A company which rents brainpower
Xinova, founded in October 2015, is a Seattle-based company which rents out brainpower to solve problems. Previously known as Intellectual Ventures Invention Development Fund, Xinova's massive invention network of thousands of innovators range from molecular biologists to metallurgists to home decorators to polymer chemists. Some of Xinova's clients include the likes of PepsiCo, CoffeeFlour, Robotic VISION Technologies, Eden Research, AkzoNobel and so on.
Xinova's profitability, funding and revenue
Xinova isn't profitable as yet, but has 30 customers so far, and "10s of millions" in revenue, according to banking veteran and CEO Thomas Kang. Xinova, which is backed by Invention Development Fund investors, is now looking to raise $50 million in subsequent funding rounds.
How does Xinova work?
Here's how Xinova works. Xinova's clients pose problems they want solutions to. Xinova turns these problems into "request(s) for invention", and shares the document online with its innovators' network. Xinova then picks the best solutions and presents them to their client. When an inventor's idea is selected, Xinova pays him/her upfront, patents the idea, and works out a profit-sharing arrangement with the inventor.
Xinova is bound to be a success, says executive VP
"We're seeing it every day. I travel in an Uber…ride-sharing. I'm staying in an Airbnb…home-sharing. We like to think of this as innovation-sharing," said Xinova's Executive Vice President Paul Levins, who is confident of Xinova's success.
Why the separation from Inventor's Development Fund?
Xinova's precursor, the Invention Development Fund, was founded by ex-Microsoft executive Nathan Myrhold in 2008 for his company Intellectual Ventures (IV). However, IV developed a reputation as a "patent troll" which bought patents cheap, and made money by suing companies which used its intellectual property without permission. Xinova, which will still collect patents, aims to make its money from its inventor network, not lawsuits.
How Xinova's model is different from IV
"It [Xinova] shifts the core competency away from the lawyers and back to the inventors," said patent attorney Jeffrey Schox, emphasizing the fundamental difference between Intellectual Ventures Invention Development Fund and Xinova.
Some of Xinova's successful projects
Among its several ongoing projects, Xinova has found hundreds of solutions (undisclosed details) for beverage and snacks giant PepsiCo. Xinova provided a solution to prevent the accumulation of dags (deposits of of dirt, dung and hair) on animals, for Meat and Livestock Australia, a public research authority. It provided a storage tank solution for corrosive gas for a Chinese energy company (name undisclosed).
Xinova "unrivaled", says PepsiCo executive
"They [Xinova] are unrivaled in their ability to conceptualize non-obvious solutions," said John McIntyre, the head of research and development for PepsiCo's global snacks business.