TalkingPointz Insider Report – June 2021
The Most Important Enterprise Communications News from June 2021
The Human-Made Pandemic: Pandemics suck. That’s my conclusion from my firsthand experience over the past year. In the US, things are returning to normal. I took two domestic trips (four flights) in June and plan to visit Europe in July. Flying was strangely surreal. Keep in mind I am a professional traveler with elite status on two airlines. Yet, I found the whole process perplexing, inefficient, and confusing. Not that anything has changed; I’m just a newbie again.
The first trip was to Las Vegas. I’d say about half of the people I saw in the casinos were wearing masks. Two weeks later was my trip to ITEXPO in Miami. This was the first in-person tech conference I am aware of in over a year. It was lightly attended, but a decent crowd. Expo hall was crowded. About 30% had masks. I couldn’t decide if it was more socially acceptable to shake hands or bump elbows. The memory of the pandemic is fading fast.
The pandemic has had a major impact on the travel industry, but naming the latest, most concerning variant after Delta airlines seems pretty harsh. Symptoms include fever, coughs, and lost luggage in Atlanta.
The theory that humans caused the pandemic is building traction. I doubt we will ever know the truth, but there are indications it wasn’t natural, and there is reasonable suspicion that a COVID lab in Wuhan was the source. It also appears that the lab was funded by the US NIH. This type of research is normally done in a level 4 lab, but they are so strict. I can’t blame them for doing this research in a level 2 facility.
However the virus originated, there’s no denying humankind’s insistence on prolonging the pandemic. I got my vaccine shots in April, and they have been readily available in the US since May, yet some 34% of Americans remain unvaccinated. That’s a surprisingly high number considering these two 99s from AP: 99% of new COVID cases as well as hospitalizations are people who are not fully vaccinated. The 99% of deaths in the US are among those who are unvaccinated. Cases and hospitalizations are rising again in several states.
The vaccinated shouldn’t get too confident. The CDC says 4K+ people have been hospitalized or died due to COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. The World Health Organization is now urging fully vaccinated people to continue to wear masks, social distance and practice other pandemic safety measures.
Trust No One: Encryption and privacy are back (perpetually?) in the headlines. There were several stories this month, with Anom being the most interesting. The encrypted phone/messaging provider, heavily used by criminals, was actually being managed by the FBI. This was a demonstration of what’s known as a man-in-the-middle attack. The FBI and Australian police ran the hosted service for three years and monitored what criminals thought were E2EE messages — 27M messages between 2019 and 2021 were pursued by law enforcement. There were lots of arrests along the way, culminating with a finale of +800 arrests across 90 countries.
This marks the third time I’ve covered in the Insider Report that law enforcement compromised an encrypted messaging service. The tactic clearly works as significant arrests were made each time. If law enforcement could just monitor all encrypted conversations, we would all be so much safer — at least that’s what they argue.
Law enforcement is also demonstrating that they are pretty adept at getting past encryption. This is the opposite of “better locks create better criminals.” Law enforcement wants what’s known as a back door to encrypted content, only to be used for legitimate reasons. Simple concept on a very slippery slope.
Security experts agree that a back door to encryption will endanger the security of all data. We can go back to the NSA PRISM program that Snowden revealed for an example of how digital surveillance can go unchecked. Or we can look at another story from this month: Trump’s DOJ secretly subpoenaed data of two political rivals from Apple. The request appears to be an abuse of power that didn’t become public until Apple’s gag order expired.
The plot thickened again last week when Amazon acquired Wickr. This communications and collaboration app not only offers E2EE but also uses a zero-trust architecture. I wrote about the acquisition on NoJitter.
There’s no question that the internet has a security problem. Not a week goes by without a huge hack. This has become a communications problem because all comms are now digital and most are stored or analyzed. It’s time for enterprise comms to move E2EE from the exception to the rule.
General Industry News
IDC Becomes Blackstone: Oriental Rainbow LLC, a subsidiary of China Oceanwide Holdings Group, sold IDG to Blackstone. The media and research company fetched $1.3B. The IDG family includes CIO, Computerworld, InfoWorld, Macworld, Network World, PC World and TechHive tech publications and the industry analyst firm International Data Corporation (IDC). IDG also recently acquired Triblio (marketing data platform) and Metri (IT pricing service).
