How to Become a Bot Billionaire

This article follows the journey of Daniel Dines and from his tale, perhaps you’ll also learn how to become a bot billionaire.

Bill Gates has had an ongoing dream for decades. Speaking of this dream, it was he who coined the now well-known quote:

A computer on every desk, and in every home, running Microsoft software.”

Indeed this goal has proven to be somewhat prophetic as nowadays, you would be hard-pressed to find a home that did not have a computer. Whether they be secondhand or top-of-the-line, owning a computer is gradually becoming one of the main necessities every homeowner needs. Or at the very least, it is an appliance that many homeowners want.

The point here is that throughout the years, computers would develop into an innovative technological milestone. Once it became accessible for pretty much everyone, it only makes sense that the public would want one of their own. Eventually, many homes worldwide became owners of a computer; sometimes even more than one. Gates would successfully achieve his goal.

In recent years, there has been another figure that is climbing up the ranks. Similar to how Bill Gates made an impact in technology, this newcomer is doing the same. Instead of wanting every desk and home to own a computer, his goal is, according to an interview with Forbes:

I want a robot for every person.”

This man is Daniel Dines, a Romanian entrepreneur and one of the founders of UiPath. Now, it is important to note that, obviously, Dines does not mean “robot” in the traditional sense. He does not expect every person to have their own humanoid metallic machine that is straight out of science-fiction. The “robots” he refers to are actually blocks of code that carry out repetitive tasks.

Dines would cement himself as the world’s first “bot billionaire” thanks to his efforts with UiPath.

The ultimate RPA platform

Within the past month, UiPath would garner a funding valuation of $7 billion. On top of that, it would go on to nab a spot in the top five on the Forbes’ 2019 Cloud 100 list. With this admirable reputation and acclaim it continues to receive, UiPath is the leader in the robotic process automation market.

This is a monumental success, of course, but what does ‘robotic process automation’ mean? And for that matter what does UiPath do?

Let’s start at the beginning with the core function. Robotic process automation (RPA) is a specific form of business process automation technology. It draws its foundation from the notion of metaphorical software robots (i.e. bots) or artificial intelligence workers. Its technological design allows anyone to construct computer software – or a ‘robot – to emulate and integrate various actions. Specifically, that of a human interacting and it does so within digital systems to carry out a business process.

With conventional workflow automation tools, a software developer distributes a list of actions to automate a task and interface to the back-end system. They do so with the use of either internal application programming interfaces (APIs) or hard-working and intricate scripting language.

RPA operates in a different manner. These systems develop the action list by watching the user execute that task in the application’s graphical user interface (GUI). Following this, it performs the automation by way of repetition directly in the GUI. This method can effectively lower the barrier to the use of automation in various products. In particular, products that might not feature APIs for this purpose.

UiPath is a global software company that develops a platform for robotic process automation. The company’s claim to fame comes from a notable innovation with infinite potential.

The general appeal

The primary reason for UiPath growing at such a rapid rate is because a solution is created. For enterprise clients, this software solution is enticing and – to reiterate – has infinite potential.

The startup concentrates on repetitive tasks, aiding customers in automating as many actions as possible with the use of UiPath. Back-office employees working in accounting, human resources paperwork, and/or claims processing could use an RPA solution to save time. It will make these tasks a lot less time-consuming.

UiPath creates bots that will automatically carry out repetitive tasks. As you may recall, these are blocks of code, technically speaking. Again, UiPath would manage to garner a $7 billion valuation. The way they achieved this was by selling a more monotonous kind to effectively bring in numbers from invoiced PDFs. From this, they can direct them to accounting software, or process insurance claims. In other words, these are mindless tasks. What’s more, they run the risk of experiencing the same fate as bank tellers or telephone operators generations ago. That is to say, the numbers will diminish and potential extinction is on the horizon.

This shift is what is responsible for the emergence of the new tech category we know as ‘robotic process automation’. All of this clout carries noteworthy potential that is difficult to ignore.

