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Particularly during the pandemic, companies of all sizes have increasingly relied on and benefitted from, such tools as Zoom, Google Sheets, Slack, Airtable and numerous others.
But along with these come many repetitive, mundane tasks that are both time- and energy-consuming. Users must constantly switch back and forth and move data across them — from pulling contact information from emails, to copying and pasting data from the web, to flagging attendees to upcoming meetings.
Workflow management software has emerged to help ease the pain of this process. These platforms orchestrate workflows across numerous apps to free users to direct their attention to more productive tasks. Top companies offering the technology include Asana, Smartsheet, Monday.com and Wrike.
“Things that can be done by machines should be done by machines,” said Pascal Weinberger, cofounder and CEO of Bardeen.ai, an emerging provider in the market. “The idea is to bring automation to everyone by making it super simple.”
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Automation for everyone
Based in San Francisco, Bardeen’s secure “automation for all” platform is designed to automate tasks and allow users to control web apps from anywhere. It was founded in 2020 by Weinberger and Artem Harutyunyan. The company has just exited stealth and is supported by $3.5 million in seed funding from 468 Capital and FirstMark Capital.
As Weinberger noted, more than 95% of information today is locked behind logins, registration forms and paywalls, thus creating information silos and disconnection among tools.
“Everyone has hundreds of different apps open all day long,” he said. The goal was to build something that “served as a kind of glue.”
Bardeen’s automation app replaces repetitive tasks with a single shortcut, delegates low-level tasks to technology and allows users to control web apps from anywhere. Users simply download the company’s browser extension and identify the tasks they want to automate.
For example, if a user wanted to look at the past week’s meetings, they could run a playbook that brings all that previous information together, then apply it to relevant upcoming calendars. Or before an upcoming meeting, the system could identify attendees, pull their emails and social media links and add them to a playbook. The technology automatically creates a Google doc, opens a Zoom tab, or populates other relevant fields.
These platforms not only improve productivity, Weinberger pointed out, they help to reduce human error, improve compliance and transparency and eliminate unnecessary managerial oversight. They also foster “innovation through collaboration,” he said.
Bardeen is designed to minimize interruptions and context switching, allowing users to invoke automation with a “option +” keyboard shortcut without having to open up an additional tab, fill out a login, or copy and paste relevant information. Pre-built automation or custom-build playbooks can be utilized and shared in just one click.
The platform is designed to support around 40 integrations, including the likes of G-Suite, Jira, Slack, Trello and many others. It also includes hundreds of pre-built “playbooks” and tools such as a website data scraper and AI modules for optical character recognition (OCR) and text-to-speech.
Each workflow is unique
Bardeen’s technology currently suggests automation based on context. But the long-term vision, Weinberger said, is to be able to detect automatable patterns in a user’s workflows and suggest automations where and when they need it “to ultimately remove the friction from the automation journey.”
“Every person’s workflow is slightly different,” said Harutyunyan, who serves as company CTO. By detecting a user’s habits, the system can then effectively say, “‘Hey, you’re doing these five steps before every meeting,” he said. Leveraging that information, it will then suggest and populate a playbook based on those habits.
Just as important, everything runs entirely on a user’s browser, so all data resides with them, he pointed out. This keeps their sensitive information hidden and they can remove it from their browser whenever they want.
The company built Bardeen to remove the “time-sink,” Weinberger said. “As engineers and product leaders, we tend to think in terms of systems that can be optimized and it was clear to us that the way we all go about our workdays is a vastly under-optimized system with a lot of room for improvement,” he said.
Harutyunyan agreed that, from a technical standpoint, there’s a clear “Why now?” that led to the company’s technology. “Browsers have become extremely sophisticated, feature rich and powerful platforms,” he said. “The timing is perfect to leverage their latest advances to make automation effortless and broadly available to just any internet user.”
Recently, companies have poured billions into robotic processing automation (RPA) to automate backend systems. “But if you look at what we all do at work every day, we’re all badly in need of our own RPA,” said Matt Turck, managing partner at Badeen investor FirstMark. “We spend so much time and mental energy on simple tasks that could be automated.”
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