The media and industry research sectors are going through some major changes as traditional content models continue to experience significant change. Verizon Media was recently sold to Apollo Global private equity. Presumably, PE is interested in making data-driven equity decisions. Informa (parent of NoJitter) owns the Omdia brand that includes roll-ups of Datamonitor, IHS Markit, Current Analysis, and Heavy Reading.
Antitrust Bills: The House Judiciary introduced five new antitrust bills this month. It is unlikely Congress will pass any of them, at least as proposed. There’s a bill that bans “self-preferencing” (when a company-run marketplace favors its own products over competitive options), one that limits acquisitions, an anti-walled-garden bill, FTC enforcement funding, and the intriguing bill called the ACCESS Act.
ACCESS forces interoperability on the biggest tech platforms. Very large companies will be required to offer an API that allows users to take their data to a rival service. APIs are great, but they also represent a new form of risk as a way hackers (and other providers) can steal personal information. The bill addresses security practices and a “circuit-breaker” feature that allows providers to temporarily shut off the API should a threat emerge.
Google Workspace for All: Workspace apps are now free for all Gmail users. It’s a bit confusing because Workspace Apps were free before. The announcement should have been that Google is retiring Hangouts (like it announced two years ago) and replacing it with Meet and Chat.
There were some other announcements regarding Meet and Chat that I will cover below, but what’s really important is that Workspace is replicating Teams by upgrading separate services. Instead of a big new app like Teams, Google has no actual desktop client. Instead, it’s a series of web apps that include chat, meetings, and productivity apps — all tightly integrated with calendar and email.
The web UI means all desktops have the exact same web client without any downloaded software. I like the model, but Google is a few years behind in many ways. Google Meet, for example, just got virtual backgrounds. Google has been steadily upgrading the Workspace suite — except telephony. Workspace customers might want to turn to Dialpad, RingCentral, or another integrated partner for telephony, but that creates overlaps as most UCaaS providers offer messaging and meetings.
Lumenating OTT Video: Lumen Media Transformation creates new, high-quality online viewing experiences that combine advanced video-encoding technologies with the Lumen global fiber and Edge networks. The service leverages the company’s secure Vyvx signal acquisition with MediaKind video encoding. It’s great to see Lumen getting out of broadcast TV and becoming more serious about video. This service is both flexible and efficient, and requires no new hardware or changes to existing broadcast workflows. This will help with my OTT video; now if I can only get faster DSL speeds.
Facebook $1T: Facebook joins the elite club of companies with a market cap over $1T. There are only a handful of them, two of which are now over $2T. Club members include Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and Google. Good news and bad news here: Core eligibility for membership into Club $1T is giving away free video and messaging services.
Half a Million Reasons to Love Starlink: Elon Musk said at the Mobile World Congress (MWC) conference that SpaceX expects 500K Starlink subscribers within a year — starting in August. SpaceX has launched more than 1,700 satellites to low-Earth orbit and currently supports 69,420 active users. This is inherently a global service. SpaceX expects to sell the majority of licenses directly to consumers. The basic subscription is $99/mo for 100/20 Mbps connection plus equipment. DSL and cable aren’t worried, but the targeted prospects don’t have those options. There are several other low-orbit satellite projects currently underway.
Workplace Updates: Workplace from Facebook announced more features and design updates, including a new solution for streaming townhall-style or Q&A events. Workplace profiles now support pronouns; there were some knowledge library (intranet) updates such as automatic translations; and Safety Center got some improvements for crisis communications. Workplace has to balance enterprise requirements/opportunities against preserving familiarity associated with its consumer cousin.
Google’s Cookies Get a Stay of Execution: Shocking! Google postponed the cookie apocalypse until 2023. Google was caught between common sense regarding privacy and a profitable business model. Apple’s move to reduce tracking was easier, as it was caught between common sense and Zuck’s love.
