Cisco acquires an AI company but loses a software executive

Cisco feathered its artificial intelligence nest with Tuesday's announcement that it was buying privately held Accompany for $270 million in cash and stock, but that news was tempered by the departure of a key software executive.

In its press release announcing the Accompany deal, Cisco said that Rowan Trollope, senior vice president and general manager of Cisco's application group, was leaving the company, effective tomorrow.  Trollope's name subsequently surfaced as the new CEO of cloud startup Five9. 

Trollope was instrumental in Cisco's transition from a pure hardware company into more of a software company. Five9 cited Trollope's membership on Cisco's executive leadership team and his leadership of the Application Group, which is a $5 billion business. 

During his tenure, Trollope reinvented Cisco's collaboration business by moving it towards a software as a service (SaaS) model, according to the Five9 press release.

"Rowan is a proven superstar and one of Silicon Valley’s most sought-after executives," said Five9 Chairman Mike Burkland in a prepared statement. "He is a seasoned veteran with an extensive track record of creating value, driving innovation and scaling large technology organizations."

Accompany will be blended into Cisco's Collaboration Technology Group, which will be led Accompany founder and CEO Amy Changwhose new title at Cisco will be senior vice president of the collaboration group.

Chang is familiar with Cisco after serving as a member of its board of directors since 2016. Chang resigned from her position on Cisco's board on Tuesday in conjunction with the sale of Accompany. Prior to founding Accompany, Chang was the head of product for Google’s ad measurement and reporting division.

“Amy has proven to be an effective and innovative leader through her years as an entrepreneur, an engineer, and CEO, and I couldn’t be more pleased to have her and the Accompany team join Cisco,” said Chuck Robbins, Cisco chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Together, we have a tremendous opportunity to further enhance AI and machine learning capabilities in our collaboration portfolio and continue to create amazing collaboration experiences for customers.”

Accompany uses AI to uses artificial intelligence to create databases of people and companies. Cisco said it would use Accompany's AI expertise in its collaboration portfolio, which will include providing user and company profile information for its WebEx meeting platform.