Insider Report August 2021
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from August 2021
General | Meetings | Engagement | Unified Communications | Financial | Acquisitions | Goodreads
The pandemic is back: OK, it never left. But I stopped opening the Insider Reports with pandemic news, and I wasn’t alone in thinking the worst was behind us. Events were getting scheduled, companies planned re-openings, and tremendous (pent-up) demand was showing up at airports.
That optimism was fueled by vaccinations. Then came the double-punch of reality. Fewer people than expected got the vaccines, and then the virus mutated. COVID-19 cases are way up, especially in the US. It’s so bad that the EU is set to reimpose travel restrictions on US visitors. Several states are seeing all-time highs on hospitalizations, and they are reporting a concerning number of young patients.
For enterprise comms providers, they will benefit from ongoing demand for cloud-delivered services such as UCaaS and CCaaS. That demand will likely undo the post-COVID-19 dips that hit some stocks prematurely.
The uncertainty remains high about work from home, economic outlook, and those dreaded chip shortages. Apple warned that shortages will impact its iPad and Mac businesses. Microsoft blamed supply chain constraints for its 3% drop in OEM revenue. Even chip maker Samsung reported a decline in mobile phone sales. Closer to home, both Poly and Logi last May reported strong demand but offered tepid guidance due to supply constraints. Of course, with shortages comes price hikes: TSMC has announced plans to raise prices.
There is no indication this virus is going away. This is the new normal: living with a debilitating and lethal virus. Offices will reopen, but it’s not because the threat has abated. I wrote more about this on No Jitter: The New Normal Has Arrived.
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General Industry News
Screaming for Streaming: With Slack now acquired, what’s the next comms shoe to drop at Salesforce? Streaming! It’s a logical move in what has become a whatever-you-are-doing-is-likely-being-done-remotely world. The brilliantly stupid new name of this streaming service is Salesforce+ (every product named with a plus sign is doomed to fail or rebrand). It’s just in time as it “will bring the magic of Dreamforce to viewers across the globe.”
For those not paying close attention, Salesforce has moved into team collaboration and broadcast video. This could be a concern for, say, Zoom, which has complemented Salesforce and Slack for some time. These complementary partners offer competing solutions for chat and events. I suspect both Salesforce and Zoom are happy with their complementary relationships, so what’s Salesforce up to? Possibly aiming to better compete with Facebook.
As we have seen with conferencing, users will click any link to meet. Will they click any link to consume other video content? Let’s speculate a bit and pretend that Nike buys “Ted Lasso” and streams it on Salesforce+. Nike can now control the show, including product placement, and generate leads from the show, all from a single, integrated platform. This is a bigger, badder version of what HubSpot did with its podcast network. I got to try out Salesforce+ with its first Slack/Salesforce event — and it didn’t work well. I even got an apology (but they deleted it). Related: LinkedIn Tells advertisers it is shutting down Stories videos.
Forbes Cloud 100: Forbes published its sixth annual list of the 100 most valuable private cloud providers. The most important takeaway from this list is that the combined valuation of these 100 companies has nearly doubled in the past year. That smells like trouble. The market value of the 2021 Forbes 100 is $514B. Here are the included companies that often appear on the pages of TalkingPointz Insider Reports: Talkdesk, 17; Hopin, 21; Gong, 28; Calendly, 33; MessageBird, 35; and Miro, 36.
FTCBook: The FTC refiled its antitrust complaint against Facebook. The initial December suit was thrown out because it “failed to plead enough facts to plausibly establish” FB as a social network monopoly. In other words, prove first, trial second.
In the new filing, the FTC makes the forceful argument that “no other personal social networking provider in the US remotely approaches Facebook’s scale.” Also, Facebook and Instagram MAUs are “tens of millions” higher than those of Snapchat.
Still weak arguments, IMO; this month’s goodread does it better: There’s no escape from Facebook, even if you don’t use it. “Among the 100 most popular smartphone apps, you can find Facebook software in 61 of them …. Facebook also has trackers in about 25 percent of websites.”
Facebook is likely the world’s first global monopoly. I doubt the US government could contain FB if it tried. Obviously, the FTC is trying, but let’s acknowledge we live in times of monopolies, duopolies, and oligopolies. They dominate every industry: retail, commercial property leasing, banking, shipping and freight, oil, professional sports (and professional wrestling), media, and don’t get me going on tech.
