Getting to Know You: InterDigital’s New President and CEO Liren Chen
This edition of “Getting to Know You” takes an in-depth look at Liren Chen, who on April 5th assumed the role of InterDigital’s President and CEO.
Following an introductory All Hands, InterDigital employees were introduced to Liren and given an insider pass to better understand his background, his drive to join InterDigital, and how he might lead in the path ahead. Here are some of the highlights of the conversation:
Early Life and Studies
- Not unlike the topology of Delaware’s Eastern Shore, Liren Chen was born and raised in Qingdao, home to beautiful beaches and China’s famous Qingdao beer.
- After earning his bachelor’s degree in Automation from Tsinghua University in Beijing, where he also met his wife of 26 years, Liren came to the United States in 1994 to attend the University of Maine under full scholarship, where he earned his M.S.E.E.
- Liren joined Qualcomm after receiving his masters, and while working earned his J.D. degree from the University of San Diego, as well as an MBA from San Diego State University.
Career at Qualcomm
- Prior to joining InterDigital, Liren’s most recent role was Senior Vice President and Global Head of IP.
- Liren first joined Qualcomm as a software engineer responsible for implementing products for network management software and later spent more than five years working in corporate R&D. It was during this time that Liren developed most of his nearly 120 worldwide patents.
- Later, Liren transitioned to spend more than seven years in Qualcomm’s IP department running essentially “every single functional aspect of IP creation – all the way to portfolio management, litigation readiness, and patent assertions.”
- Liren was closely involved in developing and driving Qualcomm’s technology-driven IP strategy, and in 2016 joined the Qualcomm Licensing business responsible for technology, business strategy, and ecosystem development.
Reflecting on Similarities
- When reflecting on his tenure at Qualcomm and new responsibilities as President and CEO of InterDigital, Liren noted that commonalities between the companies’ values helped make the transition smoother.
- He specifically highlighted that Qualcomm and InterDigital share similarities in the ways they both “drive fundamental research, put value of IP over everything else, deliver value over a long period of time through multiple generations of wireless, and express a willingness, and strong track record, in defending their business model through arbitration or litigation.”
- Moreover, having led multiple functional areas of the Qualcomm licensing division, Liren strongly resonated with a phrase often used to describe InterDigital’s impact – ‘We punch above our weight class.’ “That is a spirit I share,” he confidently replied.
- In his words, Liren sees the move to InterDigital as a “great career opportunity,” but also a chance to bring his unique expertise and value to the company.
- Given this background, Liren made clear that his interest in InterDigital stemmed from the company being a leading “fundamental technology developer and a major patent holder, both based on both the size and quality of the portfolio.”
- In addition to the professionalism and caliber of InterDigital’s research and leadership, Liren also highlighted the timing of his transition, acknowledging that it comes when the lessons he has learned throughout his career will be most useful to InterDigital’s goals.
Driving Technology Leadership
- In the all-hands, Liren made clear his belief that “the future is very bright for the technology that InterDigital develops,” and identified three technology areas that excite him most.
- First, he reiterated the importance of InterDigital’s longtime foundation – connectivity, specifically wireless and cellular communications, including 5G and next G technologies alongside the Wi-Fi evolution.
- Next, he noted “the multimedia area is super important from my perspective,” citing the massive impact of streaming video on internet traffic and the enormous potential for breakthrough technology in video codecs, audio codecs, and more.
- He also noted that he is “a huge believer in artificial intelligence and machine learning.”
- Finally, he expressed excitement in exploring the space and opportunities where these three technologies – 5G wireless, video codecs, and AI – converge.
- Liren reminded his new colleagues that the latest smart phones launches have already highlighted the features that stem from these convergences, which amplifies the importance and impact of InterDigital’s research and standards contributions to this industry sector, and beyond.
In closing, Liren shared a principle that he said will guide his first few months with the company: “There is a reason we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen more than we speak!”