to open at Cisco.

From these conversations emerged our own “garage venture” to create an efficient and win-win mechanism for early-stage entrepreneurs to collaborate and build long-term strategic relationships with Cisco – and that project became Cisco EIR. From there, under the senior executive sponsorship of Mala Anand, SVP of Software Platforms Group at Cisco, the program quickly took off. The rest is history.

Our Success Stories

Now two years later, we have a growing list of success stories that prove the value – for Cisco and for our startups – of our incubation approach. Pawaa Software, a Cisco EIR alum from our first cohort in Silicon Valley and a leader in secure, policy-based document sharing, is a perfect example of how a program like Cisco EIR opens new doors for early-stage startups.

I bumped into Pawaa Software’s business development director in the summer of 2013 at the SXSW V2V startup event in Las Vegas. We struck up a conversation after I overheard him describing Pawaa’s elegant solution to secure and track files with sender-controlled access policies. This was not vaporware, either. Pawaa had already signed up a few major customers in India and other emerging markets. RSA had named them one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Companies in the World in 2011.

But Pawaa had a problem: signing up large customers and partners at the next level of scale – especially in the US – was challenging as a small startup.

A few months later in the fall of 2013, I met with Prakash Baskaran, founder and CEO of Pawaa, in the lobby of a hotel in Bangalore. We talked at length about the upcoming Cisco EIR program and how it could give Pawaa unparalleled access to Cisco and its customers and partners. Prakash jumped at the chance to apply for the new program.

Pawaa joined the first Cisco EIR cohort in Silicon Valley in March 2014. From there, Prakash and his team collaborated closely with Cisco business and engineering teams during the six-month EIR program to explore solution integration and joint customer opportunities.

Having recently joined our Cisco family through an acquisition, Pawaa’s innovative software capabilities and top engineering talent will now provide a critical differentiator extending the policy-based data flow capabilities of Cisco’s Service Exchange Platform (SXP) and ServiceGrid offerings. I am delighted to welcome Prakash and his team as colleagues at Cisco.

Several of our other alumni companies are also making great strides. Here are a few more examples:

The list goes on. Our current and alumni startups continue to demonstrate impressive progress collaborating with Cisco and our customers and partners. We will have more news to share in the months ahead.

An Open Door for Startup Innovation at Cisco

We created Cisco EIR to open a new way for Cisco to build win-win relationships with high potential early-stage startups that might not otherwise get on our strategic radar. Our success stories so far demonstrate what is possible by combining the nimble entrepreneurial spirit of the startup ecosystem with Cisco’s resources, engineering expertise and go-to-market reach in a structured program like Cisco EIR.

What are you waiting for? Apply for Cisco EIR to accelerate your startup with Cisco.

About the Author

Tom Yoritaka
Global Managing Director of Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence at Cisco Systems
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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