Indiana software company Interactive Intelligence plans to create 200 jobs in Durham as it expands its cloud-based communications service for businesses and other organizations.
Interactive Intelligence, founded 21 years ago as software developer for call centers, formulated its cloud-computing technology in a clandestine corporate development project based in Durham.
If the company’s cloud-based strategy pans out, the Triangle site, which employs 130 people today, would grow to more than 330 employees housed in two buildings over the next five years.
The expansion was announced Thursday at the company’s Durham site on Emperor Blvd. and included Gov. Pat McCrory and Interactive Intelligence founder and CEO Donald Brown. The company stands to receive more than $1.6 million in state incentives if it meets the jobs target by 2019 and invests $1.2 million in its North Carolina operations.
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Brown told the assembled local public officials and Interactive Intelligence employees about how he persuaded the company’s board about three years ago to invest $100 million to create a new cloud technology from scratch. The Durham project was spun out as a separate company, OrgSpan, that Interactive Intelligence then acquired for $14.1 million in 2014.
“This was a semi-secret skunkworks effort,” Brown said. “It was independent and without pressure from the mother ship.”
Brown said Interactive Intelligence elected to stay in North Carolina over other competing sites in Atlanta, Austin, Nashville and Boston. He also said the financial incentives were a factor in favor of North Carolina, noting that technology workers are more expensive to hire in the Triangle than other suitable sites.
The new jobs, largely for software developers and for mobile technology, will pay $70,000 a year on average.
Wagering the company on the cloud-computing project was a “very risky bet,” Brown said, but necessary to keep the company technologically relevant. Brown, who graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine, had previously co-founded Software Artistry, a customer-support software that was acquired by IBM in 1998 for about $200 million.
Publicly-traded Interactive Intelligence took a loss of $41.4 million last year on sales of $341.3 million. The company is projected to lose $16.4 million and $14.8 million in the next two years, according to research firm Raymond James.
“Interactive Intelligence has been bleeding cash for the better part of two years,” noted Raymond James analyst Tavis McCourt in a May report. “We expect net losses to continue for at least the next 1-2 years as the company invests heavily into the cloud-computer contact center software/unified communications market.”
The company’s financial incentives will come from the North Carolina’s Job Development Investment Grant program. The package was approved Thursday by the state’s Economic Investment Committee.
Founded in 1994, Interactive Intelligence today employs more than 2,000 people at 35 offices worldwide. Its customer roster includes Abbott Labs, Amway, BMW, Citrix Online Division, Eli Lilly, Harvard University and Honda.
The company’s cloud-based communications platform replicates elements of LinkedIn, Skype, Facebook, Dropbox, Slack and WebEx, said chief marketing officer Jeff Platón. The basic service, called Collaborate, is free but comes without technical support.
Interactive Intelligence charges $20 a month per user for Communicate, a service with technical support and additional features, and $100 a month per user for Engage, a full suite of services.