Today, Aspect Software acquired Orlando-based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and customer service software company Voxeo in a $150 million deal. Aspect currently offers integrated customer interaction management and workforce optimization solutions, but made the deal to accelerate their delivery of cloud, hybrid and premise-based deployments.
As the market leader in robust cloud, on-premise and hybrid self-service platforms, Voxeo works with 250,000 developers, 45,000 companies and half of the Fortune 100 from their Orlando, Beijing, Cologne and London headquarters. Earlier this week the company spun off Voxeo Labs (now Tropo), which specializes in real-time communication APIs.
Since its founding in 1999 (the year I moved to Orlando), Voxeo has helped nurture growth within Orlando’s tech and startup community of about 60,000 professionals. As the city moves forward with plans for the much-anticipated Creative Village, Voxeo has lent a hand, fostering a “co-working” atmosphere, wherein it shares its 60,000 square-foot office with 10 other tech companies.
This mentality has cultivated a hotbed of creativity and innovation that sets the tone for the city’s future and promises for a lot more innovative tech disruption. Voxeo’s acquisition comes on the heels of Google’s $125 million acquisition of Channel Intelligence to boost product referrals and e-commerce with users. Orlando is heating up as a technology hub, and these two acquisitions demonstrate that would-be entrepreneurs can build successful tech companies here.
Why was Aspect Software a good fit to acquire Voxeo?
Because of the growth synergy between the two companies. This deal is a Reese’s peanut butter cup of ass-kicking awesomeness. Aspect’s the chocolate, and Voxeo is the peanut butter. They just go great together.
Honestly, if I was an Aspect competitor I’d be crying myself to sleep tonight.
This was a 14 year long journey for you. What was the hardest part?
When we started Voxeo the dot-com era was in full effect. I told all the founders we’d put in two or three years and sell. That’s what everyone did then. Instead we went through a first phase of dot-com economic excess, a second phase of post dot-com economic recess, and a third phase of business-growth stress.
The first phase was hard. It was like 100 tons of work. The second phase was 1,000 tons of work; and the growth phase was 10,000 tons.
I wasn’t expecting that.
In retrospect, I realize everyone can do the easy things. Solutions to easy problems aren’t all that valuable. Solutions to hard problems are extremely valuable. If things aren’t getting harder, you’re probably not pushing your growth enough.
How does this effect the team here in Orlando? Will the company be changing names or location?
I don’t know if the name will change or not. I personally doubt that the company will change locations. Orlando offers great opportunities at a great price.
An acquisition like this is a big win for the Orlando tech community. What would you tell other Orlando entrepreneurs they need to do to replicate Voxeo’s success?
a) consider lots of ideas, b) research your ideas to find great (i.e., large) market opportunities, c) have an exit strategy, d) be tenacious, e) always remember that the most valuable thing you can do is make your customers love you, your products, and your support.
Specific to Orlando – I’ve told this before, but I think it bears repeating: I once heard a story about how Silicon Valley works. In Silicon Valley an entrepreneur creates a great business idea, walks up to a tree, and shakes it. A venture capital investor falls out of the tree, reviews the entrepreneurs plan, and invests. At some point the entrepreneur sells his or her company, gets a new idea, and goes and shakes a tree again, repeating the cycle. After repeating this a few times, the entrepreneur climbs up into a tree and waits for someone to shake it.
Their are many entrepreneurs shaking and climbing up trees in Central Florida right now. It make take a year, or two years, or five years – but I believe we will see Central Florida become a top location for technology startups.
What is next for you personally?
Last year Voxeo spun our Voxeo Labs division out into a separate company, which we recently renamed Tropo, Inc. Tropo was not part of the Aspect acquisition, and I’ll be spending a good deal of my time helping Tropo as its Chairman. Voxeo’s prior CFO and I also launched a new startup, Sighthound, which will exit stealth-mode in the next few months. Tropo and Sighthound will be my primary focus, however, I’m also looking for other companies to help with or invest in.
A huge congratulations to the entire Voxeo team!