IP Lessons Learned from WeWork: A Unicorn in Pursuit of Technology
In an article we published on this blog in November 2015, we documented the findings of a study of Unicorns (startups with valuations of over $1 billion) and their patent holdings. In that study, we discovered that over 60% of Unicorns held immaterial patent portfolios (10 assets or less). We have subsequently concluded that these Unicorns are likely to fill the gap in their patent holdings through organic filing and patent acquisitions, as they approach an exit event or as they enter a major new market. Fast forward to October 2019, and WeWork, a member of our Unicorn “Class of 2015”, has been in the news under very unpleasant circumstances. The WeWork planned IPO was called off in October 2019, after questions emerged related to, among other things, the viability of the company’s business model following financial and operating disclosures included in its S-1 filing with the SEC. This led to a series of events where, eventually, SoftBank acquired a controlling interest in the company at a valuation of $8 billion, a fraction of its most recent valuation of $47 billion, while in the process removing Adam Neumann, the company’s co-founder and CEO, and buying out his shares.