While demand has attracted a portfolio of new players to Robotic Process Automation (RPA), two of the most innovative companies in the space are Automation Anywhere and UiPath. Today, these established market leaders boast powerful platforms and robust user bases. But, it wasn’t always that way. This excerpt from the eBook, “The RPA Wars: The Early Years” highlights key historical moments that helped shape this industry from 2015 to 2017.
2015 – UIPATH EMERGES
In business, ramifications from key decisions often take a while to play out. In looking at the history of UiPath, one of these moments occurred in 2015.
One of the early challenges for RPA was helping customers realize that there was, in fact, a viable alternative to repetitive, manual work. To borrow a marketing term, many consumers were problem aware, but few knew viable solutions were available.
For all companies in the space, having partners that could provide sales opportunities to them was paramount. In 2015, UiPath announced a critical strategic partnership with Ernst and Young (EY), an international consulting company with deep relationships in financial services and a prime target for the technology.
Though this partnership was first established with the EY office in Romania, the partnership grew wings and swiftly spread to other offices. The partnership with EY was key to establishing UiPath as a trusted vendor in the RPA space. After all, EY was huge. If they were recommending UiPath, surely the upstart was a capable provider.
With revenue coming in – along with a small seed round of $1.4 million in 2014, which also helped – UiPath entered a period of hypergrowth, opening offices in Bangalore, London, and New York and bringing aboard hundreds of enterprise clients.
In addition, UiPath secured a $300,000 contract with General Electric, signaling the firm’s ability to win and serve the Fortune 500.
- “In 2015, UiPath was not a serious contender in the market space. At that time, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism were the top dogs. Back then, if someone had told me that UiPath would be the industry leader in five years, I would have had a hard time taking them seriously.
– Dustin Cleckler, Senior Consultant
2017 – PIVOT POINT
Though the ramifications would not be felt for a few years, the relationship between UiPath and Automation Anywhere forever changed in 2017.
In April of that year, the most important move UiPath made was the launch of the UiPath Academy. Billed as “the first free-of-charge, self-led, online training environment for RPA professionals to obtain a UiPath RPA certification,” the initiative quickly found audiences in both the experienced developer communities and among the less technical crowd, curious about becoming “Citizen Developers.”
At the time, UiPath was the first platform to offer a high amount of quality education in the space. As the academy was free of charge, it was reasonable for all RPA professionals to try it out, regardless of their previous platform experience.
As one consultant with experience in multiple platforms said, “I’m probably most proficient with UiPath since I am able to learn — with me having my own business, I can’t afford to pay licenses to all of the different vendors. So UiPath is just very attractive because they offer it for free for learning purposes.” Indeed, UiPath wasn’t only attractive, but multifaceted as well.
Given its international reach, UiPath embraced multi-language from the start. The Academy launch included support for French and Japanese clientele. In addition, Spanish and German support was added shortly after that.
Automation Anywhere launched its own “University” four months later, but it was not the same. Additional languages weren’t available through Automation Anywhere until more than a year later. It would take Automation Anywhere until August of 2019 to achieve language support as robust as that offered by UiPath.
UiPath’s quicker and more robust learning platform was crucial. The same month that UiPath launched online learning, they passed Automation Anywhere in Google Trends. They have not trailed since.
A key component of education, of course, is community. By being the first in the space to get serious about learning, UiPath became the first to embrace the community of RPA in a meaningful way.
Arguably, Automation Anywhere had attempted to build a community of sorts from the beginning through their emphasis on the Citizen Developer.
Citizen Developers – non-technical users that create automations for themselves – were a crucial part of Automation Anywhere’s early marketing efforts. It is reasonable, even expected, for companies to get excited about anyone being a potential customer; still, the Citizen Developer movement had some unintended consequences.
First, by intentionally going around IT, Automation Anywhere found it difficult to gain ground with the very departments that most technology companies reach out to first. While many IT departments welcomed them with open arms, some felt slighted.
Moreover, those who built bots quickly realized that building something battle-tested and bulletproof was a far cry from creating a bot that ran on one machine. So, if the promise of the Citizen Developer was exciting, the reality was often more brittle and problematic. In the early days of RPA, many vendors were given to hyperbole about the simplicity of RPA, though few so much as Automation Anywhere.
In summary, UiPath launched the first significant RPA community. At the same time, Automation Anywhere made it seem as if everyone was part of their community – even if that community didn’t have a home.
Regardless, UiPath Academy’s successful launch was critical to the company’s break from the pack in 2017. With the market warming to RPA – and the Academy providing buzz, deal flow, and community – venture capitalists noticed.
The first UiPath windfall was Accel’s impressive $30 million VC investment. When seeking their 2014 seed round, UiPath had needed fourteen months to cement a deal. This time, it only took two months for the ink to dry. The sizable investment enabled the company to further build its platform and services.
By the time the year ended, UiPath’s headcount had neared 400. With an ample workforce and money in the bank, the time was ripe. Though UiPath’s $15.7 million year-end revenues11 were relatively meager compared to Automation Anywhere’s $74 million, UiPath went into the new year ready to capitalize on the seeds that had been planted.
- “UiPath’s Academy content was great, but for me, it was their approach to really building a curriculum around the content that stood out. The Academy uses a variety of videos, reading materials, quizzes, and side-by-side learning to ensure that you are fully grasping the content – there is something for every type of learner.”
– Jessa Barnes, Senior Consultant, UDig
Interested in what happens next in “The RPA Wars: The Early Years?”
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