Feature Video

People@Cisco: Rob Salvagno

by Liza Meak

Rob Salvagno, head of Corporate Development and investments at Cisco, thrives when he can ride the next wave of innovation.

When Rob Salvagno, Cisco’s head of Corporate Development and Cisco Investments went to college, he originally set his sights on a career in medicine, not technology and business. His vision changed after sitting in an economics class as a technology company was about to go public. That’s when he realized he wanted to be in on the ground floor when the internet was starting to explode.

We’re essentially investing in what we think will turn out to be some of the best startups in the industry He was excited and knew early on that technology had the power to change the world. That’s how Salvagno ended up at Cisco nearly twenty years ago. He believes Cisco is now at another inflection point for innovation, both internally and externally. “We’re essentially investing in what we think will turn out to be some of the best startups in the industry,” says Salvagno. Cisco has been investing in startups for nearly three decades, and celebrated more than 200 acquisitions. Knowing his team is responsible for bringing so many talented people brings Salvagno immense satisfaction. “When you look around the company today, one in five people that are at Cisco came in as a result of an acquisition. So those people may be focused on internal innovation today, but they brought a unique and special outside mindset,” Salvagno says.

See also: Cisco creates a VC firm from Scratch

As someone who has spent most of his career at Cisco, Salvagno has the unique perspective of seeing how things has evolved and changed. “Outside innovation is a fundamental part of the culture here at Cisco, but it’s not to replace internal innovation. Cisco’s unique strategy involves doing both,” Salvagno says. 

Cisco is also focused on bringing about more diversity in the startup culture. Salvagno acknowledges the industry has a long way to go but is committed to taking concrete action to make sure more women and minorities are represented when it comes to funding and investing in startups. “We’re investing in funds that are focused specifically in female led, or minority led ventures,” Salvagno says. “We fundamentally think that’s an underserved area but at the same time can generate a differentiated return. We want to play our part to help improve that.”   

See also: What's on your desk, Derek Idemoto?

And while it is important for Cisco’s investment and business development team to make strategic decisions that benefit the company, Salvagno is also committed to the startups. “We want to create a value proposition for our portfolio companies that no other investor can,” Salvagno says. “I've got a team that is 100 percent dedicated to that. They’re plugging our portfolio companies into conversations with our customers at huge events like Cisco Live.”

It’s things like this that makes Salvagno excited to come to work every day. “I feel blessed that we are just one part of the broader team that makes this all work, Salvagno says.” This isn’t a corporate development thing. This is actually a Cisco thing and everybody at Cisco shares a part of that success.”