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Robotic process automation (RPA) startup UiPath today announced that it raised $750 million in series F funding, bringing its total raised to nearly $2 billion. It brings the New York-based company’s post-money valuation to $35 billion, up from $3 billion in 2018, and will likely lay the groundwork for strategic acquisitions following UiPath’s purchase of startups StepShot and ProcessGold.

RPA — technology that automates monotonous, repetitive chores traditionally performed by human workers — is big business. Forrester estimates that RPA and other AI subfields created jobs for 40% of companies in 2019 and that a tenth of startups now employ more digital workers than human ones. And according to a McKinsey survey, at least a third of activities could be automated in about 60% of occupations.

UiPath was founded in 2005 by Romanian entrepreneur Marius Tîrcă and Daniel Dines, a former Microsoft software engineer. The company was headquartered in Bucharest before setting up shop in New York City and expanding to London, Bangalore, Paris, Singapore, Washington D.C., and Tokyo. UiPath grew its client base from 100 customers in 2017 to over 5,000, with more than 750,000 users. Now, UiPath says the solutions developed by its over 2,800-person workforce automate tasks for more than 65% of the Fortune 500 and eight of the Fortune 10, including GE, Virgin Media, Airbus, Google, Autodesk, NASA, HP, Fujifilm, McCormick, DHL, Swiss Re, McDonald’s, and Equifax.

UiPath takes a multipronged approach to RPA that begins with task discovery. The company’s process mining tech produces an “X-ray” of end-to-end desktop, web, text-based, business app, email, IT, and office workflows by pulling log data from existing enterprise systems, helping to identify root cause issues through recommendations, visualizations, tags, and KPIs. Task capture is the next step in UiPath’s onboarding chain and comes as employees move through a work process they’d like to automate, taking screenshots and gathering data like window names, titles, and descriptions before pulling everything together into a process definition document or XAML file.

Task mining complements process mining and capture by identifying and aggregating workflows. UiPath uses AI to map tasks to automation opportunities and tease out the most frequent patterns from the data, securely recording metrics from whitelisted applications, including steps and execution time. Thanks to AI-powered document understanding capabilities, the platform can ingest, analyze, and edit PDFs and images — even those with handwriting, checkboxes, signatures, rotated or skewed elements, and low resolutions. When used with UiPath’s Orchestrator product, task mining can be provisioned, deployed, triggered, monitored, measured, and tracked at every step from a browser or smartphone.

A robust set of computer vision algorithms underlies UiPath’s document understanding features, which can recognize and interact with on-screen fields and components like Flash and Silverlight. Drawing on a neural network with a combination of screen optical character recognition and text fuzzy matching with a multi-anchoring system, the Linux, Android, and Windows software robots powered by the algorithms can “see” virtual desktop interfaces via Citrix, VMWare, Microsoft RDP, and VNC clients and enable automations with dynamic elements like drop-downs and checkboxes.

UiPath Studio for designing processes

Above: UiPath Studio for designing processes

UiPath’s work has gained attention during the coronavirus pandemic. The company told VentureBeat that in Dublin, the Mater Hospital is using its RPA tools to process COVID-19 testing kits, enabling the hospital’s onsite lab to receive results in minutes and saving the nursing department three hours per day, on average. In the U.S., the Cleveland Clinic leveraged a UiPath product to execute a series of patient intake tasks in 14-16 seconds, versus the 2-3 minutes it took a human. UiPath also claims to have assisted with U.S. government automation efforts around COVID-19 — for instance, helping the Department of Homeland Security use 500 bots to perform coronavirus-related data analysis.

UiPath might have momentum on its side — annual recurring revenue hit $400 million in 2020, an uptick from $300 million in October 2019 and $25 million four years ago — but it also has numerous rivals. Automation Anywhere last secured a $290 million investment from SoftBank at a $6.8 billion valuation. Within a span of months, Blue Prism raised over $120 million, Kryon $40 million, and FortressIQ $30 million. Tech giants have also made forays into the field, including Microsoft’s acquisition of RPA startup Softomotive and IBM’s purchase of WDG Automation.

Still, UiPath said in December that it filed confidentially for an initial public offering (IPO). Bloomberg reported that the company could be valued at more than $20 billion in its IPO, which might come as soon as the first half of 2021. “Automation has become a strategic imperative that is fundamentally changing the way organizations operate,” Alkeon Capital managing partner Abhi Arun said in a statement. “We are excited to colead this round of funding as well as continue to team up with the UiPath team during an important phase for the company.”

Coatue and Alkeon Capital led UiPath’s series F round. Other returning investors included Altimeter Capital, Dragoneer, IVP, Sequoia, Tiger Global, and funds and accounts advised by T. Rowe Price.

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