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Cisco Establishes $150M Spark Innovation Fund

March 08, 2016

Cisco Systems is working to drive vertical industry adoption of its Spark team collaboration service by establishing the Spark Innovation Fund. The company has set aside $150 million to make direct equity investments in partners and add capabilities and support so third-party providers can more easily deliver solutions that leverage Spark.

While the Spark Innovation Fund will look to provide support for all categories across the board, Jason Goecke said, there’s a drive to bring Spark to verticals like health care and finance by partnering with other companies that serve these spaces. For example, he said, Tagnos – a patient flow and experience company that Cisco is already working with – is the type of organization and capability that it would like to help with the Spark Innovation Fund.

Erecting the Spark Innovation Fund was the next logical step for Spark, said Goecke, general manager of the Tropo business unit at Cisco, who noted that Cisco completed the acquisition of Tropo in May of 2015, the launched an API and program around the product in December. Spark is a team collaboration service that includes calling apps, meeting apps, and messaging apps that space voice, video, and data communications.

Spark is noteworthy in that it’s offered by collaboration leader Cisco, and it’s tightly integrated with the company’s other collaboration products like WebEx. For example, after a WebEx call the system can send participants to a Spark room where they can access related documents.

However, as TMC CEO Rich Tehrani wrote in a Jan. 14 piece, although Spark has a great feature set and is very easy to use on virtually every platform, the challenge for Cisco will be competing with Facebook.

“Facebook is synonymous with bottom up, but Cisco has always implied top down,” Tehrani wrote. “The fight to own collaboration will be won at the consumer level. Cisco is now fighting this battle at the right altitude, but it’s unclear whether the market will respond.” 

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