Armed with a robust intellectual property (IP) strategy, technology company Affle has successfully navigated the fast-changing landscape of mobile commerce over the past 10 years.
Set up in 2005, the Singapore-based company has more than 300 employees across eight offices worldwide. Affle boasts big-name international investors such as Microsoft and D2C, a joint venture between NTT Docomo and Dentsu.
Affle is a global mobile audience intelligence platform for leading commerce marketplaces, app developers, marketers and publishers.
AN EARLY START
The company initiated its first IP application process within the first six months of operations in 2006, in the United States and Europe.
“Without IP, it is difficult to differentiate and sustain the competitive advantage in a fast growing market which would certainly attract competitors,” says Mr Anuj Khanna Sohum, Affle’s founder and chief executive officer.
Without IP, it is difficult to differentiate and sustain the competitive advantage in a fast growing market which would certainly attract competitors.
ANUJ KHANNA SOHUM
Affle’s founder and chief executive officer
Having an IP strategy in place early on contributed greatly to the company’s success.
“An IP strategy is an integral part of the company business plan and it is a must-have for any technology- or innovation-driven company,” says Mr Sohum, adding that it helps a company to differentiate itself from the competition, especially important in the intensely competitive mobile market, where new innovations attract immediate scrutiny.
“We applied for a few patents to strengthen our patent and innovations portfolio from year one,” says Mr Anuj, a serial entrepreneur who has built three tech companies so far.
“We spent a lot of time on product plans, roadmaps and execution of our IP strategies, which were formed through an iterative approach,” he adds.
Affle has built a fast-growing mobile platform business over the last few years by offering app development, app marketing, and app analytics services for its mobile audience as a service platform.
Affle’s IP pertains to in-app mobile ads, mobile search enablement and mobile commerce enablement. The company’s innovations enable mobile audience intelligence based optimisations of user experiences, marketing, commerce and related recommendations within native mobile apps.
Mr Anuj says that the IP application process in the US and Europe was costly and time consuming, and there were challenges along the way.
“We faced two key challenges — finding the right professional partner for each jurisdiction in the US and Europe, and the initial patent searches to establish our unique IP,” he recalls.
It took more than six years before Affle received its US patent, and the company is still awaiting patent rights in Europe.
In Singapore, Affle turned to IP ValueLab, a subsidiary of the Intellectual Property of Singapore (IPOS), for support and advice to fully harness its products’ IP potential.
“IP ValueLab made us more aware of the support and possibilities around IP assets and related financing opportunities including government grants as well as valuation of IP and commercialisation of IP, ” he says.
SUITE OF SOLUTIONS
“IP ValueLab is committed to help businesses bring their innovative ideas to the global market,” says Ms Michelle Tan, director of IP ValueLab.
“IP can provide businesses with a strong foundation for their business success. Businesses can capitalise on innovation in the global marketplace, differentiate from their competitors and succeed in a competitive environment,” she adds.
To help companies such as Affle gain a foothold in the global marketplace, IP ValueLab actively advocates stronger awareness on the importance of and competitive advantages that intellectual property avails to businesses.
It works closely with businesses to understand their business plans and matches them with a suite of solutions in innovation and IP management.
“IP ValueLab also helps businesses to access funding through the IP Financing programme. Asset light, IP rich businesses can use granted patents, trademarks and copyrights as collaterals to access loan facilities,” she adds.
For Affle, IP has served as a growth booster.
“Our IP has influenced our products and direction and our growth as a company. It has won us the respect of our customers, investors, partners and employees, as well as our competitors,” says Mr Anuj. He advises small and medium-sized companies to consider leveraging IP for their business growth.
“Apart from monetisation, having patents attached to a company’s products helps build organisational pride and increase customer as well as investor confidence,” he adds.
IP ValueLab is the enterprise engagement arm of IPOS and helps IP-ready businesses compete globally through solutions in innovation and IP management. It educates companies on the importance and competitive edge presented in IP, sets industry best practices, and facilitates IP valuation and fin ancing.
IP ValueLab is a subsidiary of the Intellectual Property of Singapore, and serves as a partner in delivering solutions in innovation and IP management. It aims to help IP-ready businesses compete globally through innovation.
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