IBM acquires Italy’s MyInvenio to integrate process mining directly into its suite of automation tools

Automation has become a big theme in enterprise IT, with organizations using RPA, no-code and low-code tools, and other  technology to speed up work and bring more insights and analytics into how they do things every day, and today IBM is announcing an acquisition as it hopes to take on a bigger role in providing those automation services. The IT giant has acquired MyInvenio, an Italian startup that builds and operates process mining software.

Process mining is the part of the automation stack that tracks data produced by a company’s software, as well as how the software works, in order to provide guidance on what a company could and should do to improve it. In the case of myInvenio, the company’s approach involves making a “digital twin” of an organization to help track and optimize processes. IBM is interested in how myInvenio’s tools are able to monitor data in areas like sales, procurement, production and accounting to help organizations identify what might be better served with more automation, which it can in turn run using RPA or other tools as needed.

Terms of the deal are not being disclosed. It is not clear if myInvenio had any outside investors (we’ve asked and are awaiting a response). This is the second acquisition IBM has made out of Italy. (The first was in 2014, a company called CrossIdeas that now forms part of the company’s security business.)

IBM and myInvenio are not exactly strangers: the two inked a deal as recently as November 2020 to integrate the Italian startup’s technology into IBM’s bigger automation services business globally.

Dinesh Nirmal, GM of IBM Automation, said in an interview that the reason IBM acquired the company was two-fold. First, it lets IBM integrate the technology more closely into the company’s Cloud Pak for Business Automation, which sits on and is powered by Red Hat OpenShift and has other automation capabilities already embedded within it, specifically robotic process automation (RPA), document processing, workflows and decisions.

Second and perhaps more importantly, it will mean that IBM will not have to tussle for priority for its customers in competition with other solution partners that myInvenio already had. IBM will be the sole provider.

“Partnerships are great but in a partnership you also have the option to partner with others, and when it comes to priority who decides?” he said. “From the customer perspective, will they will work just on our deal, or others first? Now, our customers will get the end result of this… We can bring a single solution to an end user or an enterprise, saying, ‘look you have document processing, RPA, workflow, mining. That is the beauty of this and what customers will see.”

He said that IBM currently serves customers across a range of verticals including financial, insurance, healthcare and manufacturing with its automation products.

Notably, this is not the first acquisition that IBM has made to build out this stack. Last year, it acquired WDG to expand into robotic process automation.

And interestingly, it’s not even the only partnership that IBM has had in process mining. Just earlier this month, it announced a deal with one of the bigger names in the field, Celonis, a German startup valued at $2.5 billion in 2019.

Ironically, at the time, my colleague Ron wondered aloud why IBM wasn’t just buying Celonis outright in that deal. It’s hard to speculate if price was one reason. Remember: we don’t know the terms of this acquisition, but given myInvenio was off the fundraising radar, chances are it’s possibly a little less than Celonis’s pricetag.

We’ve asked and IBM has confirmed that it will continue to work with Celonis alongside now offering its own native process mining tools.

“In keeping with IBM’s open approach and $1 billion investment in ecosystem, [Global Business Services, IBM’s enterprise services division] works with a broad range of technologies based on client and market demand, including IBM AI and Automation software,” a spokesperson said in a statement. “Celonis focuses on execution management which supports GBS’ transformation of clients’ business processes through intelligent workflows across industries and domains. Specifically, Celonis has deep connectivity into enterprise systems such as Salesforce, SAP, Workday or ServiceNow, so the Celonis EMS platform helps GBS accelerate clients’ transformations and BPO engagements with these ERP platforms.”

Indeed, at the end of the day, companies that offer services, especially suites of services, are working in environments where they have to be open to customers using their own technology, or bringing in something else.

There may have been another force pushing IBM to bring more of this technology in-house, and that’s wider competitive climate. Earlier this year, SAP acquired another European startup in the process mining space, Signavio, in a deal reportedly worth about $1.2 billion. As more of these companies get snapped up by would-be IBM rivals, and those left standing are working with a plethora of other parties, maybe it was high time for IBM to make sure it had its own horse in the race.

“Through IBM’s planned acquisition of myInvenio, we are revolutionizing the way companies manage their process operations,” said Massimiliano Delsante, CEO, myInvenio, who will be staying on with the deal. “myInvenio’s unique capability to automatically analyze processes and create simulations — what we call a ‘Digital Twin of an Organization’ —  is joining with IBM’s AI-powered automation capabilities to better manage process execution. Together we will offer a comprehensive solution for digital process transformation and automation to help enterprises continuously transform insights into action.”


