Cisco Pays $125 Million For This Artificial Intelligence Startup

May 11, 2017, 10:14 PM UTC
Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2016
Fortune Brainstorm TECH 2016 WEDNESDAY, JULY 13TH, 2016: ASPEN, CO 9:00 AM A NEW MODEL FOR CONNECTIVITY Chuck Robbins, CEO, Cisco Interviewer: Andrew Nusca, Senior Editor, Fortune PHOTOGRAPH BY STUART ISETT/Fortune Brainstorm TECH
Stuart Isett—Fortune

Cisco’s appetite for startups continues.

The networking technology company said Thursday that it plans to buy MindMeld, a startup specializing in artificial intelligence, for $125 million. The deal is expected to close in early 2017.

MindMeld, founded in 2011, builds software tools for coders to create chat bots that can recognize and respond to human voices. Music-streaming service Spotify, for example, has experimented with MindMeld’s technology for people to search and play songs by talking to their smartphones.

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Considering MindMeld has roughly 20 employees based on the company’s website, it’s likely Cisco is buying the startup for its workers.

Cisco said that the MindMeld staff will report to the company’s collaboration business unit, which sells workplace chat software and other business productivity tools like a 55-inch digital whiteboard for people to conduct meetings with.

Rowan Trollope, a Cisco senior vice president, said in a blog post that MindMeld’s technology and staff would help improve the company’s various chat and related workplace software.

“We realized that to really enable our customers to have more natural, conversational interactions in our enterprise collaboration tools, we’d have to do more for them, and do more of the heavy lifting,” said Trollope.

The popularity of voice-activated digital assistants like Apple’s (AAPL) Siri and Microsoft’s (MSFT) Cortana has led to a lot of hype in companies creating their own voice-powered software. However, Trollope admitted that there are “a tremendous number of bots which are impressively bad at natural language conversation.”

Still, Trollope seems hopeful.

“Bringing the MindMeld team to Cisco is a giant leap forward in helping our customers experience the next generation of interactive, conversational interfaces,” he said.

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Cisco’s latest acquisition follows its $610 million planned acquisition of networking startup Viptela, announced in early May. In January, Cisco said it would buy AppDynamics, a startup that helps companies monitor the performance of their apps, for $3.7 billion.

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