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Former Cisco CEO Chambers Launches Tech-Focused Venture Firm

The firm already has eight companies in its portfolio, including four – Airware, OpenGov, Pindrop and Sprinklr – on which Chambers serves as a board member.

Former Cisco Systems Chairman and CEO John Chambers, who ended his tenure at the networking giant last month, has emerged as CEO of a namesake venture capital firm.

Chambers took to Twitter this week to announce the launch of JC2 Ventures, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture firm focused on incubating digital-focused startups. The firm already has eight companies in its portfolio, including four – Airware, OpenGov, Pindrop and Sprinklr – on which Chambers serves as a board member.

Chambers is in elite tech investment company on those boards. Powerhouse venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz co-founder Marc Andreessen also has a seat on the OpenGov and Pindrop boards.

[Related: Cisco Investigating Dozens Of Routers, Switches, Servers That May Be Affected By Spectre, Meltdown Exploits]

OpenGov develops cloud-based public sector budgeting and performance software. Its advisers include former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers and former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz.
JC2's other portfolio companies are Aspire Food Group, Dedrone, Privoro and Uniphore.

The firm's leadership team also includes Chambers' son, John J. Chambers, as "head of growth," and Chambers' longtime Cisco executive communications manager, Shannon Pina, as chief of staff.

Gary Berzack, CTO of eTribeca, a New York-based Cisco partner, said Chambers is particularly well-suited to life in venture investing.

"He has the capacity beyond anybody but Steve Jobs to create vision in the industry, and trust." Berzack said. "That combination is powerful.

"This is one person who can attract investment out of many," Berzack said, adding that Chambers' skill and vision are likely to be more powerful than ever without the pressure of having to perform to Wall Street's expectations.

"A CEO of a company like Cisco, or any public company, is embattled by having to perform every quarter like it's a new year," Berzack said. "It's a very naked exposure, and taking long-term views – one year up to five years – has been something he has not been able to take advantage of for over 25 years. This could give him a real opportunity, and that's key. He doesn't have to be coin-operated every quarter."

Chambers joined Cisco in 1991 as head of sales. He was CEO from 1995 to mid-2015, and he's been a member of the company's board of directors since 1993. He now has the honorary title of chairman emeritus.

Under Chambers' leadership, Cisco navigated treacherous waters from the dot-com bubble to the rise of the cloud and software-based markets and sales strategies. Cisco grew from $1.2 billion in revenue to $47 billion while Chambers was CEO.

Chambers stepped down as Cisco chairman during the company's annual shareholders' meeting last month, leaving leadership responsibilities solely with CEO Chuck Robbins, who was elected to the company's board.

"You're the cornerstone in our history," Robbins said to Chambers during the meeting. "No other person is more responsible for Cisco's significant technological and societal contributions, and you'll always be a part of Cisco just as I imagine Cisco will always be a part of you."

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