How Automation Anywhere joined the billion-dollar-plus club

Ankur Kothari, chief revenue officer of robotic process automation (RPA) platform Automation Anywhere, still remembers the Sunday night in 2003 when he and his cofounders Neeti Mehta Shukla, Mihir Shukla and Rushabh Parmani had just uploaded their first product. They went out to celebrate over a dinner. 
 
When they came back a few hours later, they had already landed a customer from Australia. “We had built a product which was downloadable. We thought, we will be our first buyer. It was at the end of a Sunday, we thought no one would be working, but we forgot Australia would be,” said Kothari. Since then there has been no stopping the newly-minted unicorn (a term for private tech companies valued over $1 billion) which has more than 1,100 enterprise customers including technology giants Google, Cisco and Siemens.
 
Earlier this week, Automation Anywhere said it raised $250 million in what it called a series-A round which valued it at $1.8 billion. The investment was led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA) and Goldman Sachs Growth Equity with participation from General Atlantic and World Innovation Lab (WiL).
 
Interestingly, none of the founders are from IITs or top Ivy League colleges, unlike most unicorns. While Kothari and Parmani studied computer science at University of Wisconsin-Madison in the late 1990s, CEO Mihir Shukla studied at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda and then Michigan State University. 
 
Neeti Shukla studied marketing at Bond University in Australia. Parmani and Kothari have worked in Siebel Systems (acquired by Oracle), while Neeti Shukla has worked at Intuit and Mihir Shukla has worked across organisations like Netscape and Infoseek. The first few years were spent in acquiring initial customers, getting the product right and working with partners and customers to build a process. But for Kothari, the real growth in the RPA sector began right after the recession in 2008, when it became evident that automation of human intensive processes was the way forward. RPA, basically, uses computer software to process and automate routine, standardised tasks in an organisation.
 
“In the past seven to eight years, we have been growing over 100% YoY. We believe that it has hit an inflection point in the past year or so,” said Kothari. Automation Anywhere claims is has a 98% client retention rate.
 
While the company has been working out of the US, India is a crucial cog in the wheel. It is a ‘codevelopment’ headquarters with almost 400 employees, mainly in Vadodara and also in Bengaluru and Mumbai. That is almost half of its entire 800 employees.
 
For Automation Anywhere, the next big bet is its Bot Store, which is an online marketplace for offthe-shelf, plug and play software bots. The store has prebuilt bots and also bots from strategic partners EY, Genpact and others. The bots can be snapped together like LEGO blocks to automate complex business processes like order fulfillment, mortgage processing, logistics management, compliance auditing and customer churn prediction.
 
With this large round of funding, Automation Anywhere is looking to deepen its customer engagements in North America, Latin America, India, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and plans to deploy its technology in additional geographies. The company will also work on bettering its cognitive technology capabilities. According to an Artificial Intelligence and Robotic Process Automation Primer report by Avendus, the IT RPA market revenue worldwide will be $4.9 billion in 2020 while it was $ 100 million in 2012. The report also adds that North America accounts for 54% of the RPA buyers, by geography, and large enterprises, unsurprisingly, account for 69% of buyers by size.
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