Entering the billion-dollar league: PatSnap becomes first NUS-supported unicorn

It did not happen exactly with a snap of the fingers. It took consistent years of hard work with nurturing and support by NUS Enterprise for PatSnap to be what it is today – a unicorn in business – a company valued at more than US$1 billion. Its R&D intelligence as well as IP intelligence platforms are used by more than 10,000 customers around the world.

Today, its founders, two NUS Overseas Colleges (NOC) alumni, can proudly proclaim that they have left their fledgling days far behind when they first formed the start-up in 2007. The company now has offices in the US, the UK, Canada, Japan and China. Its close ties with NUS and access to Singapore’s talent eco-system and dense network of industry partners has enabled it to launch an R&D centre in Singapore three years ago.

In fact, founders Mr Jeffrey Tiong (NUS Engineering, Biomedical Engineering) and Ms Guan Dian (NUS Computing, Information Systems), both previous NUS Outstanding Young Alumni Award winners, have just announced that the company has secured US$300 million in Series E funding. This puts them in unicorn territory, which is reserved for start-ups valued over US$1 billion – a first for NUS-supported start-ups.

Referring to their recent success in garnering new funding, PatSnap’s CEO Mr Tiong said, “Adding Softbank Vision Fund 2 and Tencent to our notable roster of investors will help solidify PatSnap as the industry standard for innovation intelligence. Both have deep investment expertise with AI-led companies and proven track records supporting sustainable company growth.”

Mr Tiong’s inspiration for PatSnap came about during his year-long NOC internship in Bio Valley (Philadelphia) in 2005, where he was tasked to search for technical information on patents. Despite being trained in biomedical engineering, he found the process messy and difficult to understand. This inspired him to build his own patent search engine.

With incubation and grant support from NUS Enterprise, he was able to kick start his company upon graduation. PatSnap has since achieved significant growth through its decision to establish a base in China through the NUS Suzhou Research Institute (NUSRI) and BLOCK71. Support from NUS Enterprise also enabled the company to develop its global patent analytics database.

Ms Guan helmed the development of PatSnap’s brand and presence in China, and was also responsible for bringing in PatSnap’s first clients. Ms Guan, who went on a year-long NOC internship in Silicon Valley, said, “Without my NOC experience, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now. NOC seeded the entrepreneurial spirit in me, gave me a brand new perspective that uncertainty is not scary and that we can embrace risk-taking."

Ms Guan is also an honouree in Asia Tatler’s Generation T 2018 list and the Forbes 30 Under 30 Asia 2016 list.

Empowering innovators

PatSnap’s flagship R&D Intelligence and IP intelligence platforms use machine learning (ML), computer vision, natural language processing (NLP), and other artificial intelligence (AI) technology to provide many of the world’s largest companies, universities, and research institutions with access to market, technology, and competitive intelligence as well as patent insights needed to take their products from ideation to commercialisation.

“PatSnap’s mission is to empower innovators to make the world a better place. Our global footprint, leadership, and strategic position in the innovation economy have enabled us to attract top investors, customers, and talent,” said Mr Tiong.

PatSnap’s customers are innovators across multiple industry sectors, including agriculture and chemicals, consumer goods, food and beverage, life sciences, automotive, oil and gas, professional services, aviation and aerospace, and education. This includes brand names such as Dyson, Spotify, Oxford University and Dow Chemical.

Over the past year, PatSnap has enabled its customers to significantly accelerate time to insight when dealing with unstructured data by an estimated 12 times, leading to an estimated 3 times increase in successful product launches.

PatSnap aims to use its latest funds to further advance its innovation intelligence platform, accelerate product development, and acquire additional domain expertise in the industry sectors where its technology is used by R&D and IP teams. The company also plans to expand its sales presence around the world, alongside investing in the growth and professional development of its employees to ensure PatSnap is well positioned to address the complex needs of its customers.

“We are all very proud of PatSnap’s achievements to date,” said Professor Freddy Boey, NUS Deputy President (Innovation & Enterprise).

“It is also a success story for NUS, as we have been a partner in the company’s growth from its start. From planting the seeds of entrepreneurship, supporting them with early funding, connecting them to partners and incubation support, we are pleased our efforts have played a part in helping an idea grow from roots in Singapore into a global brand.”

By NUS Enterprise