Happy Birthday TrademarkNow!
TrademarkNow is a company focused on transforming the working lives of professionals in the industry by virtue of creating the possibility of instant access to information about trademarks and their owners all over the globe. We envision a world in which search and watch reports contain not only comprehensive results but are ranked in order of threat level to permit speed in an industry in which faster responses are increasingly critical. We are committed to the mission of providing the kind of access to the key data that our clients, colleagues and professionals would have dreamed of - if they had thought it was possible.
As we celebrate the 5th Birthday of TrademarkNow, we take a look back at the inspiration and history behind TrademarkNow. Our CEO, Mikael Kolehmainen, explains how and why he and the other founders developed the platform.
What were you doing before TrademarkNow?
I was a trademark attorney at a boutique IP law firm for 8 years and did some small angel investing on the side.
Where and how did the 4 founders meet each other?
I met our CTO, Matti Kokkola, through a mutual friend. Matti then brought Heikki Vesalainen on board and he became our Chief Architect. I attended a talk on AI and trademarks at a post-graduate law student email group. The woman who would become our Chief Scientist, Anna Ronkainen, was speaking at the event and I met her afterwards.
Can you remember the moment you decided to go for it?
I had just made an exit from one of the angel investments I made. At the same time, my employer was going through an acquisition that would have meant adjusting to a new way of things in any case. So, everything seemed to line up to take the leap.
What inspired the idea?
Clients frequently asked for a faster way of doing things especially in the clearance space where TrademarkNow got started. They had some pretty simple requests, but with the legacy systems available, you could not fulfil them without burning through your client’s budget. On top of this, a lot of the clearance work is very routine - finding a way to collect data, collecting the data, analysing the data and repeating the same process day in, day out. I am also quite a big sci-fi fan, so the idea of using AI to figure out a more modern day approach came quite naturally.
How long has the company been in development?
Matti and I had started working on it already in 2011. The rest of the founders joined in early 2012 and the company was started in the Summer of 2012. Anna had been researching how AI applies to trademarks for about 15 years before that, which got us off to a flying start!
What milestones has it met?
130+ customers, 35 employees and an investment round from tier 1 VCs.
How did you get up and running?
We started coding at Start-up Sauna, got Lifeline Ventures and Tekes interested and got our first office at Regus in Helsinki. I had an office without windows with calming red walls.
Why would a qualified lawyer give it up and take the risk - considering the money lawyers make?
Being a lawyer was not really what I enjoyed doing. Waking up and going to work each day just got more and more difficult each day, and being unhappy at work spilt over to my social and family life. It spiralled into an existence that was a really long way from what the 18 year old me had hoped for. It was time to take a long, hard look at the bigger picture. So, I started trail running with vengeance, lost tons of weight and did not go out or even meet friends really for about 18 months while I was processing all this. As part of the angel investing, I was serving on a couple of boards, and enjoyed that work tremendously. I have always been a bit of a non-conformist and come from a long line of entrepreneurs. I have always enjoyed all things business, so after all the other things lined up in life, it made sense to combine fixing the things that I had found most tedious in my work and the business element.
What was the biggest challenge in your early years of TrademarkNow and how did you solve it?
I think those challenges are similar for every young business. Funding is the critical challenge solved only by successful fundraising.
Future goals and ambitions?
Having TrademarkNow eventually serve as the ultimate platform for all things trademarks, and at least doubling revenues year on year going forward.
Looking back now, what advice would you give to others starting on a similar path?
Learn to looove fundraising. :)
What are you most looking forward to in 2017?
Introducing more features, better coverage and personally also closing fundraise and growing as per plan.
One of the many challenges inherent in this industry is the lack of visibility and information. Many professionals admit that they are often choosing between what is considered 'best practice' and what is a realistic option for their clients or the companies they represent. Comprehensive data on trademark applications, industry trends, Nice Class populations and global activity that would enhance the advice they can give, has been difficult to come by. As the years have passed, legacy providers have consistently failed to embrace this challenge and provide practitioners with viable alternatives.