Cisco is tapping celebrities RuPaul and Amal Clooney to make WebEx look cooler as it takes on Zoom

  • Cisco is making a bid to make Webex look cool with some help from drag queen Ru Paul and human rights lawyer and activist Amal Clooney.
  • Ru Paul and Clooney will be the main speakers at Webex One, the video platform's virtual conference to be held December 8 to 9.
  • WebEx faces stiff competition from Zoom and Microsoft Teams, both of which have taken the spotlight in the pandemic-driven remote-work boom.
  • "Amal Clooney, and RuPaul stand for very specific things around equality in the world, around making sure that human rights are protected, and ensuring you can be different and be proud of the fact that you're different," Jeetu Patel, head of Cisco's Webex business, told Business Insider.

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While Cisco's Webex has seen a surge in usage during the pandemic, the 25-year-old video conferencing platform is still widely seen as the older, uncool alternative to Zoom.

Cisco's hoping to change that with some star power. The tech giant is holding a big Webex conference on December 8th and 9th headlined by drag queen RuPaul and human rights attorney Amal Clooney.

"Amal Clooney and RuPaul stand for very specific things around equality in the world, around making sure that human rights are protected, and ensuring you can be different and be proud of the fact that you're different," Jeetu Patel, head of Cisco's Webex business, told Business Insider.

"We didn't think there would be two better people to actually carry the message forward in a very, very symbolic way," he added.

Founded in 1995, Webex became one of the first leading video conferencing platforms during the dot-com boom.  The company was acquired by Cisco in 2007. 

Clooney is one of the most respected and well-known human rights attorneys and activists in the world. (She's married to actor George Clooney.) RuPaul is a world-famous entertainer and drag queen who actually appeared in a popular Webex TV commercial in 2000.

"The fact that RuPaul also was one of the folks on one of the people that had actually worked with us many, many years ago, was just icing on the cake," Patel, who served as Box's chief strategy officer before joining Cisco in August.

Like most major platforms, Webex saw a spike in traffic due the pandemic and shift to remote work. The platform reported 600 million meeting participants last month, a two-fold year-over-year jump, Patel said.

That's nowhere near the usage spikes reported by Zoom, which has become one of the most popular videoconferencing tool during the pandemic. Zoom has reported 300 million meeting participants (different from daily active users, which the company has not recently shared) daily. Microsoft, too, has been a major beneficiary, with its own Teams app recently hitting 115 million daily active users.

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