By Ingrid Lunden

Berlin’s Bryter raises $66M to take its no-code tools for enterprises to the US

No-code startups continue to see a lot of traction among enterprises, where employees — strictly speaking, non-technical, but still using software every day — are getting hands-on and building apps to take on some of the more repetitive aspects of their jobs, the so-called “citizen coders” of the working world.

And in one of the latest developments, a Bryter — an AI-based no-code startup that has built a platforms used by some 100 global enterprises to date across some 2,000 business applications and workflows — is announcing a new round of funding to double down on that opportunity. The Berlin-based company has closed a Series B of $66 million, money that it will be investing into its platform and expanding in the U.S. out of a New York office it opened last year. The funding comes on the heels of seeing a lot of demand for its tools, CEO and co-founder Michael Grupp said in an interview.

“It was a great year for low-code and no-code platforms,” said Grupp, who co-founded the company with Micha-Manuel Bues and Michael Hübl. “What everyone has realized is that most people don’t actually care about the tech. They only care about the use cases. They want to get things done.” Customers using the service include the likes of McDonald’s, Telefónica, and PwC, KPMG and Deloitte in Europe, as well as banks, healthcare and industrial enterprises.

Tiger Global is leading this round, with previous backers Accel, Dawn Capital, Notion Capital and Cavalry Ventures all also participating, along with a number of individual backers (they include Amit Agharwal, CPO of DataDog; Lars Björk, former CEO of Qlik; Ulf Zetterberg, founder and CEO of Seal Software; and former ServiceNow global SVP James Fitzgerald). The valuation is not being disclosed; Bryter has raised around $90 million to date.

Accel and Dawn co-led Bryter’s Series A of $16 million less than a year ago, in June 2020, a rapid funding pace that underscores both interest in the no-code/low-code space — Bryter’s enterprise customer base has doubled from 50 since then — and the fact that startups in it are striking while the iron is hot.

Bryter’s not the only one: Airtable, Genesis, Rows, Creatio, and Ushur are among the many startups building ‘hands-on tech creation for non-techie people’ that have raised money in the last several months.

Automation has been the bigger trend that has propelled a lot of this activity. Knowledge workers today spend most of their time these days in apps — a state of affairs that pre-dates the Covid-19 pandemic, but has definitely been furthered throughout it. While some of that work still requires manual involvement and evaluation from those workers, software has automated large swathes of those jobs.

RPA — robotic process automation, where companies like UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism have taken a big lead — has accounted for a significant chunk of that activity, especially when it comes to reading forms and lots of data entry. But there remains a lot of other transactions and activities within specific apps where RPA is typically not used (not yet at least!). And this is where non-tech workers are finding that no-code tools like Bryter, which use artificial intelligence to deliver more personalised, yet scalable, automation, can play a very useful role.

“We sit on top of RPA in many cases,” said Grupp.

The company says that business functions where its platform has been implemented include compliance, legal, tax, privacy and security, procurement, administration, and HR, and the kinds of features that are being built include virtual assistants, chatbots, interactive self-service tools, and more.

These don’t replace people as such but cut down the time they need to spend in specific tasks to process and handle information within them, and could in theory also be used to build tools for customers to interact with services more easily, cutting down on the amount of time that agents are getting details and handling engagements.

That scalability, and the rapid customer up-take from a pool of users that extends beyond tech early-adopters, are part of what attracted the funding.

“Bryter has all the characteristics of a top-tier software company: high quality product that solves a real customer pain point, a large market opportunity and a world-class founding team,” said John Curtius, a partner at Tiger Global, in a statement. “The feedback from Bryter’s customers was resoundingly positive in our research, and we are excited to see the company reach new heights over the coming years.”

“Bryter has seen explosive growth over the last year, signing landmark customers across a large number of sectors and use cases. This does not come as a surprise. In the pandemic-affected world, digitalisation is no longer a nice to have, it is an imperative,” added Evgenia Plotnikova, a partner at Dawn Capital.


By Ingrid Lunden

No code, workflow, and RPA line up for their automation moment

We’ve seen a lot of trend lines moving throughout 2020 and into 2021 around automation, workflow, robotic process automation (RPA) and the movement to low-code and no-code application building. While all of these technologies can work on their own, they are deeply connected and we are starting to see some movement towards bringing them together.

