Innovation Comes to the Enterprise
Strong interest in the Innovation showcase demonstrates that we may just be starting a major a phase of innovation and disruption.
There is a noteworthy shift regarding startups and innovation. Last month was the third time we ran the Innovation Showcase at Enterprise Connect, yet the first time we had so many quality companies. For the past several years, the challenge has been in finding startups that weren't just consumer focused. Enterprise focused startups were the exception, but that's clearly changing.
Earlier this month, SiSense, a big-data startup, provided figures that showed enterprise focused startups captured 40% more investment dollars in 2012 ($9.85 million) than they did in 2011. Meanwhile, consumer-focused startups captured 45% less per round last year ($5.6 million) than in 2011. The cause of the shift is unclear, but probably consumer saturation, the cloud, BYOD, and openness through APIs are a big part of it.
Time to expand the Innovation Showcase? I think it might be. The current format limits the selection to four companies which present in two separate 15-minute presentations before an unrelated panel discussion. I think eight companies might be a compelling draw on their own and fill an hour--something I will lobby for at Enterprise Connect 2014.
This year's Showcase included:
* Plivo: A platform-as-a-service communications solution that uniquely is carrier independent.
* Nexistant: A video kiosk solution for receptions and other applications.
* Scoop Application: A mobile-first collaboration application
* UberConference: A freemium conference calling service that provides a visual element, social integration, and no PIN codes.
As policy, we never name the companies that applied and didn't make the final showcase selection. In general terms I can tell you there were some solid and deserving firms. I will, however, share a bit more of my opinion on why the selected firms made the cut.
Plivo: The idea of a telecom platform as a service isn't particularly new, but it is growing. Plivo's contribution is carrier independence, and blurs the line between infrastructure and platform. Plivo makes numerous advanced features, such as call recording, advanced routing, text to speech, global services, and many more communication-rich capabilities, available to existing phone numbers on existing carriers.
Nexistant: I believe the big growth opportunity for video will come in non-conferencing applications, that is, using video in new and innovative ways beyond the conference room paradigm. It turned out Cisco agrees, and demonstrated in their keynote similar thinking. One of the conversations discussing Nexistant involved the blue-shirts at Best Buy: If you are confused about three different models of printers, would you rather discuss it with a local blue-shirt or perhaps a printer specialist at the manufacturer via a video kiosk? Ironically, Cisco showed a similar concept with a hardware store concept. Nexistant offers the kiosk, the agent software, and management system for distributed video kiosks appropriate for numerous industries and applications.
Scoop: One of the downsides of being innovative is that it can sometimes be hard to explain a new concept. The Scoop application is an example of this. It is a collaboration application meant for distributed groups to share information, and does so from a mobile-first perspective. It uses the various advanced features of the modern smartphone to post and annotate content including photos and pictures. Each team member can view and add commentary. Collaboration remains a key theme of UC, and this mobile-first approach was intriguing.
UberConference: Conferencing remains a big part of the IT budget and also a big part of the ROI for some UC systems. UberConference reexamined the modern conference service and updated it to a freemium model without PIN codes, hitting two big frustration points. Additionally, the service integrates with social networks so participants can learn more about each other.
Last year at Enterprise Connect 2012, Fonolo, a previous participant in the Innovation Showcase, was selected Best of Show. This year, Vidtel, a Showcase participant last year, exhibited with several new partners in its booth. At the event's closing Locknote session, it was indicated that new exhibitors at Enterprise Connect were higher than usual. With 20 Innovation Showcase applicants in 2013, and increased investments in enterprise-focused startups, we may just be starting a major a phase of innovation and disruption.
Dave Michels is the director of the Innovation Showcase and analyst at TalkingPointz.