We’ve all been in a video conference, especially this year, when the neighbor started mowing the lawn or kids were playing outside your window — and it can get pretty loud. Cisco, which owns the WebEx video conferencing service, wants to do something about that, and late yesterday it announced it was going to acquire BabbleLabs, a startup that can help filter out background noise.
BabbleLabs has a very particular set of skills. It uses artificial intelligence to enhance the speaking voice, while filtering out those unwanted background noises that seem to occur whenever you happen to be in a meeting.
Interestingly enough, Cisco also sees this as a kind of privacy play by removing background conversation. Jeetu Patel, senior vice president and general manager in the Cisco Security and Applications Business Unit, says that this should go a long way toward improving the meeting experience for Cisco users.
“Their technology is going to provide our customers with yet another important innovation — automatically removing unwanted noise — to continue enabling exceptional Webex meeting experiences,” Patel, who was at Box for many years before joining Cisco, recently said in a statement.
In a blog post, BabbleLabs CEO and co-founder Chris Rowen wrote that conversations about being acquired by Cisco began just recently, and the deal came together pretty quickly. “We quickly reached a common view that merging BabbleLabs into the Cisco Collaboration team could accelerate our common vision dramatically,” he wrote.
BabbleLabs, which launched three years ago and raised $18 million, according to Crunchbase, had an interesting, but highly technical idea. That can sometimes be difficult to translate into a viable commercial product, but makes a highly attractive acquisition target for a company like Cisco.
Brent Leary, founder and principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says this acquisition could be seen as part of a broader industry consolidation. “We’re seeing consolidation taking place as the big web conferencing players are snapping up smaller players to round out their platforms,” he said.
He added, “WebEx may not be getting the attention that Zoom is, but it still has a significant presence in the enterprise, and this acquisition will allow them to keep improving their offering.”
The deal is expected to close in the current quarter after regulatory approval. Upon closing, BabbleLabs employees will become part of Cisco’s Collaboration Group.