As expected, the initial reaction to the announcement of Romania’s first unicorn software company was one of excitement, pride and, to some extent, bewilderment.
Not even 10 months ago the company announced one of the largest Series A investments in a European software company in 2017. Less than a year later, the company raised 5x more money, the valuation increased 10x and surpassed USD 1.1 billion.
True, growing ARR 8.5x in one year, helped a lot. However, more importantly, 2017 was the year that RPA emerged as a new enterprise software category, similar in scope, size and impact to ERPs, databases, security software. These are all USD 100 billion plus markets that support large, independent, public technology companies. New and existing investors, along with a plethora of others, fully expect UiPath to become the champion of this new market.
In hindsight, after two large funding rounds in quick succession, the decision to invest in UiPath back at the seed stage now seems obvious. Tell that to the long list of smart investors which turned down our offer to become part of the syndicate and co-invest with us. Kudos to Ondrej Bartos from Credo Ventures and Reshma Sohoni from Seedcamp for joining us early and for being good partners along the way.
Two and a half years ago, when we invested, the company consisted of 12 people huddled together in an apartment in Bucharest. There was still no product presentation and no company deck. Commercial model and pricing were still to be tested with clients.
Numbers aside, by far the most amazing part of this journey was the evolution of Daniel Dines, the Founder and CEO of UiPath. When I first met him he seemed to fit all the stereotypes brought to mind when thinking of Eastern European entrepreneurs: geeky, soft spoken, inexperienced, unassertive.
Our keen eye as “experienced investors” spotted the opportunity to bring onboard “a proper CEO”. Even Daniel seemed warm to the idea. Luckily, the market took all by storm, preventing us from pursuing this “opportunity”. Today, Daniel leads a company which has grown to more than 600 employees spread globally across 14 offices, including New York, Tokyo, Singapore, London, Paris, Munich, Bengaluru, and Bucharest.
The new funding will give UiPath the means to accelerate its growth, capitalize on the enormous market opportunity to use RPA to automate repetitive, boring office tasks, and serve clients and partners all over the world. We are keen to take risks and invest ahead of the market.
Looking forward, UiPath has another fantastic opportunity to leverage its technology to become the ecosystem enabler capable of delivering AI to the enterprise technology stack.
Although RPA delivers today real, significant value to companies on all continents, it is still viewed as the “country cousin” of the “cool city kid” — AI. Informed observers understand that what UiPath brings to AI-focused solution providers is remarkable:
- Product simplification — No need to spend time adding all the bells and whistles; UiPath already has integrated enterprise-level security, monitoring, reporting etc.
- Distribution — We expect to double in 2018 our currently 700-strong base of corporate clients.
- Delivery and scalability — There are no risks to integrate into the existing enterprise software stack; delivered once, any project can be scaled within the enterprise and across the client base.
- Data feedback loop — UiPath is already integrated in the core systems housing data needed to keep the AI models relevant over the long term.
For me, RPA itself represents only half of the future opportunity for UiPath. The other, perhaps bigger half is AI related.
Having witnessed the evolution of UiPath from a bootstrapped startup to the global leader in RPA technology, I am thrilled to have such a group of outstanding investors join the company in the next growth stage.
In true company spirit, I am humbled to be part of the journey.
Author: Dan Lupu