Singapore Start-Up PatSnap Is Now a Unicorn
A month ago, Singapore patent analytics company PatSnap made headlines for raising US$300 million in a Series E funding round—reaching a valuation of over US$1 billion and placing them in the unicorn club. This latest advancement comes almost three years after PatSnap secured US$38 million in a Series D round led by Sequoia and Shunwei Capital. Among those backing PatSnap in this current round are investors like SoftBank Vision Fund II and Tencent Investment, CPE Industrial Fund and Vertex Growth. During the Covid-19 pandemic, Patsnap did a pivot from a sales-led to a product-led growth model, resulting in an increase in customers compared to the start of 2020.
PatSnap, which is powered by AI and machine learning, is user-friendly and helps universities, companies and research institutions conveniently access market and patent intelligence. Touted as “a smarter approach to innovation,” here is the lowdown on the company that is putting Singapore on the map.
How PatSnap Rose to Prominence
Founded in 2007 as a patents analytics start-up, PatSnap currently has more than 10,000 customers including Spotify and Xiaomi. Two years after their inception, they set up a base in Suzhou, China through the NUS Suzhou Research Institute and BLOCK71 by NUS Enterprise. This move was instrumental in fuelling its rapid growth in the region. That same year, the PatSnap IP Business Intelligence tool was launched, boasting more than 500 users globally.
Subsequently, a first-in-the-market 3D Visual Patent Landscape tool was developed in 2013, followed by “Insights” in 2015, which uses IP data to support business development. The company then launched OneClick IP, a Chrome extension for competitor patent and trademark analysis, and started an R&D centre in Singapore.
Despite the huge surge in R&D spending (US$2.4 trillion in 2021) as countries across the globe fight to gain an edge in technology, the returns are diminishing. PatSnap’s AI-powered technology addresses this issue by connecting millions of amorphous data points across unrelated data sources to yield insights that guide decision-making. For inventors and researchers, PatSnap’s software offers them an opportunity to outrival others and to harness data to take their business to the next level.
In 2005, Jeffrey Tiong got the inspiration for PatSnap during his internship at BioConnect Systems in Philadelphia, when he was tasked with the responsibility of researching and evaluating patents. After navigating various government websites, he realised that much of the intellectual property documents were rather abstruse. This led him to explore ways of streamlining the process to make data easier to digest and building a simplified one-stop search engine.
After graduating from the National University of Singapore in Biomedical Engineering, he secured SG$55,000 in iJam funding from the Media Development Authority. With grant support from NUS Enterprise, PatSnap was conceived. He went on to bring on board three other co-founders, chief technology officer Markus Haense; Ray Chohan, vice president of new ventures; and Guan Dian, senior vice president of Asia Pacific. Guan, who is also an NUS alumnus, is primarily responsible for securing PatSnap’s first clients and oversees the brand’s development and presence in China.
PatSnap’s main mission is to empower innovators to make the world a better place. Among their customers are developers across multiple industries, including agriculture, chemicals, consumer goods, life sciences, automotive, aerospace, and education. Over the past year, PatSnap has helped customers like Dyson, Spotify and Dow Chemical to manage arbitrary data 12 times faster than usual—leading to an increase in product sales. Its R&D and IP intelligence platforms enable users to filter rapidly through mountains of arcane data, draw out vital insights and make smarter business decisions.
How PatSnap Makes Money
Subscription fees for PatSnap range from US$20,000 to $30,000 a year. Some start-ups pay US $5,000 for limited usage, while bigger companies like Dyson and SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s biggest maker of drones fork out as much as US$500,000. “Our global footprint, leadership and strategic position in the innovation economy have enabled us to attract top investors, customers and talent. Adding Softbank Vision Fund 2 and Tencent to our notable roster of investors will solidify PatSnap as the industry standard for innovation intelligence,” said Tiong. PatSnap has a headcount of more than 700 employees globally and is headquartered in Singapore, London, Toronto and Suzhou.