GCal: Yet another enhancement to Google Calendar (I am looking at you, Outlook). Google is rolling out a Time Insights panel that analyzes calendar data. Demo shots show a pie chart that reveals, among other things, how much of the workday is spent in meetings. There’s also a snapshot of week-to-week data showing total time spent in meetings.
The WFH Imperative: The climate is changing. It’s an uncomfortable topic, like face masks and the color of Santa’s skin. As business professionals, we tend to avoid uncomfortable topics. But climate change is persistent. Devastation is in our face, and it’s heading for our roofs and plates.
The problem and cause are known, but the solution is complex. Reducing the release of carbon and methane threatens our way of life faster (but less vigorously) than climate change does. The good news is that as enterprise comms professionals, we get to be part of the solution.
We know that 1) working from home dramatically reduces carbon; 2) WFH works thanks largely to VoIP, online meetings, and workstream collaboration; and 3) Employees want to work from home. The kicker is that WFH happens to be on our truck, ready to sell. More on this in my No Jitter post.
Leadership changes: Sydney Carey was named as the first CFO at Talkdesk. Carey joins Talkdesk from Sumo Logic, where she successfully led the organization through an IPO. Mitel named several new executives: Carlton Geckler SVP, Global Cloud Operations, Marina de la Torre as VP Customer Success, and Mohammed Kasmi as VP R&D Service Delivery. Todd Zerbe, previously of Blackboard and ININ/Genesys, takes on the role of SVP of Engineering at Avaya. He is expected to replace Anthony Bartolo as Avaya’s Chief Product Officer. 8x8 named Alison Gleeson, former SVP of Cisco Americas, to its BoD. Dialpad named Lisa Banks, an SVP of Finance at ServiceNow, to its BoD.
Lots of channel changes this month. John DeLozier was named President of Intelisys. Bobby Hall was promoted to VP of Channel Sales at 8x8. Mitel named Daren Finney, previously COO at Citrix, as SVP of Global Channel Sales. Lumen appointed Dave Young as SVP of Strategic Services, which includes Channel now that Garrett Gee has departed.
Meetings and Messaging
Slack and Salesforce are One: Salesforce announced initial integrations with its newest acquisition, Slack, and they are really leveraging Slack Connect. This allows Slack users to collaborate across organizational boundaries. For example, the new Deal Rooms allow appropriate experts (people and departments) to come together. This can include customers, channels, and whomever else may be necessary to close the deal. Slack Connect is a logical feature for Slack to emphasize as inter-org collaboration is more complex in Microsoft Teams. The Deal Room equivalent for post-sale service teams is called a swarm (swarms? cross-team swarming?). Other updates include intelligent insights from Datorama (acquired in 2018) and even more intelligent insights from Tableau (acquired 2019).
What they really announced is a blueprint for how organizations can model sales, service, and marketing workflows with collaboration. Salesforces promises there’s more to come, so stay Bat-tuned and Slack-Connected.
Zoom Security Settlement: Zoom agreed to pay up to $85M in a ridiculous lawsuit. This goes back to when COVID-19 closures were starting in the US, and Zoom was accused of enabling Zoombombing, misrepresenting E2EE, and inappropriately sharing user information with other providers. Let’s review.
Zoombombing was problematic on every platform. The pandemic created an environment where this unknown vulnerability became known. Every meeting provider changed its default settings and improved its moderator controls. Simultaneously, users became more cautious about posting meeting details. Zoombombing is a negative term that somehow managed to benefit Zoom.
I don’t recall if/how Zoom misrepresented E2EE. If they did, then an FTC fine is appropriate. But let’s be honest — the vast majority of enterprise solutions do not have E2EE, and most employers and employees don’t care. The sharing of details with the likes of Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn was IMO the most serious of these accusations. Zoom was indeed sharing information without user consent or knowledge and has since stopped.
Despite the legitimacy of these claims, the lawsuit/settlement wasn’t about them. The lawsuit was about lawyers going for Zoom’s fattening wallet. The $85M penalty will pay some users a maximum of $25 in damages. The class-action lawyers will collect fees up to $21.25M plus $200K in expenses. This is what happens when your stock goes up (or down) quickly.
