UPDATED 13:28 EDT / DECEMBER 07 2020

CLOUD

Cisco to acquire online events startup Slido to enhance Webex

Cisco Systems Inc. today announced plans to acquire Slido s.r.o., a startup that helps companies provide a better experience for audiences attending online events such as virtual conferences and webinars.

Cisco plans to use the startup’s technology to enhance the capabilities of its Webex videoconferencing platform, which competes with Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

Slido provides a cloud service that provides the ability to add interactive elements to online events for the audiences watching them. Hosts can display polls on attendees’ screens to ask their input about the topics currently being discussed by the speakers. Slido also makes it possible to share interactive quizzes related to the theme of an event as a way of increasing user engagement.

For virtual events that use a question-and-answer format, Slido provides a tool that enable hosts to loop viewers into the discussion. Members of the audience can submit questions via the startup’s service and then vote on which questions they believe should be answered by the speakers. The subjects that draw the most interest can then be discussed on the virtual stage. 

Cisco will incorporate Slido’s capabilities into Webex to enhance its audience engagement features, Abhay Kulkarni, the vice president of Cisco’s Webex Meetings unit, wrote in a blog post today. On top of Slido’s attendee-facing features, Cisco is gaining audience analytics capabilities that enable enterprises to measure how well their virtual events are received and identify opportunities to make improvements. Plus, the acquisition buys the networking giant Slido’s sizable installed base of more than 7 million monthly users.

WebEx is playing an increasingly important role in Cisco’s product strategy as it shifts toward a business model centered on subscription-based software and cloud services. Software and services contributed more than 50% of the company’s revenue for the first time in the first half of 2020, with a part of that contribution coming from the Applications business that includes WebEx. Cisco’s cybersecurity business is another important element of its shift to a software-centric model. 

Besides acquisitions such as the Slido deal announced today, Cisco is also enhancing its cloud portfolio through organic development efforts. The company in June introduced a new version of Webex with an enhanced artificial intelligence assistant that can help troubleshoot technical issues and improved connectors for third-party enterprise applications such as Box.

Photo of Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins: Cisco

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