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Nextiva Acquires Thrio As Way to Democratize CX with AI

Nextiva, a privately held company with deep roots in the unified communications and collaboration(UCC) space, announced today that it will acquire Thrio. Founded in 2008, and headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, Nextiva raised $200M from Goldman Sachs Asset Management in its first-ever funding round at a $2.7B valuation in 2021.

Thrio, launched at Enterprise Connect in 2019, is described on its website as, quite simply, a “contact center technology” company. Its founders, including CEO Edwin Margulies, have worked in the cloud contact center market for over twenty-five years and were part of the leadership teams of Telephony@Work (acquired by Oracle in 2006) and SoCoCare (acquired by Five9 in 2013). 

In a pre-briefing with Namir Yedid, vice president of strategy, and Lance Fried, chief channel & partnership officer, both of Thrio, Yedid shared that all of the company’s employees were offered, and have accepted, employment at Nextiva – and that includes senior leadership. “This is not an acquhire, and this is not a (technology) tuck-in deal,” Yedid said.

While Thrio has been known as a CCaaS solution provider, the full Thrio story always included AI as well. I expect to see Thrio’s founding team very visible at Nextiva going forward supporting both the CCaaS and AI roadmaps.

As is typical of acquisitions involving privately held firms, financial details have not been announced. Before we dive into what Thrio brings, an update on Nextiva’s evolving strategy is in order.

Who is Nextiva?

The seeds of today’s acquisition can be seen in Nextiva’s 2017 release of NextOS. Initially intended solely for the company’s own use as an integrated support solution, NextOS proved to be so helpful internally to Nextiva’s 1,000 employees at the time that Nextiva rolled it out to the business community at large.

At the time CEO Tomas Gorny said, "NextOS is more than a product launch. "It marks our transition from a VoIP company to an all-in-one business interaction company. VoIP is to Nextiva as books were to Amazon in its early days. It's just the starting point."

Nextiva currently describes NextOS as bringing all essential customer and team communication tools in one place. It offers features such as tracking customer sentiment, collecting and analyzing interactions from multiple communication channels, and providing real-time insights. NextOS also includes sales productivity tools, virtual workspaces, and automation to help businesses manage the customer journey.

Customer Experience Management

On the far side of the pandemic, the business communications market has shifted to an emphasis on customer experience. Why? Because UC&C has become increasingly commoditized. This emphasis on contact center and CX has been seen across the UC&C landscape, from cloud players 8x8, RingCentral and Dialpad to legacy PBX leaders Avaya and Cisco. Nextiva’s shift in strategy aligns with the market.

In April 2023, Nextiva made its first post-funding acquisition, acquiring Simplify360, an AI customer experience platform based in India. Simplify360 uses AI and automation to help global businesses seamlessly deliver world-class customer support across multiple channels, including email, live chat, social media, online reviews, and e-commerce.

In a January 15, 2024, company blog, “What Is Customer Experience Management & Why It Matters,” Nextiva appears to have begun the process of re-defining itself as a customer experience management (CXM) company. The post, written by Nextiva’s chief of strategic execution Chris Reaburn, included the phrase, “Nextiva’s unified CXM platform.” Reaburn defined the top five features of CXM software as: CRM integration ,customer journey mapping , enterprise analytics and call or screen pop – all of which Nextiva has today. But that’s just four; the last key feature mentioned in the blog is omnichannel customer engagement.

Thrio Acquisition

Until today, Nextiva offered a simple native call center solution, primarily for voice routing. It expanded its offerings through partnership; in 2021, Nextiva partnered with CCaaS leader Five9, “to deliver a new integrated Unified Communications and Cloud Contact Center offering.”

However, partnership may not be enough. Similar to RingCentral’s announcement of RingCX in 2023, it appears Nextiva has decided that having their own CCaaS will offer their customers a more holistic unified CXM solution and the Thrio acquisition is part of building that CXM solution. The other similarity I see is to Sprinklr, whose NASDAQ symbol is CXM.

Both Nextiva and Sprinklr have similar definitions of a customer experience platform. Sprinklr has been addressing the very high end of the market while Nextiva’s customers today are primally small businesses. I’m sure each aspires to serve the mid-market. From where I sit, Nextiva, with its very strong channel organization, looks to have the edge.