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Summary:

Cisco said today it was buying a little-known collaboration software company, Versly for an undisclosed amount. Versly makes it easy to collaborate inside Microsoft Office products. This seems like an acq-hire, aka a large company buying small players for their skills.

john_chambers

Cisco Systems announced Monday that it was buying a little-known collaboration software company, Versly, for an undisclosed amount. Versly makes it easy to collaborate inside the Microsoft Office products, though it’s not clear who its customers are. The way I see it, this is more of a talent and knowledge acquisition vs a product/market focused acquisition.

Now, like Cisco, we have long been believers that broadband-based collaboration is a transformational idea for companies and individuals. The San Jose, Calif.-based routing giant made collaboration a big area of focus when it bought WebEx and a slew of other companies. However, its collaboration plans have fallen short of its target.

Many of Cisco’s competitors — for instance, Google and Salesforce — are pretty far along in their efforts, and Cisco needs to catch up. It seems Cisco is looking to jump-start its efforts, and for that, it needs a team with deep understanding of collaboration and software-as-a-service business model.

I would rate this acquisition a “B+” for Cisco. Versly seems to be a good start, thanks to a pretty good group of executives who will soon be joining Cisco. That said, I do think Cisco needs more than just this team.

Versly is roughly two years old and has received funding from the likes of 500 Startups and Accel Partners along with a group of angels.  It was originally called TaskDock. It had been building Atlasssian Confluence add-ons for a while before focusing on this new market.

Have you tried or used Versly? If yes, please share your thoughts with us.

  1. Business Partners Monday, August 29, 2011

    Think it was rather strategic of the team to change the company’s name from TaskDoc to Versly. Definitely sounds more commercial. I’m certain that Cisco will not regret its decision to purchase it.

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    1. I am hearing that they didnt pay much money for it so doesn’t seem as expensive as WebEx. I also hear that they need people to jump start a business that has started to lose it’s way

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  2. That was almost the exact justification given for buying Webex. And yet how many years later and still no connection between the premises based IPT products and the Webex services. If anything this is a clear sign that Cisco considers MSFT as the UC threat.

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    1. Skeptic reaponse Monday, August 29, 2011

      No Connection? Cisco replaced their entire conferencing platform with Webex, with MeetingPlace for on-prem audio (which is tied to IPT). You can also start Webex meetings from IP telephones. Webex Connect, also controls your desktop or soft phone, which is also linked to IPT. Webex is also sold as a bundle with IPT? Maybe you should rethink your statement?

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  3. This will help strengthen Cisco’s Quad initiative, which is Cisco’s enterprise collaboration platform. Quad is Cisco’s response to the likes of Jive and Salesforce’s continued expansion into this space. From what I have heard, Cisco is scared to death that they are losing presence in the enterprise with many businesses pulling out Cisco’s telephonic and video offerings and opting for cheaper VOIP and video offerings. You will see Cisco make a continued push in the collaboration space to increase their relevance, as well as try and maintain (and extend)their existing presence.

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    1. This response feels right. Collaboration is pretty broad and this acquisition seems complementary with a focus on the Office applications. With WebEx having some level of Office application integration (sharing Office native files, Outlook), it might even help on that front. Web can also do the desktop video thing (e.g., looking at each other while discussing the documents) so maybe it’s not too much of a stretch to connect some additional dots.

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    2. I think the Quad is many moons away from having a real impact in the marketplace.

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      1. I have heard the same. Basically, another example of a large player trying to stay relevant in the midst of a rapidly changing landscape of much more nimble competitors.

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  4. I would rate this acquisition as an F. It has nothing to do with Versly. Cisco is barely executing on its core business and adding more layers of complexity will not help. What Cisco needs is to focus, cut the fat (they have become VERY FAT) and out execute. Besides this purchase is not going to give them any advantage – the space is fortified with legacy players.

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  5. Nilofer Merchant Tuesday, August 30, 2011

    I think the key line is the one that says “cisco needs more than this team”. As others have already mentioned, the quad platform is more marketing than reality. A more generalized observation is that to deploy collaborative software would require teams to embody collaboration — that desire to cross silos and work for the win in the marketplace. Companies that market to a vision but culturally lack that embodiment of what they say they care about….ultimately shows up in the product, company, marketplace.

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