If you’d been asked to place a bet on either Automation Anywhere or UiPath to win the Robotic Processing Wars in 2017, you likely would’ve picked the former. The company had been the first market leader, led by an impressive (if early) product targeted at the so-called “Citizen Developer” movement.
At the time, Gartner pegged Automation Anywhere as the leader in the space for market share. (UiPath was listed fifth.) The company seemed poised for segment domination. But in 2017, Gartner suggested the entire industry was worth only $125 million; so, while the vertical held substantial promise, little of it had been realized.
While Automation Anywhere certainly rode the wave of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the more interesting story is that since 2017, their market share relative to UiPath has been eliminated. In their most recent view of the RPA industry, Gartner, Forrester and others now place UiPath ahead of Automation Anywhere.
As consultants, we’ve watched the RPA Wars play out long before analysts noticed. We’ve seen Automation Anywhere grow at a healthy clip, attracting substantial venture capital. Still, UiPath’s momentum is on an entirely different level. While both platforms have their fans, many are decidedly more excited for UiPath. Perhaps most telling, we’ve seen migrations from Automation Anywhere to UiPath; however, they rarely go in the opposite direction.
This excerpt from the eBook, “The RPA Wars: The Early Years,” explains what happened from 2018 to 2019 to help UiPath pull ahead of Automation Anywhere in The RPA Wars.
2018 – TIPPING POINT
UiPath entered the year with a hefty bank balance and a payroll to match. All the company needed to do was execute. A blog post from the company suggested as much:
- “2017 was a year of astronomic growth—we landed a $40 million Series-A round of investment, and opened offices in Tokyo, Singapore, Australia, and Paris—but looking back, that was all stage-setting for this year.”
For both platforms, 2018 was about execution and fundraising, but you’d be hard-pressed to proclaim Automation Anywhere as the winner. In fundraising, Automation Anywhere announced a $250 million investment in July, followed by an additional $300 million investment in November.
Meanwhile, at UiPath, a $153 million investment was announced in March, followed by $225 million in additional funds in September.
UiPath’s valuation was set at $3 billion in September, while Automation Anywhere’s November raise pegged their company’s value at $2.6 billion. Though Automation Anywhere had raised over seventy million dollars more than UiPath, the valuation of the former lagged.
On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine Automation Anywhere being concerned about UiPath. After a successful year of fundraising, the company’s revenue for 2018 was estimated to be $108.4 million. It had been a year of nearly 50% growth.
But the story over at UiPath was even more incredible. Revenues had skyrocketed from $15.7 million in 2017 to $108.4 million in 2018 – a staggering 690% twelve-month increase. This made the upstart the new market leader.
2019 – BOLD MOVES & PINK SLIPS
If the early days of RPA were about UiPath doing a lot of things correctly, the next phase might better be described as Automation Anywhere suffering a self-inflicted wound. Though the long-term consequences are still playing out, in the short-term, the company made a bold move; and, in the early days, likely paid the price.
The earliest versions of RPA technology had all relied on a developer client installed locally, bypassing the browser. There were logical reasons for this. Though it goes without saying, running code in a browser is anything but a sterile experience. Powerful browsers like Chrome handle multiple processes well; and, therefore, drive much of the web. The half dozen (or more) plugins we add give the browser even more power; but each process running behind the scenes also has the power to interact with code in ways that might be unintended. (Anyone who received a Zoom warning that a plugin is impacting his experience has seen this first-hand.) It is then up to the developer to uncover why the code is flawed.
What no RPA provider had done, yet, was actually have a browser-based development client, which was why the industry stood up when Automation Anywhere announced plans to do just that.
In 2018, rumors became rampant about an entirely new platform coming from Automation Anywhere; one that would thoroughly embrace the power of the Cloud, complete with a browser-based developer client. However, announcements of radically new platforms can trigger differing responses from prospects, and this case was no different.
Those considering Automation Anywhere as a potential solution found their evaluations more problematic. If the existing platform were less than perfect, should they trust the new one would fix the shortcomings? Alternatively, what if desired features went away?
Everyone was aware that the new platform was intentionally different; therefore, it’s likely that knowledge put more friction and less grease into the sales process. Some took the wait-and-see approach.
Meanwhile, some developers – familiar with the potential challenges inherent in browser-based developer clients – were more hesitant to embrace the new version. At best, they were cautiously optimistic; in truth, they were more often skeptical. Some chose the conservative path, and opted for UiPath.
Moreover, Automation Anywhere fell prey to optimism bias. A2019, as the new platform was called, was talked about for well over a year before it finally launched in October of 2019. Now, on top of it being later than promised to a community skeptical of the tooling, they also had to deal with the fact that converting bots to the new platform wasn’t as simple as copy and paste. In fact, some felt they were starting over. And that wasn’t all.
Though not uncommon for platform relaunches, many felt as if the UX of A2019 was lacking and swiftly became frustrated by the navigation.
And that was when the platform worked. For many, A2019 was buggy. While bugs are expected in any software, bugs for a development product are worse, as they reduce confidence in the performance of code existing within the platform. Less surprisingly, many felt that the new browser-based client was slower (most likely because it was).
If Automation Anywhere had oversold the promise of the Citizen Developer, that could be chalked up to aggressive marketing; and, if they had been a little late to the party with developer education, at least they responded quickly.
But, a buggy product attempting to be the first in its category to be solely browser-based? That’s a tough shot for anyone to take. Though A2019 was the first to embrace a browser-based developer client, for some the platform was actually a step back. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time for Automation Anywhere.
Because UiPath had done so much right in 2018, they no longer appeared to be smaller or inferior to Automation Anywhere. In 2017, UiPath passed Automation Anywhere in Google trends. One year later, they had passed them in revenue as well.
For the new market leader, 2019 was earmarked by two vastly different announcements. In February, they announced they’d raised an additional $568 million. Just six months after their last round, their valuation was pegged at $35 billion.
With healthy market interest, a growing customer base, and a bulging war chest, many were caught off guard in October by the abrupt announcement of massive layoffs affecting 11% of UiPath’s workforce. The news came in the wake of WeWork’s implosion and led to speculation that the entire RPA category might be a bubble ready to burst.
UiPath’s competitors used the layoffs as a means of differentiation, proffering that job cuts were a sign of inflated valuations, unlike their own theoretically correct valuations.
In the end, though, UiPath’s initial statements on the layoffs seemed to be well-grounded in reality. The firm had aggressively hired in a short period of time in which strategy was being honed. As the strategy shifted, certain positions were eliminated. Since this single round of substantial cuts, no more have been announced.
- “A2019 was a disappointment to myself and to others in the RPA community. Though it had been announced in October, it was so buggy that it was 2020 before customers were really able to use it with confidence. It had the feeling of something that had been rushed to market. In 2018, UiPath had out-marketed Automation Anywhere. A year later, Automation Anywhere missed a great chance to claw back market share. When we talk about companies moving from Automation Anywhere to UiPath, A2019 should be considered ground zero.”
– Dustin Cleckler, Senior Consultant
Interested in what happens next in “The RPA Wars: The Early Years?”
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