Windows 11: It’s time to kill Windows 10. Microsoft announced this month that the end of support for 10 will be 10-14-2025. Don’t worry, Microsoft has a successor planned, and it’s (drum roll please) Windows 11. This new OS will have a lite version of Teams built in for chat and video. Hmm, where did I read that Teams should be viewed as a replacement for Windows? Oh yeah, last month’s Insider Report. If you think including Teams in the OS is unfair, you are not alone. It would be illegal per two of the tech antitrust bills introduced this month. Concerned? No, MS loves antitrust and managed to squeeze in its opinion that Apple’s AppStore is abusive.
Windows 11 will run Android apps from the Amazon app store. In other words, both Amazon and Microsoft are going to run off with the free parts of Android. Google’s freemium model for Android is largely based on its Play Store (certification and app sales). The co-conspirator in this particular plot is Intel. Yes, Win 11 will mean a lot of new PCs. Zeus and I discuss Win 11 more in this video.
Leadership Changes: Poly appointed Warren Schlichting as EVP and COO. He effectively replaces Tom Puorro. He has a background in investment banking and likely met CEO Dave Shull when working at Sling TV and DISH. Way back, he was an M&A guy at Morgan Stanley. Mitel appointed David Petts as SVP of Americas Sales, responsible for Mitel’s channel and sales teams across the Americas region. Petts served as the former SVP of Worldwide Sales for ShoreTel. Talkdesk announced Laura Butler as the company’s first chief human resources officer. Butler joins Talkdesk from Workfront, where she served as senior VP of people and culture. Anand Chandrasekaran will be transitioning out of Five9 over the next quarter, and Callan Schebella (from Inference) was named EVP Products across all solutions. Also, Hardik Parekh was named CISO. Parekh has previously performed security roles at firms such as Intuit, Amazon, and Splunk. Avaya appointed Todd Zerbe as SVP of Engineering over OneCloud. Zerbe previously worked at Blackboard and has CCaaS experience from Genesys and Interactive Intelligence Group. Vonage appointed Stephen M. Ward Jr. to the company’s Board of Directors. Ward retired from being the President and CEO of Lenovo Group Limited.
Meetings and Messaging
The Hybrid Office: We’ve generally treated the pandemic as a temporary disruption, and now it’s time to get back to normal — or at least define a new normal. We know two things for certain: Offices are coming back, and not all employees are going back to them. We don’t know yet what the new normal is, but we have settled on a name: the hybrid office.
What is a hybrid office? It’s probably smaller and has more shared, multi-use spaces. That’s the easy part. Who has access to the smaller office? What are employer responsibilities for home offices? How are expectations changing around office hours and attire? and many more questions remain a mystery.
For now, most comms vendors are announcing a slew of hybrid office updates that largely fall into four categories: meeting features, touchless interfaces (smartphone and voice), shared solutions (hotdesking and mobile pairing), and AI-related efficiencies.
We are also going to see a lot of new tools that measure and manage productivity. Organizations pushed their tech to the limit — and now want more. We are going to see digital transformation in hyperdrive. The so-mo-clo mindset is back. Everything is up for grabs, including the oldest and safest assumptions.
Webex Game On: Cisco regrouped its Webex pieces as a complete collaboration suite. The new offer is more aggressively priced and includes Webex Meetings, Events, Calling, and Messaging. The new Webex Contact Center wasn’t addressed, but it’s likely coming. Cisco also slashed prices on its collaboration hardware. Cisco claims it has rolled out more than 800 new features in the past nine months— plus 4 acquisitions. Cisco also gave Webex a new logo and icon. Webex is of course opex, so that’s presumably why they have dropped the capitals: WebEx became Webex and now it’s webex (at least in the branding).
About a year ago, there was a question about whether Chuck would keep or spin out the Collaboration Unit. All these changes indicate that Cisco is committed to the collaboration space. Cisco is responding to and contributing to a fiercely competitive sector. Prices are steadily dropping.
