We combed through websites, interviewed tech experts, and researched a host of product categories to assemble, once again, the roster of 20 companies that make up our annual “Tech Companies to Watch.” We uncovered a wide range of technologies and products that would be valuable to finance chiefs, and we also discovered a wealth of innovation going on in “traditional” finance-related tech categories.
The entirety of the list appears in the April/May 2018 edition of CFO magazine. We are revealing the first 10 companies on CFO.com, one per day. Our first three tech companies to watch were Pymetrics, Prattle, and Tipalti. Today, we cover robotic process automation standout UiPath. Other companies in the 2018 list appear at the end of this story.
There’s been a triad of leading vendors since the term robotic process automation (RPA) was coined several years ago: Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism, and UiPath. Last year CFO named Automation Anywhere a “tech company to watch” because prospects for RPA were soaring and Forrester Research had recently ranked the company first in three important categories: strength of technology, strategy, and market share. This year, things may be shaping up differently. Prospects for RPA are still soaring, but in particular UiPath’s star appears to be on the rise.
While all three leading vendors are experiencing strong growth, UiPath’s leap over the past 12 months has been eye-popping. In early 2017 the company had fewer than 100 enterprise customers for its robot-building software platform — putting UiPath far behind its major competitors. But that number has since swelled to more than 700.
Company officials claim it will “easily” have 1,500 enterprise customers by the end of 2018. They also say it has become “the most widely adopted enterprise RPA platform.” However, cautions Forrester analyst Craig Le Clair, “We have no way to reliably assess that.”
Like many RPA vendors, UiPath is increasingly hampered by the limited number of companies qualified to implement RPA platforms — third parties, like Accenture, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young. UiPath, though, has a singular approach to mitigating the problem. The company offers free downloads of its platform for individuals, companies with less than $1 million in annual revenue, and educational organizations. Anyone who downloads the platform is not only a potential future paying customer but also a potential future implementer — and, according to UiPath, during 2017 there were more than 125,000 downloads.
“With free online training available from our UiPath Academy, the response has been tremendous,” says company founder and CEO Daniel Dines. More than 36,000 people registered for courses last year.
Dines, says Le Clair, is “a very smart guy who has created a good culture within the company.” That culture values being straightforward and generally not over-promising what can be delivered. The company offers “a very strong platform,” according to Le Clair, who last year rated its technology as second-best in the RPA field, a hair behind Automation Anywhere. Le Clair says UiPath “may do better” in his 2018 report on the sector.
The UiPath Studio platform is especially touted for its ease of use. It’s based on Microsoft’s Windows Workflow Foundation, which gives users “a highly intuitive, Visio-like process automation experience,” says Dines. The company’s best-known differentiator is Computer Vision, a product that allows customers to automate Citrix virtual machine environments quickly and precisely.
Investors have taken notice of the pluses. In March UiPath announced a Series B funding of $153 million led by Accel Partners — which solely provided the $30 million the company secured in its first funding round, in 2017. Google investment arm CapitalG was one of two other venture capital firms that supported the Series B.
Much of the cash infusion will be used to develop machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities, says UiPath. That could help the company in a potential future battle between RPA and AI vendors to provide turnkey products integrating both types of automation.
“[Leading] AI companies typically have higher valuations and are better financed than the RPA companies — with the exception, now, of UiPath,” says Le Clair.
Other 2018 Tech Companies to Watch
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