Google Meet Moderation: Google announced new meeting moderation controls in Meet. Users can now assign up to 25 co-hosts (that’s a lot of co-hosts), limit features per user (screen sharing, chat, mute), and more. Curiously, these features were already available to Education customers.
Webex Updates: Cisco announced several updates across meetings, events, hybrid work, and the Webex ecosystem. Webex Events were upgraded to support 10k bidirectional attendees and now offer more customization and monitoring capabilities. Slido is now integrated into Webex, providing in-app polls, quizzes, and Q&A.
Regarding Webex meetings, Webex Assistant is now included in all paid subscriptions. Previously, it was an add-on. The change makes captioning and transcription standard. There are now administrative options to limit chat and questions in meetings. Cisco improved in-call handover (between Wi-Fis and between Wi-Fi and cellular data). Cisco also enabled more EHR healthcare integrations.
The most intriguing update from Cisco is a new service called Vidcast. It’s an asynchronous video service (voicemail with a camera and screen recorder). The concept isn’t new (Loon), but it’s a natural extension for Cisco and appropriate for asynchronous collaboration. After creating a video, users can share a unique URL via any collaborative tool. It’s the first product from Cisco’s new accelerator called Webex Leap.
Hangout No More: Google was going to kill Hangouts back in 2019 but delayed it until now. IMO they still rushed it. The feedback on Google Chat includes a lot of mostly deserved one-star ratings. Hangouts did chat and meetings in one, while its successors Meet and Chat are separate apps. That’s part of the frustration.
Chat is getting criticized for its clunky UI. Even worse, Google violated the Upgrade Creed to add, not remove, features. Photo sharing is clumsy and slow. The Chat to Meet transition involves too many steps instead of a call button. No bubbles in Chat make it hard to tell who said what. There’s no location sharing and no link previews either. And where is Google Voice? It’s not integrated into Chat.
Microsoft Teams Updates: Mostly incremental updates from Microsoft this month. More video layouts, more languages for captions and transcripts, and a new auto-record option. Android-based Teams rooms got an update that fixes some gaps. For example, 1080p is now supported. Teams Panels can now be better customized, and developers can create Microsoft’s Together Mode (shared) backgrounds.
Zoom Rooms for Home: Zoom announced support for Amazon Fire TV Cube, DTEN GO with DTEN Mate, and Portal TV from Facebook. I’m not a big fan of consumer devices in general, but they might make sense for home offices. My main issue is that these devices are spies. When I tried a Portal, it required I first log in with Facebook credentials. I was told that was going to change, but I didn’t try again.
Those DTEN devices are also new this month. The DTEN GO is the compute device that attaches to the BYO display. The DTEN Mate is the touch-tablet controller that wirelessly pairs with the GO. Who’s going to tell DTEN that Mate and GO are not the best names for devices meant to be paired?
Zoom Updates: Zoom released several updates this month. Focus Mode helps participants focus on the presenter by eliminating all those other distracting participants. In Focus mode, one can see the host, co-hosts, presented content, and their self-view. The hosts and co-hosts can see all participants (they don’t need to focus). Also, Zoom administrators can limit screen sharing when external participants are present, and the chat sidebar now clearly identifies external participants. The Zoom app got an upgraded Search capability, too.
WFM: Forget WFH, consider work-from-(Facebook’s)-metaverse. It’s what all the cool geeks will be doing. Facebook rolled out Horizon Workrooms as part of its “metaverse” future. It provides a simulated, 3D conference room, complete with cartoon colleagues. The Horizon Workroom is best experienced with Facebook Oculus 2 VR headsets.
I do expect AR/VR meetings to be real someday, but this isn’t interesting, innovative, or logical. Interesting? Horizon offers a low-res conference room with legless avatars. Innovative? Zuck stole this idea from (at least two) startups Roomkey and Spatial. Logical? Will enterprises trust Facebook with meetings after so many privacy failures?
In its defense, though, this was more show-and-tell than a product launch. That’s why they invited popular media to their event instead of anyone who knows enterprise meetings. There is potential here — we have already seen some clever and imaginative uses of shared backgrounds. Make no mistake, VR meetings are coming, be it a holodeck or other technology.