While the definition of process automation is open to interpretation, and could include things like industrial automation, Statista estimates that the process automation market could be worth $74 billion in 2021. Those are numbers that are going to get the attention of both investors and enterprise software executives.

Just this week, Berlin-based Camunda announced a $98 million Series B to help act as a layer to orchestrate the flow of data between RPA bots, microservices and human employees. Meanwhile UIPath, the pure-play RPA startup that’s going to IPO any minute now, acquired Cloud Elements, giving it a way to move beyond RPA into API automation.

Not enough proof for you? How about ServiceNow announcing this week that it is buying Indian startup Intellibot to give it — you guessed it — RPA capabilities. That acquisition is part of a broader strategy by the company to move into full-scale workflow and automation, which it discussed just a couple of weeks ago.

Meanwhile at the end of last year, SAP bought a different Berlin process automation startup, Signavio, for $1.2 billion after announcing new automated workflow tools and an RPA tool at the beginning of December. Microsoft is in on it too, having acquired process automation startup Softmotive last May, which it then combined with its own automation tool PowerAutomate.

What we have here is a frothy mix of startups and large companies racing to provide a comprehensive spectrum of workflow automation tools to empower companies to spin up workflows quickly and move work involving both human and machine labor through an organization.

The result is hot startups getting prodigious funding, while other startups are exiting via acquisition to these larger companies looking to buy instead of build to gain a quick foothold in this market.

Cathy Tornbohm, Distinguished Research Vice President at Gartner, says part of the reason for the rapidly growing interest is that these companies have stayed on the sidelines up until now, but they see an opportunity and are using their checkbooks to play catch up.

“IBM, SAP, Pega, Appian, Microsoft, ServiceNow all bought into the RPA market because for years they didn’t focus on how data got into their systems when operating between organizations or without a human. [Instead] they focused more on what happens inside the client’s organization. The drive to be digitally more efficient necessitates optimizing data ingestion and data flows,” Tornbohm told me.

For all the bluster from the big vendors, they do not control the pure-play RPA market. In fact, Gartner found that the top three players in this space are UIPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism.

But Tornbohm says that, even as the traditional enterprise vendors try to push their way into the space, these pure-play companies are not sitting still. They are expanding beyond their RPA roots into the broader automation space, which could explain why UIPath came up from its pre-IPO quiet period to make the Cloud Elements announcement this week.

Dharmesh Thakker, managing partner at Battery Ventures, agrees with Tornbohm, saying that the shift to the cloud, accelerated by COVID-19, has led to an expansion of what RPA vendors are doing.

“RPA has traditionally focused on automation-UI flow and user steps, but we believe a full automation suite requires that ability to automate processes across the stack. For larger companies, we see their interest in the category as a way to take action on data within their systems. And for standalone RPA vendors, we see this as validation of the category and an invitation to expand their offerings to other pillars of automation,” Thakker said.

The activity we have seen across the automation and workflow space over the last year could be just the beginning of what Thakker and Tornbohm are describing, as companies of all sizes fight to become the automation stack of choice in the coming years.


By Ron Miller

ServiceNow takes RPA plunge by acquiring India-based startup Intellibot

ServiceNow became the latest company to take the robotic process automation (RPA) plunge when it announced it was acquiring Intellibot, an RPA startup based in Hyderabad, India. The companies did not reveal the purchase price.

The purchase comes at a time where companies are looking to automate workflows across the organization. RPA provides a way to automate a set of legacy processes, which often involve humans dealing with mundane repetitive work.

The announcement comes on the heels of the company’s no-code workflow announcements earlier this month and is part of the company’s broader workflow strategy, according to Josh Kahn, SVP of Creator Workflow Products at ServiceNow.

“RPA enhances ServiceNow’s current automation capabilities including low code tools, workflow, playbooks, integrations with over 150 out of the box connectors, machine learning, process mining and predictive analytics,” Khan explained. He says that the company can now bring RPA natively to the platform with this acquisition, yet still use RPA bots from other vendors if that’s what the customer requires.

“ServiceNow customers can build workflows that incorporate bots from the pure play RPA vendors such as Automation Anywhere, UiPath and Blue Prism, and we will continue to partner with those companies. There will be many instances where customers want to use our native RPA capabilities alongside those from our partners as they build intelligent, end-to-end automation workflows on the Now Platform,” Khan explained.

The company is making this purchase as other enterprise vendors enter the RPA market. SAP announced a new RPA tool at the end of December and acquired process automation startup Signavio in January. Meanwhile Microsoft announced a free RPA tool earlier this month, as the space is clearly getting the attention of these larger vendors.

