Carmen Yuen, Partner | Benedict Tan, Investment Analyst | Selina Koharjo, Investment Analyst posted on 29 Apr 2021
Recently, our Vertex Ventures Southeast Asia and India portfolio company, PatSnap, announced their USD 300M Series E round with over USD 1B valuation. Their bid to join the unicorn club wasn't an easy feat, where the team embarked on their journey with little funding and limited experience running the ground.
PatSnap raised their first VC investment in 2014 from Vertex Ventures SEA & India when intellectual property was relatively nascent in Southeast Asia. Since then, we have the pleasure of journeying with them and witnessing their tremendous growth.
Passion for Adventure
Before Jeffrey Tiong even graduated, he was already on the move. As the adventurer he is, Jeffrey engages life with a spirited curiosity and an excitement for exploration. When Jeffrey shared his Myers-Briggs personality as ISTP, it is no surprise that this 35-years old founder has always been pursuant to his goals. Even when Artificial Intelligence (AI) was still in its infancy, Jeffrey had the vision to democratize patents. His satisfaction with tackling different day-to-day problems highlights his compelling drive to deal with challenges and his desire to understand the way things work. Back in the office, Jeffrey reveals to us his typical hectic schedule: reviewing long-term plans with the IT department, strategizing new product launches with the product team, and liaising with government officials. Without a doubt, we believe Jeffrey’s role in PatSnap has only just started. Even with PatSnap’s impressive track record, Jeffrey is always up for more adventures, such as expanding to new countries, managing a large company, or even the possibility of acquiring a new company. Although Jeffrey claims the journey is still a long way to go, we are excited for him to continuously hit the ground running.
Determination for PatSnap’s Success
When Jeffrey first started, patent was not a novel concept. In fact, about 80% of the technical information in the world can only be found in patents. The need for patents has certainly always existed, but this industry was not easily and readily accessible. In 2007, Jeffrey received his first student start-up grant of SGD 55,000 (USD 36,400) to launch PatSnap. With this limited funding, it didn’t take long for Jeffrey to exhaust the capital. However, this was the first of many challenges Jeffrey faced. Back in the early 2000s, the start-up ecosystem in Singapore was still nascent, and AI as a sector was still developing. Due to a lack of funds, Jeffrey decided to move to China and paid himself a monthly stipend of SGD 500. As investors were reluctant to place confidence in a young undergraduate, Jeffrey had difficulty raising funds. However, the rejection of different investors did not derail Jeffrey’s aspiration. If anything, his determination spurred him on and his three years of hard work finally paid off. Through his grit and perseverance, Jeffery made his first major breakthrough by successfully building the first version of PatSnap. From then on, the company began to prosper and Jeffrey managed to raise his Series A round. As Jeffrey acknowledged, anything is possible even for a normal guy with 14 years of determination.
Even though Jeffrey considers himself an average Joe, we are confident that many aspiring entrepreneurs look up to him. Although Jeffrey grew up in a traditional Asian family, his path turned out to be delightfully different. Since childhood, Jeffery enjoyed reading biographies. At the age of 13, he finished reading Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography and to this day, Jeffrey continues the same reading habit and read dozens of current world leaders biographies (such as Bill Gates, Larry Page, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and others). The inspiration behind each leader’s desire to make a difference would linger in Jeffrey’s mind and inspire him to continue innovating. Most recently, Jeffrey has been inspired by Softbank founder Masayoshi Son. After raising their Series E round led by Softbank Vision Fund 2, Jeffrey continues to be inspired by leaders who aim to lead the AI revolution. Beyond being inspired by world leaders, Jeffery hopes to leave a legacy that will inspire the younger generation. As the United States has Bill Gates and China has Jack Ma, Jeffrey wishes that Singapore will have more entrepreneurial role models. Given Jeffrey’s track record and determination, we are certain that Jeffrey is one of Southeast Asia's role models.
My reflection journey with Jeffrey
“We have the privilege of watching Jeffrey grow into his CEO role and as a leader, set the tone for the culture in his organisation. Over the last seven years, we have seen how incorrect hires contribute to the setback in PatSnap including crushing morale, for which Jeffrey spend even more time fixing company culture. As he scaled the company, Jeffrey became more cognizant of setting the right tone to the company culture – one of which is appreciation.
At their weekly huddle sessions, other than business updates, staff will acknowledge team members who have contributed to their work. It is a spirit of gratitude that goes across the globe given they have multiple offices. My belief is when the team is united, the company becomes stronger; and this requires the CEO to be deliberate, thoughtful in exemplifying a spirit of gratefulness or appreciation before the rest of the company is ready to follow.”
- Carmen Yuen, Partner
Vertex Views is Vertex Ventures Southeast & India's official monthly newsletter. Here's our house views on Southeast Asia & India's growing startup and venture capital ecosystem, portfolio spotlights and latest insights in building champions.