RingCentral Updates: RingCentral announced several updates across its portfolio this month. Probably the most significant is a new dynamic E2EE capability within RCV. RingCentral joins a handful of other providers, including 8x8 and Zoom, that have recently enabled E2EE in meetings; Cisco has had it for some time. However, RingCentral’s offer is notable in that E2EE can be activated during a meeting. Other video improvements include the ability to present content as a background, a touch-up-appearance feature (soft focus), and autoframing. Breakout rooms are coming to RCV in September. Lastly, a new huddle capability makes it easier to create ad-hoc meetings from team channels.
Perhaps the most significant news from RingCentral is the ability to combine paid and free users on a single implementation. RingCentral has always been very restrictive about mixing any type of users, so adding free users is inspired. Not many UCaaS companies offer any type of free user (though I still contend the “pro” in RingCentral Video Pro does not sound free to me). Adding free users and mixing users provides a path to reach deskless or firstline workers with enterprise-wide messaging, video, and limited calling.
Workplace Live: Workplace from Facebook announced a pricing change. The Advanced plan ($4/user/mo) is now the Core Package, which also replaces the Enterprise plan. The new Core plan includes Workplace Groups, Live Video, app integrations, and Knowledge Library. The price remains $4/user/mo, but the Core plan has optional add-ons: Enhanced Admin and Enterprise Live. Both add-ons are $2/user/mo, and both are intended to be enterprise-wide.
The Enhanced Admin brings several advanced features, including SSO and 24/7 support. The Enterprise Live add-on upgrades the quality and speed of Workplace’s live streaming capabilities. Essentially, Workplace is now assessing a token charge for enterprise-wide, peer-to-peer video broadcast. It’s an interesting, cost-effective alternative to using a separate events platform, but it’s only suitable for an internal audience.
Chime SDK: Amazon upgraded its Chime SDK to now support subtitles, transcripts, and real-time content analysis. The SDK includes a service-side integration to Amazon Transcribe so that developers can access multiple languages and custom vocabularies.
Zoom Apps Update: Zoom provided an update on its Zoom Apps [venture] Fund. Zoom announced the $100M fund in April 2021 and launched it four months ago with the intent of spurring innovation in its App Marketplace. It completed its first wave of investments into 12 apps. In a word: ecosystem.
Audiocodes RXVCam: A new Microsoft Teams certified personal USB webcam from Audiocodes. It offers 1080p with a 2-megapixel CMOS sensor with an adjustable FOV and 3x digital magnification function.
CCaaS 2021: This month, there were four influential analyst reports on CCaaS. Gartner produced three of them: The CCaaS MQ, CCaaS Critical Capabilities, and Hype Cycle for CX. TalkingPointz published a full TalkingPointz CCaaS 2021 report (available to all premium subscribers) that studied those Gartner reports and other sources to assess the current state of the market.
The idea of using other analyst resorts as an input is controversial, to say the least, but why? Gartner has extensive access to both the vendors and their customers. Their processes are designed to review a considerable amount of data to produce a highly condensed report. The MQ, for example, is extraordinarily brief. What they don’t write can fill volumes, so I took a crack.
Yes, there are points where I disagree, but that’s not the point. I use the TalkingPointz report to interpret and extrapolate on what might have caused certain conclusions. Here are a few of my takeaways:
The UCaaS/CCaaS combo is very important, but primarily in the SMB space. This is going to put a lot of pressure on the pure-plays. Regarding large and very large contact centers, I don’t think the combination is nearly as important. It’s nice when it works out, but not a deciding factor. Although I only touched on it in the report, I am changing my mind about very large contact centers eventually migrating to CCaaS — I don’t think they will. More to come on that.
Another big takeaway is how the vendor landscape is going to change over the next few years. Specifically, the size and valuation of the companies coming into CCaaS will be a lot bigger. Just in the past few months, we have seen Zoom declare its intent to enter CCaaS, and now Talkdesk just pulled a $10B valuation rabbit out of its hat. There are going to be more GiantCos coming. Probably Microsoft, Salesforce, and Twilio, to name three. Amazon is already there, and Cisco likely just missed the MQ cutoff in 2021.
Segment Kit: Twilio Segment, the division created after it acquired a customer data platform (CDP) last November, launched an SDK. CDPs are the latest build vs. buy debate for enterprises that seek to make sense of all of their customer interactions. The toolkit leverages Twilio’s Destination Actions, Functions, and Analytics.js 2.0 support and offers Multi-Instance Destinations.
