UiPath, a robotic process automation (RPA) company founded by two Romanian entrepreneurs, announced on March 6 that it has raised $153mn from a group of international venture capital investors.
The deal values the company at $1.1bn, making it Romania’s first “tech unicorn”, as the local media have gleefully pointed out. Although it was founded in Romania, UiPath is now an international company, with headquarters in New York, and offices in several major West European cities, Dubai and the Far East, as well as Bucharest. Its CEO and co-founder Daniel Dines is a graduate of the University of Bucharest and a former Microsoft engineer.
The new round of funding was led by existing backer Accel, alongside CapitalG (formerly Google Capital) and Kleiner Perkins. UiPath’s early-stage investors — Earlybird’s Digital East Fund, Credo Ventures and Seedcamp — also made a significant contribution, the company said in a press release.
The latest funding will be used to accelerate product development, including by expanding collaboration with artificial intelligence (AI) solutions, as well as to invest heavily into global expansion, with a focus on product support, customer success teams and sales efforts across all time zones and geographies, UiPath said.
When Dines and his co-founder Marius Tirca launched UiPath back in 2005, RPA — the automation of a wide range of repetitive tasks — was an emerging area, “prepubescent at most”, the company says. Today, it has “has matured into the legitimate and established way to run business processes”.
The technology developed by UiPath over the course of almost a decade captures and recreates actions that previously had to be carried out by humans. Its platform — which its backers say has become the world’s most widely used RPA platform — allows software robots to be designed and deployed to execute repetitive processes. The benefit for businesses is that they free up the workforce for more complex and sophisticated tasks.
“Businesses … are constrained by legacy systems that are difficult to replace, data that resides across disparate silos, and stringent security and compliance standards. Employees cannot simply download the latest app to solve their problems and often resort to repetitive, manual processes to accomplish their daily tasks… This is why we invested in UiPath," summed up investor Kleiner Perkins in a statement.
The company’s RPA platform is now used by more than 700 customers including financial services companies Allianz and SMBC, tech companies HP and VMware and retail giant Walmart — up from only around 100 a year ago. During the same period, annual recurring revenue (ARR) increased eight times.
With the valuation given by the latest funding round, UiPath overtakes fellow Romanian tech champion Bitdefender, which was valued at over $600mn valuation after receiving a private equity investment in 2017. Like UiPath, Bitdefender has gone international, though its headquarters remain in Bucharest.
While the relatively small size of the Romanian market means highly successful locally founded companies often look to relocate their headquarters as they pursue global expansion, Romania has been increasingly recognised as a source of innovative startups. This has been helped by the presence of many international software and business process outsourcing (BPO) firms in the country, seeking to benefit from the relatively low costs, skilled workforce and proximity (both geographically and culturally) to Western Europe. An increasing number of early state startups have been founded by Romanians after gaining experience at more established firms.
In its statement on the latest UiPath investment, Accel highlighted its interest in investing in companies from around the world rather than focussing on Silicon Valley, citing the “refreshing scrappiness” of entrepreneurs from a market where there is “less easily accessible capital sloshing around”.
“Across the globe, we are seeing the rise of leaders and disruptors in the same spirit that shaped Silicon Valley over the last 30 years,” wrote Accel partners Luciana Lixandru, Miles Clements and Rich Wong.
“We have long believed that these environments can shape companies with growth-oriented DNA because their founders are required to think beyond their local (often smaller) market to plan for a global business from day one.”
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