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Founded in 1982 with a SBIR award from the National Science Foundation (NSF), today the company is one of the world’s largest software companies, with 18,000 employees in 40 countries, $6 billion in revenue, and a $14 billion market cap.
“The grant catapulted us,” says Randy Cochran, a Symantec vice president. “For the last 29 years, we’ve been building on that kick-start.”
When Symantec was started, its focus was natural-language-understanding software for microcomputers, a form of artificial intelligence. This subject was the focus of its NSF grant, the knowledge from which paved the way for Symantec’s big breakthrough three years later, the Q&A database management program for IBM-compatible PCs.
And yet, even as Q&A was generating $8 million in 2 years, Symantec’s computer scientists were thinking bigger. The company decided to broaden its product base, particularly in specialty software, via mergers and acquisitions. As a result, by 1994, Symantec enjoyed a worldwide network of 150 partner companies. It was publicly traded on NASDAQ, and its software had been translated into 120 languages. Symantec’s success owes a good deal to the SBIR Program, through which the government took a chance on researchers from Stanford and let them innovate. “Because of that grant, we were able to launch, we were able to execute,” says Cochran. “It’s been a great ride.”