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From engineering to successful entrepreneur, with a Cambridge focus

17 February 2021

The article at a glance

Cambridge Judge Business School alumnus Christian Bunke (MBA 2000) was born in Sweden, studied in Australia and now lives in the UK, …

Cambridge Judge Business School alumnus Christian Bunke (MBA 2000) was born in Sweden, studied in Australia and now lives in the UK, where he runs two international companies and supports various startups.

Christian Bunke.
Christian Bunke

Christian Bunke completed his Cambridge MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School nearly two decades ago, and though – with apologies to The Eagles – he may have checked out, but he never really left.

These days, Christian – who calls himself a “startup enthusiast” rather than a serial entrepreneur – is a mentor on the Accelerate Cambridge programme of the Entrepreneurship Centre at Cambridge Judge, where he advises companies on the commercialisation of intellectual property and disruptive innovation.

So far, he has worked with several dozen startups since he joined the programme in 2012. He also is working with some current Cambridge MBA students, who will complete their Cambridge Venture Project with Aalbun, a legaltech software company that Christian founded in Cambridge in 2015.

Aalbun helps companies with legal services such as patenting, trademarking, design registration and copywriting. “The company has a more automated and technology-focused way of offering these services, which is handy during the coronavirus pandemic,” Christian says. The consulting project focused on US market entry strategy and Aalbun’s future service offering.

“It is great to be able to give back and benefit ourselves from the talent at Cambridge Judge,” says Christian, a native of Lund in Sweden.

Following the completion of his engineering degree in Australia and working as a patent attorney in Sweden, in 2000 he started his Cambridge MBA studies, and it was in this period – during the dot-crash of 2001 – that he developed an intense focus in startups.

“One of the MBA consulting projects that I was working on involved commercialisation of intellectual property as part of a case study on SmartBead, a spinout from the famous Cavendish Labs, University of Cambridge, and a startup I later joined,” he says. “I was combining my engineering, legal IP expertise, and now CJBS business thinking into how to build businesses, and I thought: ‘this is a real sweet spot’.

“Also, my lectures on entrepreneurship, marketing and innovation management were insightful,” he adds, as was advice from Cambridge Judge experts including Jaideep Prabhu, Professor of Marketing, and importance of team skills by Philip Stiles, University Senior Lecturer in Corporate Governance.

After four years at SmartBead, Christian worked in London for CPA, a world’s leading intellectual property management and technology company where he focused on Indian outsourcing. In 2008 Christian was headhunted to join CVON, a mobile advertisement startup founded by Mr Pekka Ala-Pietilä, former President of Nokia Corporation, where they built a large patent portfolio that was sold to Apple three years later.

In 2011 Christian founded his own company Basck, a firm focusing on intellectual property in fast-growing companies that now operates in five countries – the UK, Poland, Sweden, Brazil and India, employing 75 people.

“We have worked with around 500 companies in the UK and abroad including a few unicorns” he says, including first ever electric vehicle company Detroit Electric and the makeup brand of Pat McGrath who received her Damehood in 2021.”

Five years later Christian co-founded Aalbun which he describes as “like an Airbnb or Uber of IP”, backed by venture-capital funding. Aalbun’s aim is to “democratise IP and make these legal services accessible to people, make it more cost-effective and use best practice.” The company now has a global network of 350+ IP experts with the core team in the UK, Finland and India.

As Christian explains, business has been strong throughout the pandemic, to the extent that Aalbun was recently announced among top 12 legaltech startups to watch in the UK. The focus for 2021 is raising the next round of capital and scaling the business to be the largest patent factory in the world, something Christian will spearhead as Aalbun’s CEO.

Because both Basck and Aalbun were set up initially as digital businesses that can serve clients remotely, Christian says there haven’t been negative consequences from the coronavirus crisis – as owing to the pandemic “the industry and IP professionals are flocking to our model of virtual teams and digitalisation.”

Drawing on the experience of his own startups, Christian advises other entrepreneurs that one of the biggest challenges in ramping up a business is finding the co-founder and then a team with the right talent. “It’s also important to move with the time – to think what we’re going to do next, to stay in the game and be competitive,” he says. “You need to peak the market at the right time in order to have enough customers. It’s really important to find solutions to problems – that’s the key to your business: if there’s something missing in the market, people will need what you’re offering.”

Christian is interested in hearing from…

Christian is interested in hearing from new venture that needs input on IP (patents, trade marks, designs, copyright) or want to know more about Aalbun.