John M. Brimacombe, executive chairman, Linguamatics
Linguamatics helps organisations to maximise the value derived from information resources through effective deployment of innovative natural language processing (NLP) based technology. Linguamatics has a rapidly growing user community with its I2E technology deployed at most top-10 pharma companies. The company was founded in 2001, and is based at St John’s Innovation Centre.
John Brimacombe is a serial entrepreneur. After graduating in Law and Computer Science from Trinity College, Cambridge, he founded Jobstream Group, which provides specialist ERP software to the international financial services sector. He subsequently co-founded pioneering mobile entertainment start-up nGame, which was acquired by Hands-On Mobile Inc. Brimacombe served as President/COO of HandsOn Mobile for over 2 years, leading the company through 7 major M&A transactions and massive global expansion.He is a Partner at Sussex Place Ventures, the resident venture-capital firm at the London Business School, is a seed-investor in multiple US and UK start-ups and is a non-executive director of quoted investment fund Core VCT Plc.1. How did the company come about?Linguamatics was founded in 2001 by a group of computational linguists who have PhDs from the Cambridge Computer Lab but who were also together at SRI International. They developed the I2E semantic knowledge discovery platform which was first deployed commercially in 2003.
The founders also recognised the fit between their agile text mining approach and the high value text-based problems experienced by large pharmaceutical organisations – hence our current focus on this market which has been very fruitful. As a result we’ve been growing at around 50 per cent year-on-year and profitable, funded by sales revenue without the need for external VC investment. 2. What makes your approach to Natural Language Processing unique?Our edge is providing real-time and highly agile NLP-based querying. This approach enables you to accurately capture query intent and deliver relevant and intelligent answers, and provides the necessary flexibility to address a wide range of problems. The use of NLP gets directly to the meaning of the text within documents rather than just providing a list of documents that need to be analysed further.3. What problems does your technology solve?Organisations need a way to filter ever growing volumes of textual information to provide intelligence for decision support. I2E goes beyond document search to provide answers in terms of facts and relationships that enable you to make faster, better informed decisions. Companies see that this ability to filter high volumes of text is of value not just to R & D but that there are applications across the enterprise, including areas like competitor intelligence and sentiment analysis. They also require the ability to answer new questions as they come up – something that I2E’s flexible querying can provide.4. Why have you concentrated on the Life Sciences and healthcare market?Life science organisations have enormous volumes of text information – both internal such as project reports and external like published scientific literature. They need to exploit what is already known and there is a vast amount of research done externally they can tap into. For pharmaceutical companies in particular, making the drug discovery ‘pipeline’ faster and smarter is an imperative and the I2E platform can deliver major savings all along that pipeline.5. You recently opened an office in the US. What were the drivers behind that move?The majority of Linguamatics’ customers are global pharmaceutical companies so we’ve already been very active in the US for several years and 20-25 per cent of our staff are there, primarily in business development and customer-facing roles. We understood early on that to be a global market leader, Linguamatics needed to be the leader in the US.
The time was right in 2010 to move to a common office location and the greater Boston area was chosen for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it’s in the middle of a significant pharma/biotech cluster, so provides good access to existing and prospective customers on the East Coast of the US.
The location also gives us access to a large pool of talented potential employees.6. What do you see as the drivers for the growth of the company in the medium to long term?We are seeing broader and deeper adoption of I2E, driven both by the need for large scale knowledge discovery and dissemination (including for new channels such as social media) and by benchmarking the ROI from deploying I2E on the drug discovery pipeline. Use of I2E is increasingly becoming “mainstream” in the top 50 pharmaceutical companies and we expect to see substantial revenue growth from that segment.
In 2010 we’re focusing on making our groundbreaking technology accessible to the top 1000 Pharma/Biotech companies which will massively expand our potential market.
We have also recently announced the appointment of David Keilman as director of channels and alliances with responsibility for driving further adoption through partnering.7. Do you have any plans to move into any new application areas or verticals?A platform technology with the flexibility, depth and power of I2E is applicable to a vast range of high-value problems in a diverse set of markets. However, we are really focused on offering a ‘whole product’ in each segment that we service so we’re careful in our choice of new application verticals.
We clearly see opportunities to expand further into adjacent areas such as the healthcare and medical markets but there are also potential opportunities in other areas, such as the government sector. 8. What is the Cambridge Computer Lab ring and what have been the benefits of your affiliation with it?The Ring is the networking organisation built around the alumni of the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory and the companies that they have founded, intended to foster strong ongoing connections with the Lab. Linguamatics was proud to be selected as Ring ‘Company of the Year 2009’ which has increased our visibility as a potential employer and collaboration partner. 9. Another Cambridge company, Autonomy, is the undisputed leader in this field. Do you see yourselves as a direct competitor? And do you believe your company is on its radar as a possible acquisition target?Linguamatics text mining technology takes you directly to facts, correlations and relationships, providing you with information extraction. In this sense it is highly complementary to, rather than competitive with, enterprise search technologies.
In terms of future plans our current focus is strong sales growth and we have again set ourselves testing targets for 2010.10. Are there any new developments in the pipeline you can hint at?We had a major release of our I2E software towards the end of 2009 which included access for a wider range of users, enhancements to our core NLP querying power, and integration with more content sources, including SharePoint.
We continue to develop our innovative software and there are a number of new capabilities in the pipeline for this year – including solution-area focused product offerings and strengthened web services capabilities.