Former Cisco Collaboration Head Launches Contact Center Startup Altocloud

Former Cisco executive Barry O'Sullivan said he has found a way to revolutionize the contact center with a software startup called Altocloud.

O'Sullivan, who left Cisco in November after heading up the networking giant's collaboration and unified communications (UC) businesses for more than 10 years, has a new role as CEO of Altocloud, which formally launched Wednesday.

During his time at Cisco, O'Sullivan helped grow the company's collaboration and UC business from $100 million to more than $4 billion.

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"It was a great run, but my last couple of years at Cisco I had been doing corporate business development, which was interesting, but I really want to get back into running a business," O'Sullivan told CRN. "And I also always wanted to do something for myself."

O'Sullivan said the goal of Altocloud is to transform the way businesses interact and engage with customers, and to make the contact center experience less frustrating and disjointed than it often is today.

"I kind of felt that, having worked in the call center technology industry for so long, that I was part of creating that bad experience. Now I want to fix it," he said.

And the way to do that is with Altocloud, a Mountain View, Calif.-based startup developing what it calls a cloud-based contextual communications platform for contact and call centers. The platform works, O'Sullivan said, by leveraging real-time data analytics that track how customers interact with businesses' websites, mobile apps or social media channels. The platform then arms businesses and their contact center agents with that data, enabling them to create a more personalized and effective experience.

"The core of what we do is analytics," he said. "We give businesses software to put into their mobile apps or websites, which allows us to monitor the journey of their customers, and to provide proactive help."

Altocloud's analytics can be used, for example, to create a personalized on-hold experience for customers calling into a service center, based on their previous interactions with a businesses' website or app.

They also can be used for predictive routing, or directing a customer's call to the most appropriate and knowledgeable agent,again based on what that customer was searching for on the web.

In addition, the Altocloud platform offers voice, video and chat communications that businesses can embed directly within their mobile and web applications. O'Sullivan said Altocloud can be integrated with existing marketing automation, CRM and web analytics platforms, and can be used alongside third-party contact center solutions, such as those from Avaya or Cisco.

O'Sullivan said Altocloud plans to sell the platform, slated for private beta testing this month, through the channel.

One of Altocloud's first partners, Denver-based solution provider TouchBase, specializes in UC and contact center technologies. TouchBase CEO Riordan Maynard said Altocloud's powerful analytics engine sets it apart from other contact center vendors.

"Altocloud's ability to provide analytics on the customer's behavior so that [organizations] can make decisions on how to treat them at any point in the engagement cycle is a huge differentiator, especially since they are marrying the analytics from new channels, like social and web with older channels like voice," Maynard said.

Maynard added that TouchBase was attracted to Altocloud because of its cloud-based delivery model and ability to interoperate with other contact center solutions, including those from fellow TouchBase partner Cisco.

"For us, one of the major considerations when we look at new partners is the impact it will have on our existing partners, and where is the crossover," Maynard said. "In my view, and certainly from a Cisco contact center perspective, there is effectively no overlap. [Altocloud] just enhances the solution, and that makes it very compelling."

Also on board at Altocloud is co-founder and CTO Joe Smyth, a former Cisco and Apple executive, and co-founder and vice president of sales Dan Arra, who has founded other tech start-ups, including solution provider BrightstarIT.