ServiceNow has been on a buying spree over the last year or so buying five companies including Element AI, Loom Systems, Passage AI and Sweagle. Khan says the acquisitions are all in the service of helping companies create automation across the organization.

“As we bring all of these technologies into the Now Platform, we will accelerate our ability to automate more and more sophisticated use cases. Things like better handling of unstructured data from documents such as written forms, emails and PDFs, and more resilient automations such as larger data sets and non-routine tasks,” Khan said.

Intellibot was founded in 2015 and will provide the added bonus of giving ServiceNow a stronger foothold in India. The companies expect to close the deal no later than June.

 


By Ron Miller

SAP is buying Berlin business process automation startup Signavio

Rumors have been flying this week that SAP was going to buy Berlin business process automation startup Signavio, and sure enough the company made it official today. The companies did not reveal the purchase price, but Bloomberg reported earlier this week that the deal could be worth $1.2 billion.

With Signavio SAP gets a cloud native business process management tool. SAP CFO Luka Mucic sees a world where understanding and automating businesses processes has become a key part of a company’s digital transformation efforts.

“I cannot overstress the importance for companies to be able to design, benchmark, improve and transform business processes across the enterprise to support new capabilities and business models,” he said in a statement.

While traditional enterprise BPA tools have existed for years, having a cloud native tool gives SAP a much more modern approach to attacking this problem, and being able to automate business processes via the cloud has become more important during the pandemic when many many employees are working entirely from home.

SAP also sees Signavio as a key missing piece in the company’s Business Process Intelligence unit. “The combination of business process intelligence from SAP and Signavio creates a leading end-to-end business process transformation suite to help our customers achieve the requirements needed to gain a competitive edge,” he said.

SAP has been making moves into process automation of late. In fact at SAP TechEd in December, the company announced SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, its foray into the RPA space. This should fit in nicely alongside it.

Dr. Gero Decker, Savigno co-founder and CEO, sees SAP resources helping push the company beyond what it could have done on its own. “Considering the positioning of SAP, its geographical coverage and financial muscle, SAP is the biggest and best platform to bring process intelligence to every organization,” he said in a statement.

The increased resources and reach argument is one that just about every acquired company CEO makes, but being pulled into a company the size of SAP can be a double-edged sword. Yes, it has vast resources, but it also can be hard for an acquired company to find its place in such a large pond. How well they fit in and make that transition from startup to big company cog, will go a long way in determining the success of this transaction in the long run.

Signavio launched in 2009 in Berlin and has raised almost $230 million, according to Crunchbase data. Investors include Apax Digital and Summit Partners. The most recent investment was July 2019 Series C for $177 million, which came in at a $400 million valuation.

Customers include Comcast, Bosch, Liberty Mutual, and yes SAP. Perhaps it will be getting a discount now.


By Ron Miller

UIPath reels in another $225M as valuation soars to $10.2B

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 $1.225 billion, according to Crunchbase data.

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 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 6 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 either. 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 1800 customers. Today it has 7000 and growing.


By Ron Miller

Robocorp announces $5.6M seed to bring open source option to RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been a hot commodity in recent years as it helps automate tedious manual workflows inside large organizations. Robocorp, a San Francisco startup, wants to bring open source and RPA together. Today it announced a $5.6 million seed investment.

Benchmark led the round with participation from Slow Ventures, firstminute Capital, Bret Taylor, president and chief product officer at Salesforce and Docker CEO Rob Bearden. In addition, Benchmark’s Peter Fenton will be joining the company’s board.

Robocorp co-founder and CEO Antti Karjalainen has been around open source projects for years, and he saw an enterprise software category that was lacking in open source options. “We actually have a unique angle on RPA, where we are introducing open source and cloud native technology into the market and focusing on developer-led technologies,” Karjalainen said.

He sees a market that’s top-down and focused on heavy sales cycles. He wants to bring the focus back to the developers who will be using the tools. “We are all about removing friction from developers. So, we are focused on giving developers tools that they like to use, and want to use for RPA, and doing it in an open source model where the tools themselves are free to use,” he said.

The company is built on the open source Robot Framework project, which was originally developed as an open source software testing environment, but he sees RPA having a lot in common with testing, and his team has been able to take the project and apply it to RPA.