The positive reception to the switch

Making the switch to UiPath is relatively simple, mostly because it smoothly integrates with pre-existing tools. In essence, the service functions as a robot on your computer (perhaps there was some accuracy to Dines use of the word). It clicks around, searches for a contact, copies files, extracts content from documents, and so much more. Companies are able to design those robots by utilizing a visual editor. With this, one can drag and drop blocks that are each representative of an action.

Since its launch, the reception has been mostly positive. Customers love that it vastly increases the overall productivity. With this system, they save a considerable amount of money. Moreover, employees can focus on tasks that are much more rewarding and require less repetition. There is an array of clients, including Google, McDonald’s, NHS Shared Business Services, Uber, and many others.

Impending domination

Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui bank group, a UiPath customer since April 2017, made a certain projection. By cutting down on employee busywork and improving accuracy, it will save nearly $500 million by the following year. Toyota and Walmart are already flocking to UiPath for a similar type of magic.

Looking at the bigger picture, assembling virtual robots is faster and more economical than having engineers build an internal app. Furthermore, it spares workers a comparatively low-tech alternative. That being long, tedious hours of creating Excel macros and filling out spreadsheets. A UiPath bot will do the task endlessly and without complaint for approximately $15,000 per year. There are some companies that use thousands at a time.

Dines is not the inventor of RPA, however, he – and others – aptly predict that he will dominate it. Two years ago, European investors were valuing it at roughly $110 million. During this time, UiPath was an unpopular company in Romania consisting of a team of 150. It was also booking less than $5 million in revenue. Fast forward to the present day and its headquarters is a skyscraper in Manhattan. Moreover, they employ 3,200 in more than 30 offices worldwide. Last year, its revenue was $155 million and they expect to double that this year.

It ranks #3 on Forbes’ 2019 Cloud 100 thanks to the shift. In April, Wall Street investors, like Wellington Management, would pump in $568 million, at a valuation of $7 billion. This is was led to Dines – who owns more than 20% – the world’s first “bot billionaire.”

It is unlikely that he will be the last. Bots are aiming to create vast efficiencies by way of artificial intelligence. This means that a land grab is starting to emerge, but who is behind it?

Setting a goal in place

Blue Prism is a company that is on the London Stock Exchange and is also the category’s creator. Not too long ago, they were able to raise $130 million by issuing new stock. SoftBank would later invest $300 million in Automation Anywhere, a developer company from California. They are putting forth claims that they are beating UiPath in artificial intelligence. Moreover, tech’s cloud giants that Microsoft is leading are beginning to show signs of elbowing in.

This is igniting a sense of impatience in Dines. In order to retain success and innovation, UiPath needs to keep pushing limits. Specifically, how fast a startup can expand without collapsing on itself. What’s more, it has to also be the face of an industry full of risks that correlate with malevolent bots. As if those risks weren’t enough, there is also the likelihood of workers with fewer skills losing their jobs.

This kind of talk is all too familiar for Dines. In fact, such comments were akin to the ones directed at Bill Gates when the software was becoming a game-changer. Gates’ aspiration was to have every desk and home to have a computer with Microsoft. For Dines, to bring this full circle, the goal is to give every person a “robot.”

The man who would be a billionaire

At this point, we know the impact Dines and UiPath are having and will continue to have in the future. So, with that in mind, let’s see how he got to where he is now as a “bot billionaire.” Because let’s face it: such success did not happen overnight.

how to become a bot billionaire

Dines’ career would begin in his birth country of Romania. Dines’ upbringing was behind the Iron Curtain and his initial aspiration was to be an author. He would soon discover his skills in math and he began attending college in 1990. This was one year after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the conclusion of Ceausescu’s regime. He grew bored with impersonal lectures, so he put all his focus on some math and computer science classes. He would support himself as a post-Communist arbitrager of Romania’s inflationary currency. In other words, purchasing goods at a cheaper price in Bucharest and sending them home with a markup.

During the mid-90s, he was running a job listings business. At some point, he would learn that coders in Bucharest working on projects for U.S. tech companies were making $300 a month. After borrowing a book about the C++ language, he would teach himself the material. In 2001, he received an offer from Microsoft, which would prompt him to move to Seattle. For nearly five years, he was working as a programmer and his early years were difficult, to say the least:

My first years were terrible … In meetings, I understood 50% to 60% of what they talked about, and I couldn’t speak anything.”

