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LiveOps Splits, Private Equity Buys Contact Center SaaS Business

Change is underway at LiveOps, with its LiveOps Cloud Platform now owned by private equity per a deal announced today with Marlin Equity Partners, a global investment firm with more than $3 billion of capital under management, along with venture capital firm Presidio Partners, an existing LiveOps investor.

The deal, financial terms of which were not disclosed, reinforces the attractiveness of the cloud contact center business to the financial markets. From Permira's 2012 acquisition of Genesys to three funding rounds for NewVoiceMedia in 2013 and 2014 and Five9's IPO in 2014, the equity markets clearly approve of the strong double-digit growth contact center software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers have been delivering in an otherwise near-flat business communications market.

LiveOps Over the Years
I first wrote about LiveOps six and a half years ago, in a No Jitter post that was more about a then-burgeoning social media tool, Twitter, than it was about the company. It was during a period I call "LiveOps 2.0."

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Learn about the latest contact center trends and technologies at Enterprise Connect 2016. View the sessions here.

LiveOps began in 2000 as a business process outsourcer (BPO) with a unique twist. Instead of hiring agents and housing them in contact centers, LiveOps recruited agents to "become their own bosses," working hours that they set themselves from their homes. LiveOps uniquely managed distribution of calls through algorithms that rewarded agents for not only being available when they said they would be but also for their effectiveness, as measured via attributes like customer satisfaction and close rates.

LiveOps initially put its routing and management software to its own use in managing the 20,000 or so agents it employed (LiveOps 1.0). LiveOps 2.0 came in 2008, when the company made the strategic decision to package and resell the capability in a SaaS model, and hired a team seasoned in creating and marketing contact center software -- 25 or so of them from Genesys. This included Wes Hayden, who served as LiveOps president; Paul Lang, who was SVP of products and marketing; and many other sales and marketing staff.

The Genesys team left LiveOps almost as suddenly as it had come. By 2010, nearly all of the Genesys talent had moved on to other contact center and enterprise communications jobs. They landed at companies such as Jacada, Unify, and Virtual Hold Technology, and some eventually found their ways back to Genesys.

I view LiveOps 3.0 as the period when Marty Beard joined the company as CEO... and brought others, including Ann Ruckstuhl as CMO, with him. Perhaps the most notable developments from this period (Beard left LiveOps in June 2014) were the release of a market-leading WebRTC agent desktop and the purchase of start-up UserEvents and its CXEngage platform.

LiveOps, Take 4
With the CXEngage platform, created by UserEvents founder and now LiveOps CTO Jeff Thompson, and today's spinout, the stage is set for yet another rebirth, LiveOps 4.0. Current LiveOps CEO, Vasili Triant, will remain at the helm of the newly acquired SaaS-based company, which will operate as an independent entity focused on the ongoing development and innovation of the cloud contact center platform. Both the SaaS and BPO businesses will continue to use the LiveOps brand name for the time being -- LiveOps Cloud Contact Center and LiveOps Agents on Demand, respectively.

In an interview this week, Triant described how the division of LiveOps into BPO and SaaS companies will mean more investment and focus for each business. For SaaS customers, "nothing changes but speeding up CXEngage." Here he is referring to the next-gen platform LiveOps has been working on for most of 2015, already in the hands of beta customers.

In using the CXEngage branding, Triant implies a strong influence from the acquired UserEvents technology. The continued presence of serial-entrepreneur Thompson reflects the significance of this technology, as well.

The company, it seems, has been prepping for a separation throughout 2015. For example, originally headquartered in Silicon Valley, LiveOps' BPO business is now in Scottsdale, Ariz., and LiveOps Cloud Contact Center re-located to Austin, Texas (the next Silicon Valley?). In addition, 150 employees dedicated to the SaaS business move to the private equity venture. On the short list of things to do is hiring staff professionals (e.g., human resources, finance) for functions performed at a corporate level until now.

If you're interested in hearing more about the new LiveOps and the CXEngage platform, consider attending Enterprise Connect 2016 in Orlando, Fla., the week of March 7. LiveOps CTO Jeff Thompson will be joining executives from Five9, inContact, and 8x8 in this year's "Contact Center in the Cloud session. Register now using the code NJPOST to receive $200 off the current conference price.

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