Last year, Gartner found that robotic process automation (RPA) is the fastest growing category in enterprise software. So perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that UiPath, a leading startup in the space, announced a $225 million Series E today on an eye-popping $10.2 billion valuation.
Alkeon Capital led the round with help from Accel, Coatue, Dragoneer, IVP, Madrona Venture Group, Sequoia Capital, Tencent, Tiger Global, Wellington and T. Rowe Price Associates, Inc. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $1.202 billion, according to the company.
It’s worth noting that the presence of institutional investors like Wellington is often a signal that a company could be thinking about going public at some point. CFO Ashim Gupta didn’t shy away from a future IPO, saying that co-founder and CEO Daniel Dines has discussed the idea in recent months and what it would take to become a public company.
“We’re evaluating the market conditions and I wouldn’t say this to be vague, but we haven’t chosen a day that says on this day we’re going public. We’re really in the mindset that says we should be prepared when the market is ready, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s in the next 12-18 months,” he said.
One of the factors that’s attracting so much investor interest is its growth rate, which Gupta says is continuing on an upward trajectory, even during the pandemic as companies look for ways to automate. In fact, he reports that recurring revenue has grown from $100 million to $400 million over the last 24 months.
RPA helps companies add a level of automation to manual legacy processes, bringing modernization without having to throw out existing systems. This approach appeals to a lot of companies not willing to rip and replace to get some of the advantages of digital transformation. The pandemic has only served to push this kind of technology to the forefront as companies look for ways to automate more quickly.
The company raised some eyebrows in the fall when it announced it was laying off 400 employees just six months after raising $568 million on a $7 billion valuation, but Gupta said that the layoffs represented a kind of reset for the company after it had grown rapidly in the prior two years.
“From 2017 to 2019, we invested in a lot of different areas. I think in October, the way we thought about it was, we really started taking a pause as we became more confident in our strategy, and we reassessed areas that we wanted to cut back on, and that drove those layoff decisions in October.
As for why the startup needs all that cash, Gupta says in a growing market, it is spending to grab as much market share as it can and that takes a lot of investment. Plus, it can’t hurt to have plenty of money in the bank as a hedge against economic uncertainty during the pandemic. Gupta notes that UiPath could also be looking at strategic acquisitions in the months ahead to fill in holes in the product roadmap more rapidly.
While the company doesn’t expect to go through the kind of growth it went through in 2017 and 2018, it will continue to hire, and Gupta says the leadership team is committed to building a diverse team at all levels of the organization. “We want to have the best people, but we really do believe that having the best people and the best team means that diversity has to be a part of that,” he said.
The company was founded in 2005 in Bucharest, outsourcing automation libraries and software. In 2015, it began the pivot to RPA and has been growing in leaps and bounds ever since. When we spoke to the startup in September 2018 around its $225 million Series C investment (which eventually ballooned to $265 million), it had 1,800 customers. Today it has 7,000 and is growing.