Avazure: Microsoft’s Azure Communications Services (ACS) are too limited to be taken seriously as a CPaaS. That gets fixed as part of a new alliance between Microsoft and Avaya. ACS will be bolstered with an integration to Avaya OneCloud CPaaS (NA and Europe). The partnership also includes Avaya moving its OneCloud CCaaS to Azure data centers globally, and the two companies will integrate Avaya CCaaS with Teams and Dynamics. Lastly, Microsoft will certify Avaya’s SBCs for Teams Direct Routing. Microsoft gets more comms credibility and capability. Avaya customers get a more seamless customer experience tool suite as they leverage Teams and/or Dynamics.
Webex IMICaaS: Cisco completed its initial integration of IMIMobile to power digital services in Webex Contact Center. The agent desktop now supports voice, email, chat, SMS, and social channels, including Facebook Messenger. Webex CC also got a new visual builder for drag and drop workflow orchestration.
Enlighten Me NICEly: NICE launched Enlighten XO, a service that analyzes interactions for automation opportunities. Enlighten XO identifies customer intents, training phrases, and problem-solving activities for the purpose of building customer self-service applications. Enlighten XO follows Enlighten AI, launched last June.
Dialpad and Playvox: Dialpad announced an OEM partnership with Playvox to bolster its CCaaS offer. There’s been a lot of recent attention on the UCaaS/CCaaS double-play, but WEM also offers an entry point and/or combo play. We saw Five9 accelerate its sales after its acquisition of Virtual Observer. Dialpad integrated Playvox through its API platform, which also includes integration options for Salesforce, ServiceNow and Zendesk. Expect more from Dialpad on CCaaS.
AT&T IVA: AT&T expanded its Cloud Contact Center Connect with an Intelligent Virtual Agent capability. Both services are powered by Five9 — I believe it’s the only white labeled version of Five9 services. Be sure to ask about the UCaaS/CCaaS combo with [email protected] by RingCentral or Cisco Webex.
Vonage CC Summer 21 Release: Vonage made several CCaaS updates that include support for MS Edge browser and physical phones, dashboard enhancements including threshold alerts, a way to enforce disposition codes, and new partner telephony options. Customers can choose Service Cloud Voice (single view for all channels) or Interaction Architect.
Edify V4: Edify Labs announced version 4 of Edify Huddle CCaaS. Enhancements include easier access to customer data via journey maps, faster search, and real-time coaching and monitoring tools. Also features improved no-code workflow functionality.
Genesys: The company announced several enhancements to its Genesys Cloud CX platform, including several AI-powered upgrades and an improved web messaging service. Genesys claims its new predictive routing will deliver results in weeks rather than months.
Amazon: Although Amazon Connect has been HIPAA-eligible since 2017, the provider announced this month that Customer Profiles is also HIPAA-eligible. This means Customer Profiles can provide agents with necessary health information in a compliant and protected manner. Also, Connect’s chatbot-building solution now utilizes Lex V2. The upgraded console and APIs support multiple languages, the ability for end-users to request a bot to wait, and several other productivity features.
Zoom Phone Updates: Zoom continues to upgrade Zoom Phone (Ready, Fire, Aim). These latest enhancements appear to be intended to meet the needs of enterprise users. There’s a new privacy feature for shared lines that restricts others from interfering with specific calls, expanded visibility for call queues, and granular controls for call monitoring. This month Zoom reached 2M Zoom Phone seats sold, only eight months after reaching its first million.
Teams RingCentral Dialer: This is an interesting development. RingCentral released an embedded dialer for Microsoft Teams. It’s a RingCentral dialer, not an MS Teams dialer, and that means UCaaS in Teams with a higher reliability than Microsoft’s native UCaaS offers. The dial is a native RingCentral extension, so it provides access to the RingCentral services and network.
There are lots of ways to make a call in Teams: Microsoft native UCaaS, direct routing options from virtually every provider, including RingCentral, separate apps that run alongside Teams, and now an embedded dialer in Teams. Soon, Microsoft will release its previously announced Operator Connect.
RingCentral Apps: RingCentral also announced Add-ins support. This allows apps to run directly in the RingCentral client. In mid-October, we can expect to see apps from Akazio, Asana, Bugsnag, DocuSign, GitHub, HubSpot, Jira, KeeperAI, Prodoscore, RingClone, and Trello in the App Gallery.
