Cisco's John Chambers is investing in a robotic cricket farm

Jordan Novet
John Chambers says he's eager to make more of an impact with the world in cooperation with a variety of start-ups.

Cisco executive chairman John Chambers said Thursday that as he prepares to leave the company he's looking forward to working with start-ups that will have a major impact on the world.

Chambers said in a video broadcast live on Facebook that he meets with around 40 start-ups each month — generally in areas like artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and mobility. But he also waxed poetic on the potential of start-up Aspire Food Group, which operates a robotic farm for edible crickets, and drone analytics company Airware -- both of which Chambers invested in.

"I want to change the world, and hopefully that's what I've been fortunate enough to be a part of here at Cisco, and my intent is to do it another time" with start-ups, Chambers said.

Under Chambers' leadership, Cisco became a giant of enterprise technology, with annual revenue approaching $50 billion. Today he holds seats on the boards of OpenGov, Pindrop Security and Cisco.

In the next decade, nearly all job creation will come from start-ups, Chambers said. Beyond that, Chambers said start-ups provide opportunities to boost inclusion.

"At my start-ups, each one of them decides just the basics for every open [requisition], requiring at least one female be interviewed," he said. One start-up he's worked with went from 23 percent female to 34 percent female in 14 months, he said.

Chambers, 68, has been on Cisco's board since 1993. He was Cisco's CEO from 1995 to 2015, at which point he was replaced by Chuck Robbins. In September he told the company and its board that he would not seek to be re-elected to the company's board at the annual shareholder meeting next week, according to a regulatory filing. The board plans to make Robbins its new board chairman, the filing said.

Last month Cisco stock jumped 5 percent after the company reported earnings for the first quarter of its 2018 fiscal year. Chambers owns 712,736 shares of Cisco stock, down from more than 3 million in 2014.

"I want to see Cisco be very successful," Chambers said in comments directed at employees. "I want to see you change the world with digitization. I want Chuck and the leadership team to do great things and dream great dreams."

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