Mar
26
2021
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UIPath’s meteoric rise from unknown startup to $35B RPA juggernaut

When TechCrunch covered UIPath’s Series A in 2017, it was a small startup out of Romania working in a little known area of enterprise software called robotic process automation (RPA).

Then the company took off with increasingly large multibillion dollar valuations. It progressed through its investment rounds, culminating with a $750 million round on an eye-popping $35 billion valuation last month.

This morning, the company took the next step on its rapid-fire evolutionary path when it filed its S-1 to go public. To illustrate just how fast the company’s rise has been, take a look at its funding history:

Chart illustrating rapid rise of UIPath through its funding rounds from 2017-2021

Image Credits: Bryce Durbin/TechCrunch

RPA is much better understood these days with larger enterprise software companies like SAP, Microsoft, IBM and ServiceNow getting involved. With RPA, companies can automate a mundane process like processing an insurance claim, moving work automatically, while bringing in humans only when absolutely necessary. For example, instead of having a person enter a number in a spreadsheet from an email, that can happen automatically.

In June 2019, Gartner reported that RPA was the fastest-growing area in enterprise software, growing at over 60% per year, and attracting investors and larger enterprise software vendors to the space. While RPA’s growth has slowed as it matures, a September 2020 Gartner report found it expanding at a more modest 19.5% with total revenue expected to reach $2 billion in 2021. Gartner found that stand-alone RPA vendors UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere are the market leaders.

Although the market feels rather small given the size of the company’s valuation, it’s still a nascent space. In its S-1 filing this morning, the company painted a rosy picture, projecting a $60 billion addressable market. While TAM estimates tend to trend large, UIPath points out that the number encompasses far more than pure RPA into what they call “Intelligent Process Automation.” That could include not only RPA, but also process discovery, workflow, no-code development and other forms of automation.

Indeed, as we wrote earlier today on the soaring process automation market, the company is probably going to need to expand into these other areas to really grow, especially now that it’s competing with much bigger companies for enterprise automation dollars.

While UIPath is in the midst of its quiet period, it came up for air this week to announce that it had bought Cloud Elements, a company that gives it access to API integration, an important component of automation in the enterprise. Daniel Dines, the company co-founder and CEO said the acquisition was about building a larger platform of automation tools.

“The acquisition of Cloud Elements is just one example of how we are building a flexible and scalable enterprise-ready platform that helps customers become fully automated enterprises,” he said in a statement.

While there is a lot of CEO speak in that statement, there is also an element of truth in that the company is looking at the larger automation story. It can use some of the cash from its prodigious fundraising to begin expanding on its original vision with smaller acquisitions that can fill in missing pieces in the product road map.

The company will need to do that and more to compete in a rapidly moving market, where many vendors are fighting for different parts of the business. As it continues its journey to becoming a public company, it will need to continue finding new ways to increase revenue by tapping into different parts of the wider automation stack.

Apr
28
2020
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Celonis pushes beyond process mining into automated workflow tooling

Celonis has made its name as a process discovery company, helping companies understand the way work flows through its systems to expose inefficiencies, but up until now the company has left it to others to solve those problems. Today it announced the first products that help companies improve those workflows automatically.

Alexander Rinke, founder and CEO at Celonis, says customers have been asking the company to go beyond process discovery to something that really helps solve the problems and bottlenecks they were finding.

“Where customers were really pushing us is to take the company from a software that’s showing you all the insights around your business processes, where the friction points are, where things aren’t going as they should be going…” he told TechCrunch.

To that end, the company acquired Banyas last year to give it a way to connect to internal ERP systems more easily, as they were thinking about how to create some process improvement automation apps. The Banyas acquisition gave the company some tools to start thinking about this more deeply.

“We put all of this together — the intelligence, the action, the automation and we solve business goals for certain departments,” Rinke said.

For starters, that involves supply chain and finance, but there are plans for building even more applications this year and beyond. The way it works for starters, is it connects to the company’s transactions systems, whether that’s SAP or Oracle or something similar. This is where the Banyas acquisition really comes into play,

“You can basically put these applications on top of your transaction systems and tell them which business goals you have — like I want to preserve cash or I want to pay on time — and then we analyze the enterprise’s entire processes towards these business goals, and then drive everything, automate things towards these business goals intelligently,” he said.