Dialpad Legal Matters: Lawyers need UCaaS too, especially as they overcharge from home #OFH. Dialpad integrated its calling and messaging services with Clio. So nice to hear about a UCaaS vertical other than government, healthcare, and education. DialPad is also providing UCaaS to WeWork Team members worldwide. This inspiration likely came from their common shareholder SoftBank.
Comcast and Masergy: Comcast Business announced an agreement to acquire Masergy, known for a variety of comms and networking services, including Cisco Voice, Webex, SD-WAN, and SASE. Masergy and its high-touch, sophisticated managed services suggest enterprise aspirations. But their 2020 UCaaS acquisition of Blueface (MIA) was an SMB play.
GoToConnect Admin Center: LogMeIn announced a new admin portal for GoToConnect UCaaS. The list of new features is fairly rudimentary (for example, admins can now personalize buttons on select endpoints). Included here because it’s so rare to have LogMeIn news.
NEC Univerge Blue Japan: NEC and Intermedia launched its new Bridge service in Japan. The is a cloud service for existing NEC UC premises-based customers. Bridge offers a mobile app, desktop app, IM and presence, online meetings, and cloud-based storage and file sharing. The Japanese market has lagged UCaaS adoption, so this hybrid mode may have strong appeal.
New Headsets from Poly and Logi: Poly created another Voyager headset. This is a traditional-style headset available with one or two ears, and it’s optimized for hybrid work. That’s marketing speak for prosumer. The Voyager 4300 UC Series can be wired or wireless and can be managed by Poly Lens. It has a Dynamic Mute Alert feature that notifies users if they are speaking while muted. It also has Poly’s Acoustic Fence technology to block out unwanted noise. Hybrid wireless users will like that they can wander away from their desk or kitchen table — but it also comes with a USB C cable.
Logitech’s new Zone buds are aimed at displacing consumer-grade Apple AirPods. The Zone True Wireless and Zone Wired Earbuds (evidently the wired ones are untrue) feature ANC and were noiselessly launched earlier this month. They offer control and configuration via the Logi Tune App. The wired version has a native 3.5mm jack but includes a USB A adapter/dongle (with a bonus A to C adapter). Apple AirPod users are expected to appreciate the Zone’s longer-lasting battery and mute button. They are expected this fall.
As usual, both vendors intend to duplicate (production, distribution, and inventory) these products: universal models that work with every known app (certified by several) and near-identical yet proprietary versions certified for Microsoft Teams that feature a largely useless purple button.
Miro Workspace: Miro announced it has partnered with Google. Now those images and drawings can be found on Google Drive, in G Docs, Sheets, and Slides; and, next year, even Google Meet and Google Calendar. Seems like every month, Miro or Mural makes the Insider report. I do like these apps, but why do such similar apps need to have such similar-sounding names?
Talkdesk Series D: In August, Talkdesk finally confirmed that it raised $230M in a Series D, giving the provider a $10B valuation. Yowza! Inquiring minds want to know how the provider got such a high valuation. I don’t know, but I’ll have whatever their investors are having.
There’s no question that Talkdesk is a great company. Gartner just placed them in the Leaders quadrant of the CCaaS MQ. Td reports steady growth, has a vertical focus, and has global reach. I’m not anti-Td by any means, but $10B? At an estimated $200M in revenue, that’s a valuation of around 50x revenue. As a comparison, Five9 got about half the multiplier on more than double the revenue.
I’m OK with a +50x investment if the category and/or provider are in a high-growth situation. I do expect CCaaS to continue growing, mostly at the expense of premises-based or hosted solutions. That’s not a base Td serves, so it involves penetrating and converting accounts with a pure-play offer. Conversely, several UCaaS providers are reporting strong interest in combined UCaaS/CCaaS wins. To address UCaaS, Td previously announced partnerships with Mitel and Zoom. Mitel and Td went to Divorce Court, and Five9 left the party with Zoom.
Investors could be banking on consolidation. The 2021 MQ had 12 providers, 13 last year. Many are relatively weak, and Td is already a Gartner Leader. The TalkingPointz research note on CCaas 2021 includes a section on the future provider landscape. While some consolidation is reasonable, it’s even more likely to expect new and bigger players. We know Zoom is coming. We also know Zoom had to contend with a mystery bidder on Five9 (likely Microsoft, Salesforce, or Twilio). I also expect accelerated CCaaS conversions from Cisco and Mitel.