Later on down the line, he would make a discovery regarding certain words, like “folder.” That being they were more than Windows icon names.

Laying the groundwork

In 2005, Dines made the decision to return to Bucharest and start a tech outsourcing company. This company would go on to be known as DeskOver. To remain up-to-date, Dines would essentially abandon bridge for poker. Thus, his primary style of management came to fruition.  Dines’ chief lieutenant, Marius Tîrca, describes this with the following statement:

He took a lot of risks, so most of the time he would lose, but he liked to make a learning experience out of it … He’d play sometimes with the cards on their face and ask everyone how they would play his hand.”

In 2011, those “lessons” would be put to the test. It was during this year that he would lose his largest outsourcing customer. However, Dines was not one to throw in the towel so easily. Instead of closing up shop, he quit chain-smoking and would promote Tîrca to co-founder. Later, he would take it a step further and become a chief technology officer. They put all of their focus on the company’s side business of selling software development kits (SDKs). The purpose of these was to assist engineers in coding apps at a faster rate. That would later prove to be a stopgap.

An Indian customer would be responsible for a fundamental shift in Dines’ system. This customer showed the Romanian entrepreneur how one could build off those tools to train software. Moreover, how it was mimicking basic tasks like data entry and how there was no need for an engineer.

“Robot” business

In response to this revelation, they would send staff over to visit the Indian company. During this trip, they would, in essence, “snatch the contract” from Blue Prism. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – they just recently coined the term ‘RPA’ following the automation of back-office functions for banks. Concerning the matter, Dines says that:

They made it clear this was the best use of our technology … Our software was completely useful in the RPA world.”

Dines would subsequently go into the business of virtual robots. He would concentrate primarily on software programs that are running autonomously and without the need for writing new code. By the time 2014 rolled around, the company had a revenue worth $500,000, which is not that bad in Romania. In addition, Dines would start to target bigger customers and the Silicon Valley scale. The inspiration for this tactic came from Hacker News message boards.

He would effectively shift the business model towards something pertaining more to software-as-a-service subscriptions. These efforts would result in successfully raising $1.6 million from European funds. These funds include Credo Ventures, Earlybird, and Seedcamp, What’s more, the name of the company would hastily change to the now recognizable UiPath. This name holds significance in that it stems from a technical term in the startup’s code.

how to become a bot billionaire

Birth of UiPath

The initiation of UiPath in 2005 came about from one specific goal of Dines’. That being the aim to construct a solution for the troubles that come from menial, administrative business tasks. With UiPath, they could effectively reduce the time and cut down on stress. Nowadays, Dines’ main vision is to make software robots that get their power from both computer vision and AI commonplace. He wants them to be as ordinary as PCs in the workplace. This vision is what would lead to the creation of what was said at the beginning of the article:

One Robot for Every Person.”

Dines have a commitment to ushering in an era that puts ‘automation first’. Overall, its intent is to help businesses of all sizes digitize everyday business operations. What’s more, it aims to apply AI in those operations in order to wholly drive digital transformation. This era brings forth tremendous value to businesses, as well as new career opportunities for many people.

This is primarily why Dines is adamant about democratizing RPA by way of free training and software. Moreover, through UiPath’s Academic Alliance program. This is a program that will both train and certify various groups of people. These include university students, youth, and groups that are traditionally underrepresented. Ultimately, its goal is to prepare people for jobs in the future.

Expansion

UiPath took a different route when it came to competition. Instead of contending with big auditing and consulting firms, UiPath would become their partner. Cognizant and EY were already dealing with multinationals to make procurement processes – among others – more efficient. Being UiPath customers, they are now able to save money per client by automating a portion of that work. To make it more lucrative, Dines would persuade consultants in introducing UiPath to their clientele. What’s more, the consultants will be able to keep up to 80% of the overall bot spend. In exchange, they will establish and continue to maintain the program.