In addition to the two apps, the company is also announcing that it’s making the platform that the engineering team used to build these apps more broadly available to allow third parties to build their own apps on top of Celonis, and then they will be able to share them in an app marketplace.

If you’re thinking this is moving Celonis into Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Rinke disagrees As he sees it, RPA is about automating all-computer processes. He says the Celonis solutions often have human stopping points in a process, and he sees that as a big difference.

Celonis was founded in 2011 and has raised more than $367 million, according to Crunchbase data. Rinke reports the company has more than 1000 employees now.

Dec
05
2018
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Camunda hauls in $28M investment as workflow automation remains hot

Camunda, a Berlin-based company that builds open-source workflow automation software, announced a €25 million (approximately $28 million) investment from Highland Europe today.

This is the company’s first investment in its 10-year history. CEO and co-founder Jakob Freund says the company has been profitable since Day One, but decided to bring in outside capital now to take on a more aggressive international expansion.

The company launched in 2008 and for the first five years offered business process management consulting services, but they found traditional offerings from companies like Oracle, IBM and Pega weren’t encouraging software developers to really embrace BPM and build new applications.

In 2013 the company decided to solve that problem and began a shift from consulting to software. “We launched our own open-source project, Camunda BPM, in 2013. We also offered a commercial distribution, obviously, because that’s where the revenue came from,” Freund explained.

The project took off and they flipped their revenue sources from 80 percent consulting/20 percent software to 90 percent software/10 percent consulting in the five years since first creating the product. They boast 200 paying customers and have built out an entire stack of products since their initial product launch.

The company expanded from 13 employees in 2013 to 100 today, with offices in Berlin and San Francisco. Freund wants to open more offices and to expand the head count. To do that, he felt the time was right to go out and get some outside money. He said they continue to be profitable and more than doubled their ARR (annual recurring revenue) in the last 12 months, but knowing they wanted to expand quickly, they wanted the investment as a hedge in case revenue slowed down during the expansion.

“However, we also want to invest heavily right now and build up the team very quickly over the next couple of years. And we want to do that in such a quick way that we want to make sure that if the revenue growth doesn’t happen as quickly as the headcount building, we’re not getting any situation where we would then need to go look funding,” he explained. Instead, they struck while the company and the overall workflow automation space is hot.

He says they want to open more sales and support offices on the east coast of the U.S. and move into Asia, as well. Further, they want to keep investing in the open-source products, and the new money gives them room to do all of this.

Dec
04
2018
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FortressIQ raises $12M to bring new AI twist to process automation

FortressIQ, a startup that wants to bring a new kind of artificial intelligence to process automation called imitation learning, emerged from stealth this morning and announced it has raised $12 million.

The Series A investment came entirely from a single venture capital firm, Light Speed Venture Partners. Today’s funding comes on top of $4 million in seed capital the company raised previously from Boldstart Ventures, Comcast Ventures and Eniac Ventures.

Pankaj Chowdhry, founder and CEO of FortressIQ, says that his company basically replaces high-cost consultants who are paid to do time and motion studies and automates that process in a fairly creative way. It’s a bit like Robotics Process Automation (RPA), a space that is attracting a lot of investment right now, but instead of simply recording what’s happening on the desktop, and reproducing that digitally, it takes it a step further in a process called “imitation learning.”

“We want to be able to replicate human behavior through observation. We’re targeting this idea of how can we help people understand their processes. But imitation learning is I think the most interesting area of artificial intelligence because it focuses not on what AI can do, but how can AI learn and adapt,” he explained

They start by capturing a low-bandwidth movie of the process. “So we build virtual processors. And basically the idea is we have an agent that gets deployed by your enterprise IT group, and it integrates into the video card,” Chowdhry explained.

He points out that it’s not actually using a camera, but it captures everything going on, as a person interacts with a Windows desktop. In that regard it’s similar to RPA. “The next component is our AI models and computer vision. And we build these models that can literally watch the movie and transcribe the movie into what we call a series of software interactions,” he said.

Another key differentiator here is that they have built a data mining component on top of this, so if the person in the movie is doing something like booking an invoice, and stops to check email or Slack, FortressIQ can understand when an activity isn’t part of the process and filters that out automatically.

The product will be offered as a cloud service. Chowdhry’s previous company, Third Pillar Systems, was acquired by Genpact in 2013.

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