Every company has to evolve to remain viable. From enterprise brands putting in work to break down internal silos to startups struggling to grow from a handful of people to a global organization, continually looking at where you are and the work you need to prioritize to get where you’re going is essential to long-term success.
Braze is no different. We’ve seen phenomenal growth over the last nine years, exceeding $100 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) and growing to more than 500 employees across five global offices. But while we’ve come a long way from the days when it was just our three cofounders in a WeWork in New York, that doesn’t mean that we can rest on our laurels. Reaching our long-term goals means identifying areas for additional investment and improvement and putting in the time and resources needed to make real changes. From ensuring that our software platform achieves best-in-class scalability and security to doubling down on our diversity and inclusion initiatives, these efforts reflect the best of Braze and have led to some of our proudest achievements.
Today, I’d like to talk to you about one of those areas of investment and improvement—namely, the successful launch of the Braze patent program.
How We Built the Braze Patent Program
Back in 2018, Braze had two patents, both invented by our cofounders during the early days of the company (that is, back when we were still known as Appboy). That’s on the low side for a startup of our size and stature—about 50% of private startups valued at more than $1 billion (often known as “Unicorns”) have 10+ patents and research suggests that brands with a higher number of patents see higher valuations in the public markets.
Why only two patents? In large part, it was about priorities. While our platform has long been built around ongoing innovation and includes a number of proprietary messaging tools and other unique features—including Content Cards and Push Stories—we hadn’t historically prioritized seeking patents for our technology. We knew we had significant work to do if we wanted to boost our number of patents and initiated a new effort designed to streamline the process of identifying patentable innovations, preparing patent applications, and building up our collection of patents.
Along the way, we figured out our process and learned about what it takes to build a successful program. Here are some of our key takeaways:
1. Put Together a Team
Obtaining patents isn’t the purview of any particular person or team. To run an effective patent program, you need cross-team collaboration to consistently generate ideas for future patents and to project manage the application process.
At Braze, we put together a patent committee that includes representatives from our Legal, Product, Engineering, and Growth teams, as well as members of our senior leadership, and ensured that the group met on a monthly basis. This approach ensures that we have technical, legal, and strategic insights at our disposal at every part of the patent process and allows us to make decisions and advance our goals in a quick, sustainable fashion.
2. Develop a Clear Strategy
Before building out your patent program, it’s important to figure out why your company wants to invest in patents. While patents can be used to increase the value of your company in the eyes of investors, shareholders, and partners, most brands look beyond that aspect of the patent process and prioritize either an “offensive” or “defensive” approach. If your company takes an “offensive” approach, you’re building out your patent portfolio with the goal of taking action against other companies who are violating your intellectual property or creating licensing opportunities that can drive additional revenue. Taking a “defensive” approach, on the other hand, means collecting patents to protect against the threat posed by competitors who claim to replicate your proprietary technology.
3. Find the Right Partner
When you kick off your patent program, you’ll quickly learn that patent applications are written in their own, very specific language. If your company doesn’t have dedicated patent lawyers on staff, you’ll need to look beyond your organization to find someone who speaks the language, so to speak. Your patent attorney will work with your in-house inventors to evaluate the patentability of their inventions, draft applications, and respond to Office actions as they occur.
As with any other outside expert, finding the right person is about more than just ensuring that they have the necessary expertise to assist your company. You need to make sure that this is someone that a wide variety of internal stakeholders and inventors can work with effectively.
4. Set an Ambitious (But Achievable) Goal
While much of the patent process is at the mercy of the government agency that issues patents, it’s still very helpful to have clear goals about what you’re trying to achieve (and how fast). With benchmarks in place, it’s much easier to measure the progress your patent program is making and to keep the momentum going. By the same token, it’s also important to celebrate your wins when they happen and to reward your inventors for their hard work.
At Braze, we set ourselves the ambitious goal of filing a patent application every month in order to build a robust patent portfolio that highlighted the innovative work being done by our team and protected our technology against infringement. While this was a significant amount of work, it also made it possible to scale up our patent portfolio quickly and effectively, helping to ensure the success of the program.
5. Don’t Lose Sight of Innovation
Patents start with ideas. And successful patent programs never lose sight of that fact. By ensuring that your patent committee is open to ideas from all corners of your company, you can significantly expand the number of potential patents that can be explored—after all, patentable inventions can come from anyone with an idea that is novel and non-obvious, not just engineers.
Over the past two years, the effort put in by our inventors and our patent committee paid off: We now have 11 patents, a 450% increase since 2018, with more (fingers-crossed!) on the way. These patents cover various aspects of the Braze platform’s messaging capabilities and speak to the innovative processes we use to support our customers’ customer engagement efforts.
To learn more about the Braze product and the work and strategy that goes into building and updating it, check out “Mapping The Roadmap: Understanding The Methodology Behind Braze Product Development.”