If you’re wondering how the company will make money they are offering a cloud service to reduce the complexity even further of using the open source tools, and that includes the kinds of features enterprises tend to demand from these projects like security, identity and access management, and so forth.

Benchmark’s Peter Fenton, who has worked for several successful open source startups including JBoss, SpringSource and Elastic, sees RPA as an area that’s ripe for developer-focused open source option. “We’re living in the era of the developer, where cloud-native and open source provide the freedom to innovate without constraint. Robocorp’s RPA approach provides developers the cloud native, open source tools to bring RPA into their organizations without the burdensome constraints of existing offerings,” Fenton said.

The company intends to use the money to add new employees and continue scaling the cloud product, while working to build the underlying open source community.

While UIPath, a fast growing startup with a hefty $7.1 billion valuation recently announced it was laying off 400 people, Gartner published a study in June showing that RPA is the fastest growing enterprise software category.


By Ron Miller

Signavio raises $177M at a $400M valuation for its business process automation solutions

Robotic Process Automation has been the name of the game in enterprise software lately — with organizations using advances in machine learning algorithms and other kinds of AI, alongside big-data analytics to speed up everything from performing mundane tasks to more complex business decisions.

To underscore the opportunity and growth in the market, today a startup in the wider segment of process automation is announcing a significant fundraise. Signavio, a company founded out of Berlin that provides tools for business process management — “providing the ‘P’ in RPA,” as the company describes it — has picked up an investment of $177 million at what we understand is a valuation of $400 million.

This round is large on its own, but even more so considering that before this the company — founded in 2009 — had only raised around $50 million before now, according to data from PitchBook. This latest capital injection is being led by Apax Digital (the growth equity team of Apax Partners), with DTCP. It notes that existing investor Summit Partners is also keeping a stake in the business with this deal.

The company was founded by a team of alums from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Potsdam, Germany, who used research they did there for creating the world’s first web modeller for business process management and analytics as the template for Signavio’s own Process Manager. (The name “Signavio” seems to be a portmanteau of “navigating through signals”, which essentially explains the basics of what BPM aims to do to help a business with its decision-making.)

Partly because it’s raised so little money, Signavio has been somewhat under the radar, but it has seen a huge amount of growth. It says that revenues in the last 12 months have grown by more than 70%, and its software  is used by more than one million users across 1,300 customers — with clients including SAP, DHL, Liberty Mutual, Deloitte, Comcast and Puma. It counts Silicon Valley as its second HQ these days, that trajectory will be followed further with this latest funding: Signavio says the funding in part will be going to international expansion of the business.

“10 years ago, we set out on a journey to tackle the time-consuming practices that limit business productivity,” said Dr. Gero Decker, CEO and co-founder of Signavio, in a statement. “This significant new investment further validates our approach to solve business problems faster and more efficiently, unleashing the power of process through our unique Business Transformation Suite. We are thrilled to welcome Apax Digital as our new lead partner, and look forward to building upon our success to date by leveraging our partners’ operating capabilities and global platforms for our international expansion.”

The other area of investment will be the company’s technology suite. While BPM has been around for years as a concept — and indeed there are a number of other companies that provide tools that are compared sometimes to Signavio’s such from biggies like IBM and Microsoft through to Kissflow and others — what’s interesting is how it’s had a surge of interest more recently as organizations increasingly start to add more automation into their IT infrastructure, in part to reduce the human labor needed for more mundane back-office tasks, and in part to reduce costs and speed up processes.

Robotic process automation companies like UiPath and Blue Prism bring some of the same processing tools to the table as Signavio, although the argument is that the latter — which says it helps to “mine, model, monitor, manage and maintain” customers’ data — provides a more sophisticated level of data crunching that can be used for RPA, or for other ends. (It also works with several of the big RPA players, mainly Blue Prism but also UiPath and Automation Anywhere.)

“As businesses have become more global, and workforces more distributed, business processes have proliferated, and become more complex,” noted Daniel O’Keefe, Managing Partner, and Mark Beith, Managing Director, of Apax Digital, in a joint statement. “Signavio’s cloud-native suite allows employees across an enterprise to collaborate and transform their businesses by digitizing, optimizing and ultimately automating their processes. We are tremendously excited to partner with the Signavio team and to support their vision.” The two will also be joining Signavio’s board with this round.


By Ingrid Lunden

Blue Prism acquires UK’s Thoughtonomy for up to $100M to expand its RPA platform with more AI

Robotic process automation — which lets organizations shift repetitive back office tasks to machines to complete — has been a hot area of growth in the world of enterprise IT, and now one of the companies that’s making waves in the area has acquired a smaller startup to continue extending its capabilities.

