8x8 Taps AI Startup for Talent, Technology

Seeking to draw ever more insight from and provide value out of the customer data it amasses, cloud communications provider 8x8 today disclosed that it has acquired MarianaIQ (MIQ), an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered B2B marketing startup, for an undisclosed sum.

Not seeing a connection between B2B marketing and communications? 8x8 really didn't at first, either, Bryan Martin, 8x8 CTO, shared in a No Jitter briefing on the announcement. That's to say, 8x8 began discussions with MIQ founders with the thought of grabbing AI and machine learning talent, he said. But, he added, the more 8x8 learned about the MIQ platform, the more the acquisition also became about the underlying technology.

As Venkat Nagaswamy, MIQ founder and CEO, described in a May 2017 interview with MarTech Advisor, the company's AI-powered account-based marketing platform enabled companies to engage with "specific people within specific target accounts in high interaction channels" -- i.e., social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. MIQ's main differentiation, he went on to say, was in the ability to cull accounts across such social channels, as well as from Google AdWords, for the same person.

Applying this type of machine learning as customers reach out to a company, regardless of channel, will enable 8x8 to enrich the interaction with contextual information, Martin said. In a contact center scenario, for example, a random ID on a chat channel suddenly becomes attached to a real person -- say the assistant to an executive at an important customer -- along with current and historical insight on any prior interactions, he added.

Consider the millions and millions of call detail records 8x8 processes each month -- data on who your employees are calling and who's calling your employees -- as well as all the chat conversations, for example. "As the data piles up, the ability to apply AI and add context and insight becomes paramount," said Martin, noting the company's focus on big-data analytics since its earliest days. 8x8 expects the MIQ technology will help it unlock more from customer communications patterns, he added.

8x8 isn't as yet bringing any MIQ-fueled enhancements to the X Series blended UC-contact center platform announced in March at Enterprise Connect 2018, but Martin said research and development is underway with the help of the MIQ team, including CEO Nagaswamy and his co-founder Soumyadeb Mitra. They'll report to Dejan Deklich, chief product officer, at 8x8.

The five-year-old company joins a half dozen or so other acquisitions 8x8 has made since 2013, as 8x8 "continues to put its balance sheet to work," Martin said.

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