Cisco will add Voicea’s real-time transcription and AI to fend off challenges by Zoom and other growing competitors
Cisco is buying Voicea, a start-up it backed and nurtured, to expand the capabilities of its Webex online collaboration service with real-time transcription. The deal is about more than just feature expansion; it’s also about reinvigorating the collaboration and videoconferencing platform to fend off growing competitors such as Zoom and BlueJeans.
The Lowdown: Cisco is paying an undisclosed amount for Voicea, a start-up that recently took in $20 million in fresh funding to support its product development and growth. Cisco will add Voicea’s real-time meeting transcription, voice-driven search, and artificial intelligence capabilities to the collaboration platform, which facilitates more than 130 million connections per month. Webex is the market leader, with share of nearly 25%.
The Details: The magic of the Voicea technology is EVA, or Enterprise Voice Assistant, which accepts voice commands to initiate transcription and note-taking. Through EVA, Cisco believes Voicea will make Webex sessions more productive by freeing participants from distracting tasks. In terms of capabilities, Voicea places Webex in a class of its own in a growing and crowded field.
The Impact: While Webex is the market leader in video collaboration services, it’s under a lot of pressure. Upstarts such as Zoom and BlueJeans are distributing Webex and LogMeIn’s GoToMeeting, the second-largest collaboration service, with easy-to-use interfaces and simplified pricing. Additionally, Cisco is experiencing market share erosion due to the influx of collaboration tools with video chat capabilities, such as Slack and Microsoft Teams. Cisco is looking at Voicea as a means of further differentiating its platform in the eyes of partners and customers.
Background: The biggest threat to Cisco’s Webex business is Zoom, a company and product developed by Webex founder Eric Yuan. The motivation to develop Zoom, Yuan has said, was based on his dissatisfaction with what happened to Webex after selling to Cisco. Under Cisco, Webex’s functionality and user experience deteriorated. Zoom, on the other hand, receives praise from users for its simplicity and performance, and that’s driven the company to one of the most successful IPOs this year.
The Buzz: “When you combine these two powerful engines [Voicea and Webex Assistant], you have an intelligent meeting assistant for every one of your meetings,” wrote Sri Srinivasan, head of Cisco’s Team Collaboration Group, in a blog post. “Meeting users can see the live transcription, publish effective meeting summaries and highlights, and also capture and automate action items. Workflows can be pushed automatically through voice commands into systems of record like Salesforce.”
“Voicea’s true market-leading technology will be a game-changer for our Webex customers to experience more productive and actionable meetings,” said Amy Chang, senior vice president and general manager, Cisco Collaboration. “The acquisition of Voicea allows us to leap past basic transcription services and continue delivering on our vision of AI-driven cognitive collaboration across our entire portfolio.”