Blue Prism, which helped coin the term RPA when it was founded back in 2001, has announced that it is buying Thoughtonomy, which has built a cloud-based AI engine that delivers RPA-based solutions on an SaaS framework. Blue Prism is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange — where its market cap is around £1.3 billion ($1.6 billion) and in a statement to the market alongside its half-year earnings, it said it would be paying up to £80 million ($100 million) for the firm.

The deal is coming in a combination of cash and stock: £12.5 million payable on completion of the deal, £23 million in shares payable on completion of the deal, up to £20 million payable a year after the deal closes; up to £4.5 million in cash after 18 months, and a final £20 million on the second anniversary of the deal closing, in shares. Thoughtonomy had never raised outside funding, although that was not for lack of interest:

“We’ve had approaches on a daily basis since the intelligent automation market has exploded,” said Terry Walby, CEO and founder of Thoughtonomy, in an interview, “but getting the best outcome for the company and our customers is not just about taking money and headlines [touting] our valuation.”

The acquisition comes about six months after Blue Prism announced that it would be raising around $130 million (£100 million) to continue growing at a time when RPA is getting a lot of attention in the market. Linda Dotts, the company’s SVP of global partner strategy and programs, today confirmed that it did raise that money, and that part of the proceeds of that are being used to make the Thoughtonomy acquisition. She also confirmed that it would be looking at other opportunities, a sign that we are likely going to see at least a little more consolidation in this space.

On the same day that it had announced that fundraise, Blue Prism also unveiled a new AI initiative, working with partners to execute on that. And indeed that is what it is getting with Thoughtonomy. The companies were already working together before this — Thoughtonomy’s other key partners are companies like Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud, used to deliver its services — and according to Walby, the idea is that his startup will be helping Blue Prism get its services to the next level of where RPA is going.

“We provide architectural support and add intelligence,” he said in an interview. “Our platform addresses activities that require understanding or interpretation, and so it expands the use cases for RPA beyond structured processes.”

That’s notable given the position of Blue Prism within the RPA landscape. The company is one of the more legacy providers — one of the consequences of being an early mover — and while that gives it a clear advantage of showing it has staying power, in the world of software that can be a more challenging sell when younger companies are building tech from scratch on newer frameworks. (UiPath, which has made major inroads into RPA both in terms of its customer and partner growth, as well as in terms of its funding, is one example.)

And in a market that is still seeing growth (read: companies often operate at a loss to invest in that growth), its ups and downs are there for everyone to see and scrutinise. In its half-year earnings that it posted today, its negative EBITDA margin widened, while group revenues only inched up slightly to £41.6 million and monthly recurring revenues were flat. The longer term picture is a little more interesting, though, with total customer numbers up 91 percent over the same period a year ago.


By Ingrid Lunden

Chicago RPA startup Catalytic hauls in $30M Series B

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is as hot as any enterprise technology at the moment, as companies look for ways to marry their legacy systems with a more modern flavor of automation. Catalytic, a startup from the midwest is putting its own flavor on RPA, aiming at more unstructured data. Today it was rewarded with a $30 million Series B investment.

The investment was led by Intel Capital with participation from Redline Capital and existing investors NEA, Boldstart and Hyde Park Angel. Today’s round brings the total raised to almost $42 million, according to the company.

RPA helps automate highly mundane processes. Sean Chou, Catalytic co-founder and CEO says there are a couple of ways his company’s solution diverts from his competition, which includes companies like Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UIPath.

For starters, Chou says, his company’s solution concentrates on unstructured data like pulling information from documents or emails using a variety of techniques, depending on requirements. It could be old-fashioned scanning and OCR or more modern natural language process (NLP) to “read” the document, depending on requirements.

It is designed like all RPA tools to take humans out of the loop when it comes to the most mundane business processes, but as Chou says, his company wants human employees in the loop whenever needed, whether that’s exception processing or tasks that are simply too challenging to program at the moment.

The company launched in 2015 using money Chou had earned from the sale of his previous company Fieldglass, which he had sold the previous year to SAP for more than $1 billion dollars. Fieldglass helped with outsourcing, and as Chou developed that company, he saw a growing problem around automating certain tedious business processes, especially when they touched legacy systems inside an organization. He raised $3.1 million in seed money from Boldstart Ventures in NYC in 2016 and began building out the product in earnest.