RCS Is Coming: AT&T will follow T-Mobile with making Google’s Android Messages app the default for SMS and RCS services on all Android phones. Also, Google announced that RCS messages will have E2EE when sent through its Messages app (one-to-one messages only). Adding encryption addresses one of the biggest remaining objections to the beleaguered standard. RCS messages support rich formatting and graphics; the technology has been positioned as the next generation of SMS for over a decade. With two major carriers now supporting RCS, I expect there will soon be demand for CPaaS services that support RCS. Last I checked, both Twilio and Vonage offer RCS APIs. It’s compatible with SMS, similar to how email can work with both HTML and text. There’s no indication of interest in RCS from Apple or Verizon.
RingCentral and Deutsche: Deutsche Telekom became the latest provider to offer RingCentral. Initially, the partnership is limited to a co-branded version of RingCentral Video (RCV) only. Deutsche Telekom will roll out the new solution to customers in the second half of this year.
Slack Later: I like this one. Slack enabled a Scheduled Send feature. This is an obvious feature that indicates maturity. It eventually comes to all messaging apps, including email and social networking. I often delay or schedule messages just to avoid the “why were you up so late?” conversation.
Meet: Google Meet now supports background tricks including blur, replace, and even video backgrounds. Background substitution was cute and gimmicky when remote workers were voluntary, but the pandemic promoted this feature to critical. Suddenly, the WFH crowd was not voluntary, and they had not necessarily agreed to share their homes with their colleagues. I’d say going forward, it is a required feature. That puts Google in the better-late-than-never camp.
Slack Huddles: Slack has discovered audio conferencing. Now, right from within Slack, users can talk to each other. This is basically a virtual head-pop-over-the-cube-wall. There’s no video (coming), but it does support screen sharing. Two key points: Slack is moving into real-time communications, and Slack doesn’t want its users to leave Slack — for anything. This is so obvious it’s brilliant. Why does Slack come up with this instead of one of the UCaaS providers that sells voice and chat?
Huddles is a real-time tool, but Slack is about asynchronous, so Huddles can be easily recorded and shared within Slack channels. Slack Atlas (limited trials) is Slack’s new corporate directory based on its Rimeto acquisition (covered in the June 2020 Insider Report). It’s an expanded corporate directory that eliminates another reason a user might need to switch from Slack.
Telegram Group Video: Consumer chat app Telegram finally got group video. The feature was promised over a year ago (April 2020). Now it’s just three years behind WhatsApp, but that’s not the point. The point is that video (and group chat) are table stakes. The app supports up to 30 video participants. Group voice calls can be escalated to video. Other new features include improved noise suppression and animated backgrounds.
I try to ignore consumer apps in these reports, but like WhatsApp, Telegram is building traction with businesses for marketing and customer engagement. The company said last January that it reached 500M active users. Telegram’s groups are different from WhatsApp in several ways. There’s no cap on group size (broadcast-ready), and many feel that joining a group is less of a commitment than following a brand.
RCV Hybrid Rooms: RingCentral announced a series of updates to make its RCV meeting rooms more suitable for hybrid workplaces. Specifically, touchless features (voice-activated rooms and smartphone as room controller), improved status alerts, a new dashboard for IT, and support for Windows-based systems.
Third License Is a Charm: Fuze announced its third license for its Manufacturing vertical. This new one is for Field and Floor for on-the-go employees. UCaaS is rapidly becoming a commodity. Each provider needs to be evaluating ways to differentiate. The standard plays have been portfolio (such as chat and meetings) and integrations, but verticals are just as viable. True verticals are more than marketing. They contain things like specialized integrations, channel partners, and features. This Field and Floor package includes 1:1 video calling, meetings, messaging, emergency services, SSO, and CRM integration. The price is $4/user/mo.
Lifesize (Room) Connect: Lifesize Connect, announced last March, is now generally available. It enables users to leverage their Lifesize Icon 300, Icon 500, or Icon 700 room systems and laptop (BYOD) for use with several cloud-delivered meeting services, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, and Google Meet. The Lifesize Icon systems also now support native wireless sharing.