A third angle is IPO or acquisition. I can see a 5x-10x pop, but +50x falls into the possible-but-wow category. Naming its first CFO suggests this path. The only qualification Td mentioned for its new CFO in the press release was IPO experience. This suggests Td will focus on top-line growth and likely reduce its R&D spend. That’s a dangerous bet. In Gartner’s evaluation of Critical Capabilities, Td was placed around the middle of 12 providers — significantly lower than NICE, Genesys, Five9, and Content Guru.
So, while the valuation seems high, that’s only a problem for investors. It’s great for Td (and all other CCaaS providers). I am sure Tony at Genesys was particularly excited. I imagine that watching Td effectively use Twilio Flex to create a $10B company has caused the CPaaS CEO to reevaluate things.
Avaya’s New Journey: Avaya announced a strategic investment in Journey.AI. Journey offers a digital trusted identity platform that enables enterprises to interact and transact with customers securely, thanks to its use of biometric technologies and Journey’s Zero Knowledge Network. Journey can also act as a secure intermediary to reduce or eliminate the need for agents to handle protected information.
Journey works with any CC, and this investment doesn’t change that. It’s conceptually like an Avaya Ventures stake. I suspect it’s a minority investment without a board seat to ensure Journey remains neutral. I haven’t seen Avaya do this under its current leadership, but they likely see a significant opportunity in Journey’s technology. You can learn more about Journey.AI in this recent podcast with CEO Brett Shockley. Details of the investment were not disclosed.
Hopin: Hopin is at it again. No company in the emerging virtual event sector has been as aggressive as Hopin. The provider raised $4M in a Series C just a few months ago at a $5.65B valuation. Now it’s looking for a Series D with a $7B valuation. Cisco and Zoom are making aggressive moves to adapt their meeting services into event services, and Microsoft included webinars in its base licensing.
Workstream: Workstream raised $48M in a Series B round. Notable investors include Mary Meeker’s BOND and Zoom CEO Eric Yuan. Also, a former president of Atlassian joined Workstream’s BoD. About a year ago, Workstream raised $10M in its Series A. Workstream offers a first-line-oriented recruitment service. Its process breakthrough centers around text messaging communications. This is a more appropriate modality for front-line and deskless job seekers.
Lumen announced it entered an agreement to sell its ILEC (incumbent local exchange carrier) business in 20 states, including its consumer, small business, wholesale, and mostly copper-served enterprise customers and assets, to funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, Inc., for $7.5B. Lumen retained its ILEC assets in 16 states, as well as its national fiber routes and CLEC networks. The operative words above are “mostly copper.” This is pis centered art of the general theme of shedding old-world business assets (which can be viewed as liabilities) and building new, software-defined assets.
Avaya and CTIntegrations: Avaya acquired CTIntegrations, the maker of CT Suite (CTS). The product provides a chatbot, a dashboard for managing support requests, and some digital service capabilities. This looks like a low-risk tuck-in. CTS’s digital services overlap with Oceana and include email capabilities. Perhaps one will replace the other. The last acquisition Avaya made was Spoken in 2018. Terms (money or employees) were not disclosed.
Verint and Conversocial: Verint agreed to acquire Conversocial, a provider of digital messaging services, for $50M in cash. Though every CCaaS provider claims omnichannel, it’s harder to actually deliver it. Verint figures making CCaaS better is its mission. Conversocial integrates with more than a dozen messaging channels, including Apple Business Chat, Facebook Messenger, Twitter, WhatsApp, and more. Eighty employees, mainly in NY and London, are expected to make the journey to Verint.
The WEM space is getting squeezed by CCaaS providers that tend to include and integrate many of its associated services. The Conversocial tools will be greatly appreciated by Verint’s larger customer base that tends to use licensed CC solutions. However, it also sets up a potential omnichannel conflict as these customers move to CCaaS. Conversocial supports hundreds of enterprise clients with its integrations and its own CX Platform with bots, live agent workspaces, and analytical insights.
