Last week, we reported that UiPath, a startup out of Romania building AI-based services for enterprises in the area of robotic process automation (RPA) — helping businesses automate mundane tasks in back-office IT systems — was about to close a big round, upwards of $120 million at a $1 billion-plus valuation.
Today, the company is making it official (and officially bigger): UiPath has raised $153 million in a Series B round that values the company at $1.1 billion — more than ten-fold the company’s valuation when it last raised funding, in April of last year.
This latest round was led by previous backer Accel, along with participation from new investors CapitalG (one if Google’s investment vehicles) and Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, as well as previous investors Earlybird, Credo Ventures and Seedcamp.
“We’re putting our money where our mouth is,” Accel partner Rich Wong, who is joining the board, said in an interview. “We wouldn’t have led the Series B after leading the Series A if it wasn’t for that momentum.” He compared the kind of growth that he’s seen at UiPath to that of other successful enterprise startups Accel has backed such as Atlassian, Slack and Qualtrics. “We think UiPath has all the evidence of progress.”
UiPath’s valuation isn’t the only thing that has been growing fast. Following a large wave of interest in RPA from the world of enterprise IT, the company has, too.
Today, UiPath has over 700 paying enterprise customers, including BMW Group, CenturyLink, Dentsu Inc. and Huawei. That customer list represents a seven-fold increase over last year, and UiPath said that its annual recurring revenues are up eightfold in the same period.
Although the startup itself cash-flow positive, the reason for raising more money was to seize the RPA opportunity, and essentially to upsize its startup infrastructure, to offer the kinds of services that enterprises need when they work with companies.
“Every large enterprise is doing something with RPA,” said co-founder and CEO Daniel Dines in an interview. “We need to be close to them and building with our customers. But it’s a delicate time. When a lot of programs are starting up, there is a lot of confusion in the market. So we want to build a great presence next to them, with strong customer success teams and account management teams.”
RPA taps an interesting moment in the state of enterprise IT today: there is a lot of legacy and new software that requires multiple steps to work both on its own and with other software. Solutions such as those being built by UiPath addresses that issue: it creates AI-based systems — “robots” — that do the busywork of those tasks, freeing up employees’ time to focus on work that AI systems and software cannot do: for example give reasoned assessments of invoices and other forms before they are processed. There are obvious questions you can ask about this field: will RPA become so advanced at some point that the humans will not be needed? Will software become AI-savvy enough that RPA will not be needed? These are issues for the future, but in UiPath’s view, not questions that will have solutions any time soon.
Funding, he added, will also be used to continue building its products, too. UiPath’s roadmap already includes a lot of AI and cognitive developments that it plans to roll out as fast as it can. Up to now, the company has been working on a two-month release cycle. “This year we will bring innovations faster than in the past,” he said.
On top of this, expect to see more solutions from UiPath that gradually bring in front-office tasks, too. Some of that has already been in evidence: last week, the company released its first solutions for customer care agents.
“One of our strengths is the combination of assisted and unassisted,” Dines said. “Our idea is to have a robot for every employee, working side by side on the same computer in assisted automation. We see this as a compelling proposition to many of our customers, having both back office and front office.” He said that the company plans to announce “in the next couple of weeks” a “really huge implementation” at a US business that will specifically be solving both.