For its chat app, Zoom has added icons to distinguish one-on-one conversations, group chats, and channels. It’s also updated the sidebar with separate sections for starred messages/contacts, single/multi-user chats, and named channels. For customers using advanced chat encryption, Zoom has added a channel management feature that allows admins the ability to assign channel management permissions to other users, among other capabilities, as Zoom stated in associated release notes.
Dell UltraSharp: Dell has suddenly realized that the webcams it puts in laptops suck. It’s not alone; pretty much all built-in webcams in laptops and tablets are 720. Dell is now pushing a $200 UltraSharp Webcam with a large 4K Sony STARVIS CMOS sensor that supports Dell ExpressSign-In facial recognition. I think this makes the picture a little fuzzy regarding why Dell doesn’t just build better quality cams into its laptops?
Zoom NDI: Zoom responded to market demand for support of the Network Device Interface (NDI) in Zoom Rooms. This creates individual video feeds that can be mixed in production. The feature was quietly included in the latest releases of Zoom Room software.
Goto Events: LogMeIn is providing a sneak peek at its new GoTo Virtual Events solution. This is a new category that’s pretty close to webinars. Cisco and Zoom have announced events, and Microsoft has made webinars a standard feature of Teams. The new service is available for free over the summer.
Nureva Says What: Continuing on its quest for HD group audio, Nureva announced that its systems can now boost the amplification of the presenter. Room technology has been democratic, but that’s not always desirable. This feature addresses the “Animalist” commandment that some speakers are more equal than others. Nureva also announced that it’s now a card-carrying member of the Logitech Collaboration Program.
Facing Android: If you love something, set it free. Apple decided to give Facetime some love and set it free from its iOS confines. Apple claimed Facetime was coming to Android and Windows, but it appears what it meant to say is that Facetime is getting a web portal. That’s OK; I’ll take it. It means I will soon be able to interact again with my brother, who defected to Apple in 2008 — and I can even do it from a Chromebook. Once again, a major vendor discovers Metcalfe’s Law.
Last April, during the Epic v Apple trial in April, we learned through email conversations that Apple did indeed lock iMessage users to iOS to force platform loyalty. Apple now believes there’s more upside to a bigger network. I figure that motivation lies in customer engagement. WhatsApp has become the primary digital channel for many consumer brands. Apple’s additional ace in this CX play is Apple Pay.
Genesys Seeking Experience: Genesys and Qualtrics intend to expand the ability to understand the customer by combining interaction and VOC expertise. See TweetThread for more.
The Genesys Suite: Genesys renamed (again) and added to its core products. Genesys Cloud, better known as PureCloud, has been renamed Genesys Cloud CX. Genesys Engage, previously known as Pure Engage and Engage Multicloud, is now Genesys Multicloud CX. As usual, no change to Genesys PureConnect, previously known as CIC or that other platform.
New to the suite is Genesys DX, a standalone digital customer engagement offering. The founder of Altocloud credits the 2018 acquisition of Altocloud as the key to enabling this new unit. DX also leverages the recent acquisition of Bold360 and investments in AI. DX is about fostering digital-first and/or digital-only interactions.
The digital party is not new, and it is getting crowded. Several CCaaS providers are emphasizing digital-first/only engagements (Cisco, NICE, Talkdesk …), but there are also standalone solutions such as eGain, Glia, 24/7, Microsoft (Nuance), and LivePerson. It’s also a interspecies party with representatives from CC, CRM, sales, service, and marketing. #WorldsCollide
DX is a twist on CX, which is emerging as a more contemporary term for CC. I suppose it also applies to EX, especially if using digital agents (EDX?). DX can include CX, but not CC. CX includes CC and DX, but not EX. I might have all this wrong, but don’t worry, because Genesys will likely rename everything (except PureConnect) soon.
AWS Connect: AWS added real-time insights into voice calls, chat, and task activity. Ther also launched an API to configure quick connects (speed dials) programmatically. Connect also made Apple Business Chat generally available. AWS is hosting its first Contact Center day in July.
LogMeIn CC: LogMeIn announced a new outbound CCaaS. GoToConnect Contact Center is aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. Key features: allows organizations to automatically call back callers that abandoned, pre-recorded outgoing voicemail reduces monotony and frees agents, and enables queues for SMS chats. Personally, I think it’s odd when the contact center calls me if I hung up.