Microsoft and Peer5: Microsoft acquired Peer5 to deliver secure, live video streaming in Teams. Microsoft indicated it has demand for large-scale live video streaming of Teams meetings. The move is likely in response to both Cisco and Zoom expanding aggressively into events. Peer5 was founded in 2012 and has offices in Tel Aviv and Palo Alto, California.
Observe.AI and ScopeAI: Observe acquired ScopeAI, a company that automatically extracts actionable insights from customer conversations across chat, email, and social media. ScopeAI CEO Natalie Abeysena will lead Observe.AI’s Omnichannel product line development. Observe.AI intends to formalize its Omnichannel offering in fall 2021. In the future, the company will expand its Omnichannel offering to include other channels, such as Email support (think Prodoscore). Why not make an acquisition? Observe.AI saw 300% revenue growth last year and raised $50M (total raised $89M) in Series B funding.
Mavenir and Telestax: Mavenir acquired CPaaS provider Telestax for an undisclosed price. Mavenir believes the acquisition will allow it to deliver enhanced omnichannel messaging monetization and customer engagement offerings to SPs, SIs, and other channel partners. The angle here may have to do with Mavenir Engage messaging. It’s one of the few messaging platforms that support Google RCS. Mavenir likely concluded it needed a stronger CPaaS capability to ride the upcoming RCS wave.
Mavenir is a confusing company that seems to be in a perpetual search for a problem to solve. At one point, they had an intriguing UCaaS capability for cellular wireless providers. It seemed likely that T-Mobile was going to launch a UCaaS service based on Mavenir tech. Instead, T-Mobile committed to Dialpad as an investor, customer, and reselling partner.
Unity and Oto: Unity acquired Oto, an AI-powered audio chat analysis platform for online games. Oto (pronounced Otto) analyzes online gaming voice or text chat sessions for tone and sentiment. It detects tonal patterns, intonation, amplitude, and expression to assess human emotions.
This Month’s Goodreads
Both a longer list and a clearer theme than usual: The return to the office has been rescheduled.
- Big tech companies are at war with employees over remote work
- Telstra makes public payphone calls free Australia-wide
- Big Tech call center workers face pressure to accept home surveillance
- Pay cut: Google employees who work from home could lose money
- Salesforce Competed With Zoom to Acquire Five9
- Remote Work May Now Last for Two Years, Worrying Some Bosses
- Microsoft is making it harder to switch default browsers in Windows 11
- Here are all the ways your boss can legally monitor you
- The real reason you’re not more productive at work? It’s not boredom—it’s bad UX
- Facebook’s Horizon Workrooms sucks ass
- Work Anywhere is About Trusting and Empowering Employees
- There’s no escape from Facebook, even if you don’t use it
- 10 Reasons Why Salesforce Buying Slack Is the Deal of the Decade
- The future of meetings
- ‘Forever Changed’: CEOs Are Dooming Business Travel — Maybe for Good
The TalkingHeadz Podcasts are interviews with the movers and shakers of enterprise communications — plus we have some interesting guests. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app. We strive for two episodes a month.
Real-Time, Recorded is a weekly short video about industry news now on NoJitter. Sometimes news can’t wait for the newsletter. Dave Michels and Zeus Kerravala provide what you need to know in a weekly short video discussion.
Featured Enterprise Comms Rising Star
Collaboration Squared, a NY collaboration technology service provider, has developed an innovative persistent video product called Video Window. There have been several persistent video products; they always make sense to me but never last. Collaboration Squared has a compelling WFH twist that literally deserves a look.
Product: Video Window is an immersive video conferencing portal designed for hybrid office environments. Originally conceived for office-to-office common areas, it now extends into home offices with the release of Video Window Remote to allow remote workers to connect into office common areas. This can level the field for remote workers. Video Window Office MSRP is $2,400 USD/device/year, and Video Window Remote is free (BYO tablet).
Partners: Integrates with Zoom meetings and has planned support for Teams, Webex, and others. Also has a reseller program and works with AVI-SPL, Diversified, Kinly, and Intrado.
More Information: Check out the Video Window Remote press release and Loom video.
Why: The pandemic highlighted mental health issues for people working from home, among other challenges. Video Window can help equalize the playing field between office employees and those working from home in terms of visibility and, potentially, career advancement. It addresses those serendipitous interactions that occur when we are physically together for distributed environments.
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