Today, Catalytic has a dozen customers, including Bosch, the German manufacturing conglomerate. It employs 60 people in its Chicago headquarters. While its investors come from the coasts, Catalytic is building a company in the heart of the midwest, a part of the country that has often been left out of the startup economy.

With $30 million Catalytic can begin expanding the number of employees, including helping service its large customers, building out it partner network with other software companies and systems integrators, and bringing in more engineering talent to continue building out the product.

The product is offered on a subscription basis as a cloud service.


By Ron Miller

RPA startup Automation Anywhere nabs $300M from SoftBank at a $2.6B valuation

The market for RPA — Robotic Process Automation — is getting a hat trick of news this week: Automation Anywhere has today announced that it has raised $300 million from the SoftBank Vision Fund. This funding, which values Automation Anywhere at $2.6 billion post-money, is an extension to the Series A the company announced earlier this year, which was at a $1.8 billion valuation. It brings the total size of the round to $550 million.

The news comes just a day after one of the startup’s bigger competitors, UiPath, announced a $265 million raise at a $3 billion valuation; and a week after Kofax, another competitor, announced it would be acquiring a division of Nuance for $400 million to beef up its business.

It’s also yet one more example of a one-two punch in funding. It was only in July that Automation Anywhere announced its $250 million raise.

This latest round adds some significant investors to the company’s cap table, specifically from the SoftBank Vision Fund, which counts a number of tech giants like Apple and Qualcomm as LPs, along with others. Specifically, the fund has been under fire for the last few weeks because of the fact that a large swathe of its backing comes from Saudi money.

The Saudi Arabian government has been in the spotlight over its involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its embassy in Turkey. By extension of that, there have been many questions raised in recent weeks over the ethics of taking money from the Vision Fund, with so many questions still in the air over that affair.

In an interview, Mihir Shukla, CEO and Co-Founder at Automation Anywhere, said that while what happened to Khashoggi was “not acceptable,” his conversations started with SoftBank before that and they did not impact the startup’s decision over whether to work with the Fund.

He declined to comment on the timing of the term sheet getting signed, when asked whether it was before or after the news broke of the murder.

What attracted us to SoftBank was that Masayoshi Son” — the CEO and founder of SoftBank — “has a vision and he is investing in foundational platforms that will change how we work and travel,” Shukla said. “We share that vision.”

He also pointed out that getting funding from SoftBank will “naturally” lead to more opportunities to partner with companies in SoftBank’s network of companies, which cover dozens of investments and outright ownerships.

While it feels like artificial intelligence is something that you see referenced at every turn these days in the tech world, RPA is an interesting area because it’s one of the more tangible applications of it, across a wide set of businesses.

In short, it’s a set of software-based “robots” that help companies automate mundane and repetitive tasks that would otherwise be done by human workers, employing AI-based technology in areas like computer vision and machine learning to get the work done.

Competition among companies to grab pole position in the space is fierce. Automation Anywhere has 1,400 organizations as customers, it says. By comparison, UiPath has 2,100 and claims an annual revenue run rate at the moment of $150 million. Shukla declined to disclose any financials for his company.

But in light of all that, the company will be using the funding to build out its business specifically ahead of rivals.

“With this additional capital, we are in a position to do far more than any other provider,” said Shukla in a statement. “We will not only continue to deliver the most advanced RPA to the market, but we will help bring AI to millions. Like the introduction of the PC, we see a world where every office employee will work alongside digital workers, amplifying human contributions. Today, employees must know how to use a PC and very soon employees will have to know how to build a bot.”

Automation Anywhere claims that its Bot Store is the industry’s largest marketplace for bot applications, designed both by itself and partners, to execute different business processes, with 65,000 users since launching in March 2018.


By Ingrid Lunden

‘Software robot’ startup UiPath expands Series C to $265M at a $3B valuation

UiPath, a startup that works in the growing area of RPA, or robotic process automation — where AI-based software is used to help businesses run repetitive or mundane back-office tasks, to free up humans to tackle more sophisticated work — has raised money for the third time this year. The company is today announcing that it has closed out its Series C at $265 million — $40 million higher than the amount it said it was aiming for two months ago.

UiPath is now disclosing new investors in the round — namely, IVP, Madrona Venture Group and Meritech Capital — plus secondary sales for employees to give them liquidity, which made up the difference. The company has confirmed to me that the transactions were done at the same valuation as the rest of the Series C, at $3 billion. The Series C is still led by CapitalG and Sequoia Capital as before.

