When Adriane Brown left her position as president and CEO of Honeywell’s transportation division in August 2009, she had spent most of her career in the highly structured, integrated corporate world—in companies that had long histories and specific operating cultures for performance. But when the prospect of working for a small private firm was presented to Brown, she felt that by taking the position she’d not only use the best of what she had learned as a corporate executive, but she’d also get to stretch and develop as a leader.
“What drew me to Intellectual Ventures after 30 years in a corporate environment was my thirst for demonstrating and finding the energy and excitement that come from walking in unfamiliar places and doing new things,” she explains. “It’s perhaps a fearlessness, the thrill of the challenge that makes these new opportunities and adventures possible.”
Founded in 2000 by three technology professionals and an attorney, Intellectual Ventures is a patent portfolio and licensing company that supports inventions through research, funding, and partnerships in a variety of areas including technology, medicine, automotive, energy, communications, and security. Today it is a global company with roughly 825 employees. Its work has drawn fiery criticism in recent years from software firms, watchdog organizations, economists, and others as taking a predatory approach in the acquisition of patents. Yet its client base and revenues continue to grow. It lists more than 30 licensing customers and $2 billion in cumulative licensing revenue.
Brown believes that controversy in business is a natural course for untraditional companies. “I recognized that IV was controversial,” she offers, “but I also felt the integrity of what we were trying to do. I’m on the inside, so I know exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. I see our customers, I see our investors, and I see the kinds of solutions that we’re bringing to the marketplace and I’m OK with that.” Here Brown discusses how she’s managed transitional challenges and how she keeps her team and the company on track.
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