In a sign of the robotic process automation market’s continued strength in the face of an economic downturn, Blue Prism today announced that it has raised £100 million ($124 million) in equity financing at a valuation of around £1 billion ($1.24 billion). Chair and CEO Jason Kingdon says the fresh capital will be used to strengthen Blue Prism’s balance sheet while allowing investment in the company’s automation suite.
Robotic process automation — an industry that’s anticipated to be worth $10.7 billion by 2027, according to Grand View Research — is a form of workflow automation technology that taps AI to tackle digital tasks previously performed by humans. It’s recently come to the fore in light of the coronavirus pandemic — last month, Blue Prism launched a COVID-19 response task team, which worked with the U.K.’s National Health Service; the University of California, San Francisco; and the Leeds Building Society to automate HR, personnel, finance, vaccine development, and other health care support functions.
“In this environment, our [RPA solution is] arguably more important than ever in driving organizational adaptation and resilience, and our role as a strategic technology partner to our customers in many ways becomes more vital,” Kingdon told VentureBeat via email. “The duration and impact of this pandemic are at this stage unknown, and as a result we are taking action to invest and reinforce our product differentiation in preparation for the opportunities [that] will occur both in the short- and longer-term.”
Blue Prism was founded in 2001 by a group of automation experts to develop tech that could be used to improve organizational efficiency. In 2003, their first commercial product — Automate — launched in general availability, and in 2016 Blue Prism became a publicly traded company with a listing on the London Stock Exchange.
Blue Prism’s eponymous platform, which is built on Microsoft .NET, automates virtually any app on any platform — including mainframes, Windows machines, and the web — in environments ranging from terminal emulators to web browsers and services. It’s designed for multi-environment deployment models with both physical and logical access controls, with a centralized release management interface and process change distribution framework that provide a level of visibility.
The Blue Prism platform records system logins, changes in management, decisions, and actions taken by its software robots to identify statistics and operational analytics. It supports regulatory, security, and governance contexts such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, and SOX, and its process coding is automated on the backend to allow users to program processes using a drag-and-drop interface.
Blue Prism customers gain access to a reusable library of processes and objects for developing automations. It’s also scalable — the company says its top 50 clients use 500 software robots, on average. Blue Prism’s Process Discovery module takes snapshots of work queues at defined periods to gather activity and metrics and collates everything in a shareable dashboard. And its Decipher module, which recently exited beta, ingests, extracts, and transforms data from documents like vendor contracts, claims forms, emails, spreadsheets, purchase orders, and field reports.
Enterprise customers gain access to Blue Prism Cloud, a fully integrated, software-as-a-service offering with pre-integrated skills. From the Blue Prism Cloud Hub, they’re able to access a window with live feed overviews and environment-specific analytics for utilization, process completion times, and performance against service-level agreements. Enterprise customers also get access to Wireframer, an automation builder that prepopulates automations and helps reduce design time by a claimed 70%, as well as Blue Prism Cloud IADA, which leverages AI to adjust on-premises and cloud resource utilization by taking into account network infrastructure and app performance.
Last year, Blue Prism launched a new AI engine, an updated marketplace for extensions (Blue Prism Digital Exchange), and a lab for AI research and development (Blue Prism Labs). Connectors to AI tools from Amazon, Google, and IBM joined marketplace tools that gave partners and customers the ability to create, share, and deploy plugins for the Blue Prism platform.
Blue Prism competes against heavyweights like UiPath, which in April nabbed $568 million at a $7 billion valuation for its suite of AI-imbued process automation tools, and Automation Anywhere, which raised $290 million at a $6.8 billion valuation. Elsewhere, Kryon secured $40 million, Softmotive pulled together a $25 million tranche from a host of investors, and Automation Hero secured $14.5 million.
But Blue Prism claims it has a leg up with respect to success and renewal rate. The company reports that 96% of customers opt to re-up service and that 90% of its certified partners report that they’re satisfied with the platform.
The funding — which brings Blue Prism’s total raised to nearly $200 million — comes after it achieved the fastest revenue growth of all large U.K. public software companies for the fourth consecutive year in 2019. This included an 83% increase in revenue to £101 million ($125.74 million) in the first half of 2019 and £137 million ($170 million) today. During that same time frame, Blue Prism’s customer base grew to 1,677 enterprise accounts as it added 700 new clients. (As of today, Blue Prism has 1,819 customers, including Microsoft, Accenture, Google, IBM, Heineken, and Jaguar Land Rover.)
In addition to its headquarters in Warrington, Blue Prism has offices in London, Austin, Sydney, Paris, Munich, and Washington. It employs just over 1,000 people.