For some context, earlier this year, the company also raised a Series B of $153 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

UiPath’s strong valuation hike and the rapid pace of its funding come at a time when both the company and its rivals are all growing quickly, as enterprises rush to capitalise on the rise of artificial intelligence in the workplace. In the case of RPA, the promise is that it will help bring down the cost of doing business and improve organizations’ efficiency. UiPath’s mantra is to provide “one robot for every person,” essentially doubling a company’s workforce without the need to hire more people.

UiPath says that its current annual run rate is now $150 million, up from a $100 million ARR figure it put out just two months ago, with customers now numbering at 2,100 and including the US Army, Defense Logistics Agency, GSA, IRS, NASA, Navy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. One source at the company tells me that it’s getting approached “almost daily” for more funding at the moment.

At the same time, the competitive landscape is most definitely heating up. We’ve heard that Automation Anywhere, which also just raised money — $250 million — earlier this year, may also be looking to raise more (we’re looking into it). And just earlier this week, we reported that another RPA player, Kofax, acquired a division of Nuance for $400 million to ramp up its image processing business.

“I am honored to have IVP, Madrona Venture Group and Meritech Capital as new investors in UiPath. Their leadership and guidance will no doubt help us continue to define and lead the Automation First era for customers everywhere. UiPath has had many funding options and I believe we have selected the investors that align best with our culture and beliefs. I am humbled as the syndicate of unquestionably top-tier venture capital firms who believe in UiPath and support our future,” said UiPath CEO and co- founder Daniel Dines said in a statement. “Additionally, it is a core UiPath principle to share the success of the company in a meaningful way with our hard-working and long-time employees and we were excited to be able to extend the opportunity, at their personal choice, to realize partial liquidity in this round.”

Updated with clarification about the employee liquidity sales and new investor names.


By Ingrid Lunden

UIpath lands $225M Series C on $3 billion valuation as robotics process automation soars

UIPath is bringing automation to repetitive processes inside large organizations and it seems to have landed on a huge pain point. Today it announced a massive $225 million Series C on a $3 billion valuation.

The round was led by CapitalG and Sequoia Capital. Accel, which invested in the companies A and B rounds also participated. Today’s investment brings the total raised to $408 million, according to Crunchbase, and comes just months after a $153 million Series B we reported on last March. At that time, it had a valuation of over $1 billion, meaning the valuation has tripled in less than six months.

There’s a reason this company you might have never heard of is garnering this level of investment so quickly. For starters, it’s growing in leaps in bounds. Consider that it went from $1 million to $100 million in annual recurring revenue in under 21 months, according to the company. It currently has 1800 enterprise customers and claims to be adding 6 new ones a day, an astonishing rate of customer acquisition.

The company is part of the growing field of robotics process automation or RPA . While the robotics part of the name could be considered a bit of a misnomer, the software helps automate a series of mundane tasks that were typically handled by humans. It allows companies to bring a level of automation to legacy processes like accounts payable, employee onboarding, procurement and reconciliation without actually having to replace legacy systems.

Phil Fersht, CEO and chief analyst at HFS, a firm that watches the RPA market, says RPA isn’t actually that intelligent. “It’s about taking manual work, work-arounds and integrated processes built on legacy technology and finding way to stitch them together,” he told TechCrunch in an interview earlier this year.

It isn’t quite as simple as the old macro recorders that used to record a series of tasks and execute them with a keystroke, but it is somewhat analogous to that approach. Today, it’s more akin to a bot that may help you complete a task in Slack. RPA is a bit more sophisticated moving through a workflow in an automated fashion.

Ian Barkin from Symphony Ventures, a firm that used to do outsourcing, has embraced RPA. He says while most organizations have a hard time getting a handle on AI, RPA allows them to institute fundamental change around desktop routines without having to understand AI.

If you’re worrying about this technology replacing humans, it is somewhat valid, but Barkin says the technology is replacing jobs that most humans don’t enjoy doing. “The work people enjoy doing is exceptions and judgment based, which isn’t the sweet spot of RPA. It frees them from mundaneness of routine,” he said in an interview last year.

Whatever it is, it’s resonating inside large organizations and UIpath, is benefiting from the growing need by offering its own flavor of RPA. Today its customers include the likes of Autodesk, BMW Group and Huawei.

As it has grown over the last year, the number of employees has increased 3x  and the company expects to reach 1700 employees by the end of the year.


By Ron Miller