Nextiva and Five9: Nextiva is now offering Five9 CCaaS. The first release of the integration builds on a past partnership with Inference (acquired by Five9) and enables seamless calling between the providers’ clouds. Nextiva’s customer base and channel partners will now have access to the Five9 product portfolio. Remember when all the UCaaS partners turned to inContact?
Fuze CCaaS: Fuze Contact Center is now available as a standalone product. Fuze’s inContact offer remains available, but the native solution should address the needs of less complex implementations more effectively. Fuze Contact Center can be integrated with Microsoft Teams, Salesforce, Zendesk, Theta Lake, and others via the Fuze Integrations Ecosystem. Fuze CCaaS is also integrating with Verint Workforce Management into Fuze’s contact center platform. As the UC and UCaaS providers move toward CCaaS, it’s going to put a lot more pressure on CCaaS pure plays.
WhatsApp and CXEngage: Lifesize CxEngage now supports two-way conversations with WhatsApp and the platform. Additionally, supervisors can see agents’ web chat interactions in real time (LOL).
NICE Enlighten: NICE launched Enlighten AI Feedback, intended to enable organizations to identify and turn at-risk customers into loyal promoters. This AI engine identifies unresolved customer issues for better remediation. It’s a great concept, but I have my doubts. The core issue is that many unresolved issues are just going to stay unresolved. That’s the way it is. I expect Enlighten will return a lot of false positives. Yes, our products are expensive and fragile.
STIR/SHAKEN: There will be two recurring themes in UCaaS this year: hybrid meetings/office and STIR/SHAKEN protection against robocalls. Both Zoom and RingCentral announced support for the STIR/SHAKEN framework.
VCC CRM is a BFD: Vonage launched Vonage Contact Center (VCC) for Service Cloud Voice. This offer is directly integrated with Salesforce Service Cloud, and available on Salesforce’s AppExchange. Service Cloud Voice consolidates voice and digital channels with CRM data. Key features include availability in 80 countries, omnichannel visibility (chat, email, messaging, SMS, and social), analytics (Tableau and speech and desktop insights), IVR, and more.
VCC has always been tightly integrated with Salesforce. So much so that it surprised me when Salesforce selected AWS as its first Service Cloud Voice partner. No offense to Amazon Connect, but VCC is a more complete, packaged CCaaS offer. VCC for Service Cloud will give Vonage some overdue visibility.
Separately, Vonage celebrated its 20th birthday. Not many UCaaS companies can say that. There was a time when I explained VoIP by referencing Vonage commercials. 20 years of Vonage.
Japan: The Japanese market has been tough to crack for UCaaS providers, but there’s lots of stuff going on there now. Zoom Phone is now available there, and several providers have briefed me on near term expansion plans.
Cisco and AT&T: Cisco announced an expanded/updated partnership with ATT. Specifically, AT&T will be offering Webex Calling. The companies expect to offer as many as 1M users the Unified Communications Manager – Cloud platform. I always liked the Cisco/BroadSoft acquisition, but the combined value prop took longer than I expected. AT&T provides a nice example. They have their original hosted solution, which now integrates to Webex, and they have access to the full Webex Suite, which is Cisco hosted. Internally, they have choices between self-hosted and wholesale, and externally they can leverage product expertise across multiple models.
For those keeping NA carrier UCaaS scores: AT&T has Cisco and RingCentral, Verizon has Cisco and RingCentral, Lumen has Cisco and Zoom, and T-Mobile has Dialpad. I should also mention that many UCaaS providers support BYO carrier options, including Cisco, Microsoft, and Zoom.
NEC BLUE Expands: NEC expanded availability of its UNIVERGE BLUE CONNECT (UCaaS) and UNIVERGE BLUE ENGAGE (CCaaS) offers. Initially launched in the US in April 2020, UNIVERGE BLUE is now available to partners in the UK, certain territories in EMEA, and Australia. This arrived a bit later than initially promised, but it’s hard to implement global programs when quarantined at home. NEC UNIVERGE BLUE was created via a partnership with Intermedia. Avaya, Atos, and ALE all selected RingCentral.
