At Cisco, innovation lies at the heart of every vertical and domain it forays into. When Cisco announced its LaunchPad Program in 2016, its aim was to create solutions for the next generation of internet users. The programme brings together Cisco technologies, startups, and the partner community to deliver business-relevant, end-to-end tech solutions. For the 41 startups that have graduated from the cohorts over the years, the LaunchPad has created an opportunity to be part of a programme that supports and nurtures co-development, co-creation, new business models and joint go-to market strategies (GTMs).
Prithvi Kini, Head of Operations, at QNu Labs, India’s only Quantum safe-Cryptography company, which was part of the 4th cohort, says, “Being part of the programme gave us an opportunity to take a closer look at our technical use cases where we had to create a product-market fit. Further, we were able to align this with our GTMs. It was an intensive six months of evaluation, mentorship and constant engagement to refine our story, product and create the right focus for our vision as a company.”
She adds that working closely with the core teams, senior management, and the discipline required, pushed them ahead in their journey.
For Ramas Rangaswamy, Director, Cisco, who mentored QNu Labs, it was a great experience to see how startups approached problems, the detail they go into, and learning about their technology.
Speaking about his role as a mentor, he said, “We tried explaining the strategic mistakes they were making. I tried to get them to move from technical problem-solving to business solutions. Some of the main challenges we helped them deal with included scaling, ease of use of the product, and potential deployment with Cisco customers.”
Rangaswamy says that QNu was given the opportunity to interact with Cisco Technology Leaders and Fellows who gave them a critique on their solution and what they should improve. They also worked with the Product Management team to see if they could benefit from a tie-up.
Kini says that this mentorship came at a time when they needed the right hand holding and guidance.
The LaunchPad advantage
Speaking about how Cisco and the Cisco LaunchPad Program were enabling cutting-edge technologies to become mainstream, Jags Raghavan, Mentor and Adviser on the Program, said, “This is a perfect platform for enterprise startups to tap into the expertise and global technology leadership position of Cisco. They get access to technical experts, product specialists or even marketing and sales leaders. The programme also enables them to fine-tune and get their products ready for prime-time consumption.”
He adds that each startup has unique needs and challenges, and Launchpad has been supported by mentors with different backgrounds to work closely with the different startups, so the latter can have clear takeaways at the end of the programme. Jags was previously the Co-founder and COO of a startup called Cmpute.io, which was later acquired by Cisco.
One key area where all the startups received support was with their sales function.
Anand Patil, Director, Systems Engineering at Cisco, who worked as a mentor, said that the mentoring process was a two-way process. “Through the engagement, we were able to learn about the industry and business problems that the startup is trying to address. At the same time, the startup gets exposed to a larger customer base as well as the technology ecosystem that Cisco has access to. Therefore, we look at making the connection between the startup idea and its relevance to a broader customer base – both by leveraging our sales reach, as well as our partner ecosystem, to build relevance across multiple other customers and/or industries,” he said.
He added that in the initial years, startups wanted to be associated with the Cisco brand. “Today, however, the focus is on how they can tap into Cisco’s ecosystem - be it the different groups or the sales organisations, or having interactions with technical experts or funding,” he says.
Scaling to success
Startups that participated in the LaunchPad feel that being part of the programme has also helped them achieve significant market traction.
Shashikant Burnwal, Co-Founder and COO of Trillbit, a Bengaluru-based startup developing proprietary “data over sound” technology, says that the mentors and coaches helped startups refine their pitches, build initial sales strategy and find the right product-market fit.
Part of the 4th Cohort, Burnwal says, “Cisco Launchpad has a pretty good network of investors and has helped startups to raise funds. Cisco itself has its own startup fund and participates in the funding rounds of Series A and beyond if startup solution has good fitment into the Cisco ecosystem.”
Patil says, “Most of the startups in LaunchPad come with brilliant ideas of how to use technology to solve a business problem. We have seen some excellent examples of understanding a specific industry, the issues associated with a certain process, and how to solve them using technology. By the time we start talking to them, they already have a few reference customers and have been fairly successful in implementing their ideas – typically in niche areas”
Summarising how startups benefit from the programme, Karan Capoor, Solutions Architect, says, “Startups in the early stage are very excited about their product and solution because they believe everyone wants it. We help them differentiate between a ‘need’ and a ‘good to have’ from the customer’s perspective. Time is everything for startups, and so we help them channelise their energies and efforts into a fruitful result.”
The startups in every cohort of Cisco LaunchPad have said that it is an enriching and fulfilling experience. After helping several startups scale up in a highly engaging environment over the years, Cisco LaunchPad has selected six startups for the 6th cohort programme. They were selected from a large pool of applicants, who aspired to be a part of the Cisco Launchpad
Ederlabs: Enables enterprises to accelerate their adoption of AI by engaging with multiple vendors without moving the data and providing proof-of-privacy
Probus Smart Things: Ensures reliable and efficient power supply by automating the assets (transformers, meters, cables, etc.) through IoT-based devices
Vernacular.ai: Solves the problem of wait time and bad customer experience in contact centres by deploying voice bots that understand 10 languages and 100 dialects
Cloudneeti: Offers SaaS product that helps customers achieve security and compliance in the public cloud, thereby easing their digital transformation
Satsure: Leverages advances in satellite remote sensing, Machine Learning and Big Data analytics to provide answers to large area questions across multiple domains
Clean Slate Technologies: CHelps organisations track and monitor live location of assets, fleet, inventory and people with up-to 30 cm accuracy in factories, warehouses, stores and building campuses
By onboarding these select startups to its 6th cohort, Cisco LaunchPad is geared up to take co-creation and collaboration to a whole new level. Cisco is committed to helping these startups add more milestones to their journey while building on their own commitment to always promoting innovation.
Visit them at Cs.co/CiscoLaunchPad for more information.
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