You have provided crucial support to several Silicon Valley start-ups. What would you say are the key skills needed to be a leading IP consultant in this field?
While my work as an IP valuation and strategy expert is not specifically focused on start-ups, Foresight’s location in Silicon Valley has led to a high concentration of start-up clients looking for help with their funding strategy, as well as business and IP valuation. We have developed a specialty in valuing IP portfolios for funding, which requires a unique combination of understanding the start-up business model and funding ecosystem, as well as understanding how IP assets contribute to overall corporate value. One of our most successful engagements included a start-up in the cleantech space that managed to raise $25 million in Series A funding, based on our valuation of its patent portfolio.
What has been your career highlight to date and why?
Throughout my 25-year career, I have had several highlights relating to the three pillars of my professional work: consulting, education and community service. My consulting highlight was starting Foresight Valuation Group about 10 years ago, building the team and the brand, and growing the company into a leading provider of IP valuation services. My educational highlight was being appointed as a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and developing a brand-new IP management and valuation class, which I have been teaching annually since 2011. To this day, my class is one of the only IP classes to be offered by a top-tier US business school. Finally, I am very active with the Licensing Executives Society (United States and Canada), and my community service highlight relates to being elected chair of the high-tech sector. This role allowed me to contribute to the IP community through programmes dedicated to professional knowledge and networking.
How have client demands changed over the past five years and what impact has this had on your practice?
Working with clients in the IP field requires us to be extremely agile with our consulting business model in order to best align our services with our clients’ budgets, the circumstances of the IP marketplace and the technology landscape, all of which are constantly evolving. Over the past five years we have seen some budgetary constraints that have affected IP valuation engagements, which have generally become shorter in duration and more focused on specific transactions with defined objectives. At the same time, as IP activity is growing in global markets outside the United States, over 50% of our work currently comes from international clients. Finally, given some of the existing pressures on US patents, we are seeing a shift in clients focusing less on patent enforcement and more on technology licensing and other types of monetisation.
What key takeaways have you learned about effective management in your role as president of Foresight?
Managing an IP valuation firm such as Foresight is different from managing a regular business valuation firm. Since IP valuation work requires a combination of legal, technical and business analyses, it is crucial to build a diversified team that has these core competencies. Another important takeaway is the key role of client communications to manage expectations and create a collaborative environment. IP assets are often valued for the very first time when they get to us, and clients may not understand our process or may have unrealistic expectations about the results. We are fully transparent when working with clients, which helps to get them involved and keep them engaged throughout the process.
What changes would you like to see made to the US IP commercialisation landscape – and do you expect them to happen in the near future?
The US patent market has seen some turmoil over the past decade, as the aftermath of the America Invents Act and a slew of Supreme Court patent decisions have created a validity crisis for patents in certain sectors (particularly in software-related industries). This crisis put a dent in patent enforcement, which until then had been the leading patent monetisation model. Until the patent pendulum swings back, I would like to see US IP commercialisation activities diversify away from patent licensing into other types of transactions, including technology licensing, start-up spin-offs and transactions involving digital assets (eg, data and tokens). Working as an IP valuation expert, I have already seen these types of deals in the pipeline, so I think that these changes are imminent and will take place throughout the next decade.
Efrat Kasznik is president of Foresight Valuation Group, a Silicon Valley-based IP valuation and strategy firm. She is also a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she teaches master of business administration (MBA) and executive classes. Ms Kasznik has over 20 years’ experience helping leading technology companies with IP valuations in support of licensing deals, technology acquisitions, M&A transactions, tax reporting and fundraising. She frequently serves as a testifying expert in legal disputes involving IP and start-up valuations and damages. Ms Kasznik served as chair of the high-tech sector of the Licensing Executives Society (United States and Canada) and has been recognised as a top IP strategist in the IAM 300 every year since 2013. Ms Kasznik holds the MBA degree from University of California, Berkeley.
Click here to see her IAM 300 2020 profile.