Interview Of The Week

Interview Of The Week: Joel Curado

Joel Curado is a technology strategist for Cisco’s Corporate Strategy and Innovation Group in Switzerland. His focus is identifying new technology trends and developing new go-to-market models for the Internet of Things space, while engaging with corporates, startups and accelerators to identify co-partnership and co-development opportunities.

Curado previously lead the company’s worldwide deployment of smart city solutions and was responsible for launching new solutions in the IoT smart city domain within Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities Organization. He has a degree and a postgraduate degree in Economics from Lisbon University — ISEG and ISCTE-IUL- and specialized in Digital Disruption at IMD, Switzerland.

Curado recently spoke to The Innovator about how Cisco is helping startups and corporates co-develop next generation products that solve customers’ challenges.

Q: What does your job entail?

JC: Creating new products and new strategies for how we can take these products to market. I am part of a new technologies team within Cisco’s Corporate Strategic Innovation Group that identifies new technologies or trends such as edge computing, artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain or cybersecurity and translates them into new products by either developing them in-house or co-developing with startups or other companies around the world. We do this by leveraging our network of innovation centers around the world in London, Paris, Berlin, Seoul, Tokyo, Perth, Rio and Toronto. These innovation centers have vertical expertise.

Q: How specifically do you work with big corporates?

JC: We leverage our network of innovation centers to showcase our current Cisco technology but also the work we are doing on innovation and what we are doing with startups. We discuss with our customer’s their problems and look at how Cisco or a startup can be a part of finding a solution. It is a phased approach. We set up an exploration session to identify problems, share the work we are doing and then move to a more in-depth engagement involving scope and design, present proposals and then get the joint companies to agree on terms for a roadmap and proof of concepts. We also identify in our proof of concepts an ROI analysis to give further proof points and value to our joint initiatives.

Q: Can you give a concrete example?

JC: Recently a big European enterprise posed a problem in the area of fraud and copycats and asked how we could eliminate it. At the same time, from a logistics standpoint, this company was interested in organizing its assets using colored QR codes because it would multiply 100-fold the quantity of combinations and help it to be more agile when organizing inventory. The challenge was in measuring different spectrums of light differently. We used machine learning algorithms — a form of artificial intelligence — to teach the software to identity the real color. From a logistics perspective this provides a new, faster way to map all the products in a warehouse. We were able to achieve 99.8% accuracy and we are moving forward with the project. We are starting the “productization” journey, figuring out how to scale and the go to market strategy.

Q: What are some other ways corporates are using new technologies to improve their businesses?

JC: We are leveraging edge computing today for customers who want to reduce strain in the network, compute data remotely and optimize datacenters; we are using blockchain technologies to improve logistics; and we apply artificial intelligence (AI ) to help clients more efficiently communicate with customers and provide them with personalized experiences. Today, cyber security is also on the top of big corporates agendas since there is a need to more quickly detect intrusions or malware attacks in order to protect their business and their customers.

Q: What is the best way for big corporates to work with startups?

JC: It is best to work with startups that are past an initial seed stage, look for a startup that has market proof of their concept and a minimally viable product and is getting sales and customer feedback/traction. This is a strong indicator from a development standpoint that they found a market need and have gotten a positive reaction. Then you need to ask ‘ does it fit with your own product portfolio? Does it complement an already existing product or is this a totally new approach that would fit into our portfolio?’ You also need to look at the team. What is their expertise? You see stories about college dropouts that all of a sudden come out of nowhere and have phenomenal success but industry expertise, like PhDs or industry experts with rock solid knowledge and tons of experience, is also key. Mixing passion with knowledge in a startup is a good path. When engaging with a startup you need to build a relationship and a common path of agreement so there is a clear win- win for both parties.

Q: Cisco is known for being one of the few companies that successfully integrates startups it has acquired. What is the secret?

JC: When we acquire new companies we work very closely with our integration and M&A teams to make sure we make the right decisions in the terms of structure and organization. Some companies ,when acquired, are absorbed into the business units or lines of business but can be allowed to run independently from a business/culture perspective. This allows them to continue to feel their uniqueness and keep a startup-like culture.

We also invest in startups by working with them in different ways. If a startup’s technology is aligned to Cisco’s we invite them to work with us to create new solutions or complement existing technology. For example, we had an IoT startup at our openBerlin innovation center that co-developed a building management system solution and installed around 3,000 sensors to monitor key building parameters.

Cisco just announced its Kinetic Internet of Things (IoT) platform together with “The network, intuitive” in June, our biggest announcement in a decade, which will help corporates transform their businesses. Our engagement with startups is to ensure that we also keep innovating and stay on top of the game.

About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.