Cisco Investments commits $150 million to start-up companies

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Cisco's corporate venture-capital arm said it would deploy $150 million to start-up companies over the next two to three years, accelerating its investments into areas such as Internet-enabled communication between objects.

That theme, also known as the Internet of Things, will complement other Cisco investing themes such as big data and connecting mobile devices, Cisco senior vice president for corporate development Hilton Romanski told reporters Wednesday.

The amount, coupled with $100 million that Cisco said in January it would deploy to start-ups in those areas, puts Cisco Investments on par with mid-sized venture capital firms.

San Jose-based Cisco, known for networking equipment, also announced two new investments in the Internet of Things. It took part in a $7 million investment in Everything, a London-based company that connects products to the Internet.

It also joined a $14.5 million funding round for Ayla Networks, a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company that helps companies monitor devices using the Internet.

The networking giant said it would increase its investment in Alchemist Accelerator, a San Jose, Calif.-based incubator for start-up companies, with a goal of supporting companies working on the Internet of Things.

Critics of corporate venture investing say the company's involvement can sometimes taint a start-up, for example, by putting off competing companies from using the start-up's products. But fans say the imprimatur from a big established company helps start-ups build credibility.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)