Cisco Continues To Invest Heavily In AI With New Funding For Startup

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Cisco Systems is continuing to bet big on artificial intelligence, saying Monday that it has invested in AI startup, which specializes in what it calls "conversation intelilgence" for sales teams.

"Cisco invests in companies that capture major market transitions," said Rob Salvagno, vice president of corporate development and Cisco Investments, in a statement. "Gong's introduction of contextual and action-driven artificial intelligence specifically tailored for sales conversations represents a major overhaul in the way companies engage with customers, and augments collaboration tools to make them more valuable to businesses."

The San Mateo, Calif.-based AI startup began selling its Conversation Intelligence Platform Software-as-a-Service offering in 2016, aiming to dramatically change the way salespeople conduct calls. Gong's technology automatically records sales calls and videoconferences, transcribes them, and then uses AI and machine learning to analyze hundreds of data parameters within each call. 

Startup raised $20 million in a Series A1 funding round in July with investors including Norwest Venture and Cato Netowrks founder and CEO Shlomo Kramer. Cisco extended that funding round with its undisclosed investment.

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Over the past few years, Cisco has invested heavily in AI and machine-learning capabilities.

In May, it acquired AI startup MindMeld for $125 million in an effort to enhance its flagship unified communications and collaboration product line Cisco Spark. Cisco also acquired machine-learning specialist Perspica in November for an undisclosed amount to boost the capabilities in its AppDynamics platform.

Cisco's push to tuck in intelligence across its large portfolio was front and center in the company's biggest announcement of 2017, the Intuitive Network, while the networking leader has also launched services powered by AI.

"Cisco Investments' involvement will help fuel our continued growth and expedite our penetration into the collaboration and communication markets," said Gong's co-founder and CEO, Amit Bendov, in a statement.

Bendov is a SaaS veteran who previously helmed SaaS provider SiSense before forming in 2015. He has held top software and sales roles over the past three decades at ClickSoftware and Panaya. "We can't wait to utilize immediate opportunities [Cisco's] investment creates and we're confident even more exciting future opportunities lie ahead of us," he said. plans to make its first appearance at a Cisco event in June at the 2018 Cisco Live conference in Orlando, Fla.

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