ACO Updates: Avaya announced several updates regarding its Avaya Cloud Office by RingCentral service. ACO is now available in 13 countries, and the service now supports more PBX-like features, including bridged call appearance and paging. More Avaya Vantage phones are supported, and the service includes data residency capabilities. Avaya has been significantly expanding Spaces, too, so Avaya customers have two options for messaging and video.
MiCloud Expands: Mitel expanded its opex offerings with a new MiVoice Business offer. The new subscription is available in the US, Canada, UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, and Australia, with more markets coming. This is an addition to MiCloud Flex offer (capex), which is Mitel hosted on the Google Cloud Platform. Both MiVoice Business and Flex are opex models that provide the customer control over the implementation, including upgrades, maintenance windows, and the flexibility to mix and match user levels.
Dialpad and NEC Direct Routing: Dialpad and NEC both released new direct routing options for Microsoft Teams.
Cognigy $44M: Cognigy announced it raised $44M in Series B funding, led by global venture capital and private equity firm Insight Partners. The company offers employee service automation via its conversational AI platform. The funding will be used to accelerate its global customer growth, create new partnerships, and continue to enhance platform capabilities. Its plan is to combine analytics, live chat, and advanced API orchestration to automate business processes ranging from customer service over HR and ITSM automation to outbound call scenarios.
MNDY: Monday.com, a workplace management provider, completed its US IPO. The Tel Aviv-based company sold 3.7M shares for $155 each on its first day of trading — above its expected range of $125 to $140. Salesforce’s venture arm and Zoom each agreed to purchase $75M shares in a private placement at IPO price. And I thought “a case of the Mondays” was a bad thing.
AudioCodes SBvA: AudioCodes released a Direct Routing Survivable Branch Virtual Appliance for deployment on VMware and Hyper-V platforms. It allows a customer to virtually deploy Teams PSTN Voice survivability in the event that the site loses a primary connection.
Dual Listings: The first two companies to agree to list on a new long-term stock exchange are already on the NYSE. Twilio and Asana agree to dual list their shares. Both of the CEOs are investors in LTSE. The vision is a wonderful response to the myopic short-term thinking prevalent on Wall Street.
LTSE requires a vision or commitments, and those are still being worked out. However, Jeff Lawson believes it will be more of what Twilio is already doing. For example, Twilio.org supports nonprofits and social enterprises and is funded by 1% of Twilio’s equity. Also, it pledged $10M to Covax to support COVID-19 vaccinations in lower-income countries. I really like the concept here, but wonder if anyone thought through the long-term implications of dual listing. Short-term buyers trade on NYSE?
IRL: A new social app with a stupid name offers a Facebook Groups type of service for (younger) people who don’t use Facebook. IRL claims to have 12M MAUs, and it raised $170M! That’s $14M a MAU and a valuation of $1B! The app has supposedly delivered over 1B messages in about a year. The vast majority of IRL’s users are teenagers who live in middle America, but it plans to use its new funds to expand (to teenagers in other countries).
Unisys and Unify became unified: Unisys announced it entered into an agreement to acquire Unify Square for $152.5M. The goal is to enable Unisys to leverage Unify Square’s UCaaS offerings. UCaaS is coming to Unisys Digital Workplace, which offers digital transformation assistance. Gartner positioned Unisys as a Leader in its Magic Quadrant for Managed Workplace Services, NA for three consecutive years. Look, Ma! Someone bought a UCaaS provider.
Destiny acquires Soluno and Telepo: A Belgian comms provider acquires two Swedish companies. This makes Destiny Europe’s largest UCaaS platform provider. It also ends Mitel’s play with SPs. The combined Destiny group will comprise more than 600 employees in six countries (Belgium, Netherlands, France, Sweden, Germany, and UK) and is expected to generate a turnover of €170M in 2021. Soluno was recognized as one of the top 20 leaders in growth and industry innovation by Frost & Sullivan in the 2020 UCaaS Frost Radar report.
