UPDATED 13:30 EDT / OCTOBER 21 2019

dines AI

Show him the light: How customer feedback led UiPath CEO Daniel Dines to RPA success

With a funding valuation of $7 billion and a spot in the top five on the Forbes Cloud 100 list, UiPath Inc. is generally viewed today as the leader in the robotic process automation market.

Like a freight train emerging from a long, dark tunnel into blinding daylight, UiPath has suddenly appeared with a force few would have expected five years ago when the company was chugging along at a mere $500,000 in revenue.

There are number of reasons for UiPath’s rapid success since then. With a focus on programs that could run autonomously and automate front- or back-office tasks, the company built robotic tools that could scale rapidly across large enterprise platforms. UiPath also secured critical early funding to help accelerate growth, enticing investment firms, such as Accel and the SoftBank Vision Fund, to dive in.

Yet a case could be made that what truly propelled UiPath forward was when its founder decided to hit the road and talk with his RPA customers. Those conversations instilled what he characterizes as a sense of humility, an acceptance that no one should ever be too self-important to tune out what others had to say, that became a core tenet of UiPath’s company culture.

“After I started to visit customers and understand their pain points and their requests, I actually realized they were smarter than us in using our own technology because they used it in the real world,” recalled Daniel Dines (pictured), founder and chief executive officer of UiPath. “I went back to my engineering team and told them: ‘From this day, I don’t want to ever hear we don’t fix bugs or features. When the customers say we need to do this, you say thank you for showing me the light.’”

Dines spoke with Dave Vellante, host of theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s mobile livestreaming studio, during the UiPath Forward event in Las Vegas. They discussed how UiPath’s approach attracted large companies, the importance of scale in RPA deployment, why the firm did not get its start in the cloud, plans for a public offering and the role of its corporate philosophy in generating success (see the full interview with transcript here). (* Disclosure below.)

This week, theCUBE features Daniel Dines as its Guest of the Week.

Bottom-line impact

What Dines and his company had tapped into was a realization that RPA was about a lot more than autonomously ordering business cards or processing insurance claims. Major businesses, such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Walmart Inc., were using UiPath’s blocks of code to carry out repetitive tasks in hundreds or even thousands of ways that were having a significant impact on the bottom line.

Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. has projected $500 million in savings by 2020 from busywork-saving RPA initiatives, and DHL Corp. was able to achieve 100% return on its pilot UiPath investment in one month. Other customers include Google LLC., McDonalds Corp., Uber Inc., NTT Communications, and the U.S. Navy.

“We can make a business case easily,” Dines said. “Our approach is just to replicate humans using the same tools, the same technologies that are familiar to business people. We can go into a large enterprise, show them how it works, and it doesn’t require such a huge investment, at least to get started.”

Deployment at scale

A key element of UiPath’s success has been deployment of its RPA technology at scale. Security Benefit Corp., a retirement insurance provider, has implemented UiPath’s solution for 300 internal processes, with an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 hours of time saved annually.

GE Electric Co. also has 300 automations in process, designed to generate major time savings, as opposed to “saving somebody five or maybe 10 minutes per week,” as one executive described his firm’s use of UiPath’s scalable technology.

UiPath has used its own technology to the same effect, manually building processes and then scaling up to automation as usage grows.

“We’ve built initial finance, HR and procurement processes in a very manual style using people, and then scaling up to reach a point where we become big consumers of our own technology,” Dines said. “All of this stuff requires a lot of work. We have automated more than a hundred thousand manual hours within UiPath to date.”

Move to cloud RPA platform

To realize efficiencies at scale, UiPath has turned toward a software-as-a-service model. In June, the company unveiled a public preview of a cloud-based Enterprise RPA Platform, which enables users to automate a few processes and then scale rapidly to hundreds without needing additional information-technology resources.

For a company with a significant position in the enterprise RPA field, catering to customers that are already heavily SaaS and cloud-invested, the obvious question is: What took UiPath so long to join the party?

“With a cloud-first strategy four years ago, we wouldn’t be here today,” Dines explained. “Most of our customers are still on-premises, so we had to be where the customers are. All in life is about timing, and now is the right time to penetrate the other segments of the market and offer automation on demand.”

Dines’ sense of timing is being put to the test in another way. With its $7 billion in valuation and “beyond unicorn” status, speculation has increased over when UiPath will make the move to become publicly held through an IPO.

Need capital to grow

For his part, Dines has made no secret of his plans to take the company public, flatly stating in one recent interview that 2021 would be the likely year. What has attracted further attention has been UiPath’s active investment raises that have propelled its comparatively modest valuation of $100 million two years ago to the $7 billion mark today.

The company raised $418 million between 2017 and 2018 and then added $568 million this April. “The faster a car goes, the more gas it consumes,” Dines said. “You need capital to grow fast.”

Dines grew up in Romania, behind the Iron Curtain, in the 1970s and 1980s. He wanted to be an author but found an attraction to math and learned how to code from a library-loaned C++ manual.

After accepting a position with Microsoft Corp. and moving to Seattle, Dines suddenly found himself in engineering meetings where he understood barely half of what was spoken, if he was lucky. As demonstrated by UiPath’s corporate philosophy today of listening to the customer and responding to their needs, it’s safe to say that Dines’ communications skills have improved considerably since then.

“I believe that our philosophy is helping us,” Dines said. “This is built into the fabric of how humans operate. Listen to customers; the market is big; bring what they want.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of UiPath Forward. (* Disclosure: TheCUBE is a paid media partner for UiPath Forward. Neither UiPath, the sponsor for theCUBE’s event coverage, nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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