Orlando, Florida (US): Cisco Systems Inc., which has acquired over 200 companies over the past three decades and boasts of one of the most prolific corporate venture capital arms, plans to spend at least $200 million (₹1,351.7 crore) on start-up investments this year.

It will focus on thriving start-up ecosystems across the world, including India, where it has already made a number of investments.

In an interview with Mint, Cisco’s head of mergers and acquisitions, and venture investments, Rob Salvagno, indicated that the company will continue to be aggressive with acquisitions. “Our innovation strategy intentionally involves outside innovation... We’ve been innovating well internally, but we also recognise that there is a lot of innovation happening outside the walls of Cisco."

Salvagno, also the vice-president of corporate development, spoke on the sidelines of Cisco Live, the company’s flagship annual technology event for customers and partners.

“Whether we’re in bull markets or bear markets, you’re going to see us participate, regardless of where the market is. We’ll continue to be out there," he added.

Cisco’s corporate venture capital arm will actively invest in start-ups within the US, including the Silicon Valley, as well as in other countries, including India, where Cisco has already backed over 20 start-ups.

The venture capital (VC) arm has also invested in a few Indian VCs, most notably IDG Ventures and Stellaris Venture Partners.

“I’m very bullish on India. I see our participation, going forward, only increasing. I think that’s reflective of where the market is going, and that’s also reflective of how Cisco is in a position to leverage that," Salvagno said. “We think that there’s more opportunity for enterprise and B2B (business-to-business) plays in India."

Under the stewardship of Chuck Robbins, who took over from veteran chief executive officer John Chambers in 2015, Cisco has been extremely aggressive with acquisitions—even by its own standards.

Cisco, which has acquired 204 companies since it started out in 1984, has been on an acquisition spree under Robbins.

It has bought 24 companies, mostly in the software space, over the past three years, spending several billions of dollars on each purchase. The firm’s largest acquisition under Robbins was its $3.7-billion buyout of AppDynamics, which was founded by Indian-origin Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jyoti Bansal.

“We’ve been an active acquirer over our entire history. It’s really transformed every aspect of Cisco. Acquisitions have certainly played a role in the growth of the company. Chuck has been really focused on the idea that Cisco needs to transform and transform its business model and when you look at a lot of the recent acquisitions we’ve made, most of them have been software-based. Most of them have offered subscription-based revenue…(Acquisitions) have also changed the culture. One in six of us (at Cisco) actually came in as a result of an acquisition," said Salvagno.

The writer is in Orlando at the invitation of Cisco.

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