What does Cisco offer start-ups?

Promoting growth through co-creation with start-ups and scale-ups

25 European Corporate Startup Stars reveals which large companies are doing the most to support new firms. These case studies highlight some specific examples of active and successful collaboration between corporates and startups.

A good example of…

Effective partnerships

European Headquarters: London, UK

Geographical reach: Western, Central Europe, and Israel (as well as North America)

Sectors of interest: Software technology in the following areas – internet of things (IoT), AI/deep learning/big data, cloud, enterprise mobility, security and industrial blockchain.

Works with start-ups through: A continuum of programmes designed to engage start-ups and scale-ups at all levels. These include:

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Why does Cisco work with start-ups?

Technology provider Cisco engages with start-ups and scale-ups in co-creation and long-term, strategic relationship building because it believes that the start-up ecosystem will bring about tomorrow’s most disruptive technologies and drive new market opportunities.

How does Cisco work with start-ups?

A unique way Cisco engages with start-ups and scale-ups is through its Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) corporate venturing programme.

The Cisco EIR programme is structured to accelerate strategic relationship building between early-stage companies from around the world and Cisco business units (BUs), with each company sponsored by a Cisco BU executive.

As Cisco EIR targets start-ups and scale-ups and co-creates disruptive technologies, the model addresses the fundamentals – the ‘ABC’ – of start-up-corporate partnerships: agility, business model and continuity (see below).

Cisco’s long-term, strategic approach, and its strong collaboration with international partners and customers, has helped create significant value for both Cisco and start-ups taking part in the Cisco EIR programme.

What has Cisco done to facilitate collaboration with start-ups?

Cisco EIR has proved particularly effective in targeting fast-growing start-ups. Its ‘ABC’ model follows the steps below:

  • Agility – close partnerships with business unit executives, as well as structured engagement processes with incentives (such as hands-on project management with financial support), allows Cisco to move as quickly as the start-ups it works with.
  • Business Model – through a collaborative, balanced way of working and a win-win business model, Cisco ensures that start-ups get a fair stake in the relationship
  • Continuity – by setting up relationships between the start-ups and business units (rather than specific individuals who might leave the organisation or change their roles), Cisco ensures continuity in each engagement.

Across Cisco, business unit executives are involved in sponsoring, mentoring and partnering with start-ups and scale-ups, and senior executives take part in all decisions relating to investment and acquisition. This ensures commitment from the wider organisation as well as a strong incentive structure for early-stage companies.

Success story: ParStream

Cisco was looking for an analytics solution that could handle high-volume internet of things (IoT) data, when a business unit engineer expressed an interest in engaging ParStream, a German big data company.

ParStream was brought into Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) and successfully carried out a project for an oil and gas customer, storing and analysing vast amounts of borewell data. ParStream and Cisco have since agreed to fully integrate, and they are now working on delivering the fastest IoT database in the industry.

“Cisco has a real overall strategy to work with start-ups and keep a track record of success stories along the various dimensions”

Bart Clarysse, Corporate Startup Stars judge

What can other corporates learn from Cisco about working with start-ups?

  • Managing a comprehensive range of activities with start-ups works best when it’s underpinned by a clear vision, sense of commitment and strategy.
  • The ‘ABC’ methodology developed by Cisco for working with start-ups has proved successful and may be adopted by other corporates.
  • Making sure the three dimensions of timing align – market timing, the start-up’s timing and the corporate timing (i.e. readiness) – is important. The latter is often particularly difficult, which is why engaging start-ups directly with business units is so useful.

What is Cisco looking for from the start-ups it works with?

Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence (Cisco EIR) is interested in developing disruptive technologies for the internet of things (IoT) market. Companies must have products that have already demonstrated some customer traction and are ready to scale with the help of Cisco.

How can start-ups get involved with Cisco?

  • Start-ups and scale-ups meeting the above criteria can apply for Cisco Entrepreneurs in Residence here.
  • Start-ups, depending on their stage and strategic fit, can consider Cisco Innovation Centres, Cisco Innovation Grand Challenges or Cisco Investments.
  • Start-ups can also attend key Cisco events – such as Cisco Live and The Internet of Things World Forum.

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Image courtesy of SVC2UK CEO Summit 2015.

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 644104.


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