This is the second provider play that Mitel has spun out. Last fall, its PE investors or leadership chose to separate its Clearspan unit. Both Clearspan and Telepo came to Mitel via its 2014 acquisition of Aastra. But that acquisition was really about the PBX base and IP endpoints. Neither platform seemed to get a lot of attention at Mitel. It’s a reunion for Patrik Sörqvist; the principal behind both Telepo and Soluno. A similar reunion occurred when Mitel spun out Mavenir, enabling Pardeep Kohli to combine two related assets that he founded.
Cisco and Involvio: Cisco announced plans to acquire Involvio (May 2021), a student experience platform. Involvio offers a suite of education-focused products and assisted Cisco in architecting Webex Education Connector. Few details are known, and I don’t really follow the education vertical. I will say that this is the fifth acquisition for Cisco Collab in about eight months (BabbleLabs, Slido, IMI, Socio, and Involvio), and each is making Webex better — yet oddly cheaper.
Telavox and ALLOCloud: A Swedish comms provider acquires a Belgian company. Comms provider Telavox acquired all of ALLOcloud, a provider of advanced cloud communications and collaboration solutions that serves customers in Belgium and France. Telavox is a Nordic cloud communications provider that was founded in 2003, with about 280 employees. The Telavox platform has more than 229,000 business seats. ALLOcloud has over 300 active, regionally focused partners, including reseller, white-label, and wholesale partners, in addition to targeted direct sales.
Verint Interviewing: Verint acquired technology from HireIQ to expand its WFM capabilities. HireIQ provides solutions for interviewing and hiring. The acquired technology uses AI to analyze and automate candidate interview responses. Verint Intelligent Interviewing becomes the newest module of the Verint Cloud Platform. The CC space is already in existential battles with CRM and WEM; let’s add HR to the ring.
Amazon and Wickr: Amazon acquired privacy-minded communications and collab provider Wickr. The app has the usual functionality you might expect from a modern collaboration service without the usual compromises to privacy and security. Every time there’s a major hack, I figure things will change, but all that’s really happened is that we’ve become numb to such breaches. Maybe the SolarWinds hack will serve as a turning point? AWS’ intent with Wickr is not clear. I figure they will either destroy it or use it to change the enterprise comms conversation.
There are several aspects to comms privacy. The most popular is E2EE, and we’ve seen some real progress in enterprise video becoming more secure. That’s a good start, but there are also topics like key management, the ability to force content to expire or disappear, and Zero Trust architecture. Wickr plays all these hits and does so in a way designed for enterprises. I shared more thoughts on this on NoJitter.
Zoom Flies Kites: Zoom announced it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions – Kites, provides real-time Machine Translation (MT) solutions. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. The goal is for the Kites team of 12 research scientists to focus on improving meeting productivity and efficiency via multi-language translation. It’s only the second company for Zoom to acquire (that we know of). In a filing in January with the US Security and Exchange Commission, Zoom revealed it could use part of its capital for merger and acquisition activity. Kites was founded in 2015 by Alex Waibel and Sebastian Stüker, a pair of faculty members at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. Waibel previously started the language technology group at Facebook, which would eventually become a part of the social network’s applied machine learning division. Kites says its system has a recognition error rate of about 5%, with about only 1 second of delay behind a person’s speech.
This Month’s Goodreads
- Work looks nothing like it did two years ago. Slack’s new emojis prove it
- Walmart Giving Phones to Employees to Stay in ‘Constant Communication’
- Apple isn’t a Walled Garden, It’s a Carrier
- Why Monday thinks it can win the future of work
- The psychology behind why some leaders are resisting a hybrid work model
- Salesforce CEO: We’re going to rebuild all of our technology to become Slack-first
- Technology Saves the World
- There’s Actually No Good Reason for Us All to Go Back to the Office
- Bombshell Report Finds Phone Network Encryption Was Deliberately Weakened
- A very brief history of every Google messaging app
- Many people don’t want to work unless it’s from home
- Bullshitting Is Actually a Sign of Intelligence
- ‘Great Resignation’ gains steam as return-to-work plans take effect
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