The News: Cisco has announced that it intends to acquire U.S. based, privately held Socio Labs, an event technology platform that provides event organizers with the tools they need to host in-person, virtual, and hybrid events of all sizes. Cisco’s Socio Labs acquisition is expected to advance Cisco’s vision to deliver inclusive experiences during in-person, virtual, and hybrid events by expanding Webex’s capabilities with features like live streaming, sponsorship, participant networking, advanced analytics, and continuous attendee engagement before, during and after events. Read more from Cisco here.
Cisco’s Acquisition of Socio Labs Points to the Future of Hybrid Event Management Solutions
Analyst Take: Cisco’s Social Labs acquisition comes as no real surprise. The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 changed the nature of events and conferences, perhaps forever. In 2020 and virtually overnight event planners were forced to adopt a virtual-only format a trend that continued into 2021. Today, vaccinations and other mitigation measures are now driving a global recovery that will soon allow in-person events to gradually resume. As event planners think about the next evolution of event attendance, a new, hybrid event model of in-person and virtual attendance, is emerging. This is the context of Cisco’s acquisition of Socio Labs. The addition of Socio Labs to Cisco’s Webex ecosystem will expand Webex Events beyond meetings, webinars, and webcasts to also include large-scale, multi-session hybrid events and conferences. This will, I believe, help Cisco deliver a best-in-class hybrid event management solution to the market.
Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco Security and Collaboration, explains: “The future of events, like the future of work, will be hybrid. With that comes increased complexity of creating inclusive experiences, and meaningful and measurable interactions for both virtual and in-person attendees. Socio Labs offers Webex powerful technology to provide customers with an unparalleled hybrid event management solution to engage participants whether they join in person or virtually.”
Per Javed Khan, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Cisco Collaboration, “Hybrid events require a fundamentally different product. Event organizers need a solution that enables pre-event capabilities like ticketing, registration, and agenda builders, coupled with in-event features like high-quality webcast, chat and audience participation, and networking. And once the event is over, event planners want to make sure they stay in touch with attendees, nurture relationships and get insights about event participation.”
Cisco’s acquisition of Socio Labs complements the company’s recent acquisition of Slido, the audience engagement tool. By combining Webex, Slido, and Socio Labs, Cisco should be able to create a comprehensive, cost-effective, and user-friendly event management solution that spans a broad range of hybrid event management capabilities through a single portal.
Among the advantages that users will be able to leverage from this new solution are Webex’s virtual meeting features like background noise removal, speech enhancement, gesture recognition, immersive share, real-time translation, and customized stage layouts; Slido’s audience engagement capabilities like polling, trivia, gamification, and Q&A features; and Socio Labs’ overarching hybrid event technology platform which manages end-to-end in-person and hybrid events from registration to post-event analytics.
Overall, the addition of Socio Labs to Cisco’s portfolio will allow event organizers to provide attendees with the same inclusive experience whether they attend in person or virtually, no matter the event’s size, type, or format.
The acquisition, which is of course subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to close in Cisco’s Q4 fiscal year 2021. Upon completion of the acquisition, the Socio Labs team should join the Webex Customer Experience team led by Omar Tawakol, vice president and general manager, which reports to the Security & Collaboration Group led by Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager. The timing of this acquisition is obviously critical, as hybrid events are already beginning to be announced for 2022 and are likely to become the new norm for the foreseeable future.
Aside from the obvious and immediate need for a multilayered solution of this type in the market, Cisco Collaboration’s proven track record of handling complex collaboration, meeting and event needs both securely and at scale, as well as its massive enterprise footprint, should give it a considerable advantage over would-be competitors.
I like Cisco’s modular approach, which combines Webex, Slido, and Socio Labs, all three proven best-in-class solutions, to address specific elements of the overall experience and management of hybrid events, but the most elegant and useful aspect of Cisco’s overall vision, in my view, is that it will simplify planning and execution for event organizers by providing them with a unified, single-vendor tech stack. This approach is a far cry from the alternative, which would leave even organizers to try and cobble together a disjointed solutions stack, and hope for the best. With so much that can go wrong with that kind of approach, especially during live events, what Cisco is offering here isn’t just performance at scale but also the operational cost savings that come from an integrated stack. And with Webex’s capabilities across hardware, software, SaaS, and support, perhaps the most valuable feature Cisco is offering with this solution is simply peace of mind.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
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The original version of this article was first published on Futurum Research.