All of a sudden, some of the biggest companies were partaking in UiPath’s salesforce. As a matter of fact, it would be two years before Dines was meeting his customers face-to-face. Swiss Re was insistent on Dines flying to Zurich for a $100,000 contract.

Blue Prism would go public in 2016 and Dines was dead set on taking UiPath global. He was already scoring U.S. clients (ex. a $300,000 contract with General Electric) over the phone, so why not? However, for bigger deals, Dines was going to need boots on the ground. This means an office in outsourcing hub Bangalore, which would come to be in 2016. From here, the expansion would extend to London and New York.

By February of the following year, Dines was signing the term sheet for $30 million in investment at a $110 million valuation from Accel. Afterward, according to Accel partner, Luciana Lixandru, Dines would say this to Accel’s London investors:

Daniel looks at us and says, ‘I will make you guys a lot of money!’”

The inevitable attraction of investors

With the funding being secured and the multiplication of aspirations, Dines would eventually relocate his headquarters and his family. Two years ago, New York would become their new home. Though, he still spends about a third of his time working out of the office in Bucharest. By the time 2017 would come to an end, UiPath has a revenue of over $30 million. There is a difference between this company and more conventional Silicon Valley startups. While the latter often starts selling to each other, UiPath claims that 60% of America’s biggest companies are clients.

With the numbers continuing to escalate, it is no wonder that the company’s prominence is skyrocketing. Generally speaking, UiPath’s sales are about equal thirds from North America, Europe, and the rest of the world.

This continuously rapid growth was quickly drawing in more and more blue-chip investors. CapitalG, the startup investment shop of Alphabet, would join its $153 million Series B in March of 2018. This would value UiPath at $1.1 billion, with Accel coming back for more. In the summer of that year, the sales were topping $100 million. Dines would eventually receive an offer that effectively became a rite of passage for ‘unicorn founders’.

Negotiations leading to profit

SoftBank’s Vision Fund is a $100 billion investment vehicle that was being led by a man named Masayoshi Son. Representatives of this fund were able to meet with Dines while the latter was vacationing in France’s Côte d’Azur. Dines would later fly to Japan to meet with Son in person. During this meeting, Son would offer Dines a $1 billion investment. In other words, a lot more board control than he was admittedly comfortable with. In response, Dines would say:

I told Masa, you’re welcome in the company … But you can only invest this much.” 

UiPath would go on to choose CapitalG and venture capital firm, Sequoia, to co-lead the $225 million investment. From that, there was a value of $3 billion.

It is here that Dines’ ability to successfully bargain becomes noteworthy. One of the most admirable qualities concerning Dines is his skills in negotiating. Such a skill did not go unnoticed by UiPath’s chief accounting officer, Mihai Faur. 

Daniel is a brilliant negotiator. He is like a crocodile in the water … He’s relaxed on the outside. Inside, he has a fire.”

An overview of the rapid success

There are an array of reasons as to why UiPath’s success is continuous and rapid. Of course there is the solution it provides for enterprise clients, however, there are other reasons. It has a particular interest in special programs that could run autonomously, as well as automate office tasks. The company is actively building robotic tools that could eventually scale across much larger enterprise platforms.

What’s more, UiPath is securing critical early funding so that it can boost its growth. This is gradually enticing investment firms to partake in its splendors. These include the aforementioned Accel and SoftBank’s Vision Fund.

One could easily make the argument that what is truly propelling UiPath forward is communication. Specifically, communication between the founder and the RPA customers. Those conversations would introduce what he characterizes as a ‘sense of humility’. That is to say, an acceptance that no one should be too arrogant to ignore what others have to say. Later on, this would become a core principle of UiPath’s company culture.

Dines recalls this transformative action with the following statement:

After I started to visit customers and understand their pain points and their requests, I actually realized they were smarter than us in using our own technology because they used it in the real world.”

The future for the billionaire

When it comes to UiPath, Dines says the main goal is to be IPO (initial public offering)-ready by 2020’s end. Its central intent is to go public by 2021. Dines states that there is no way for there to be a big private company. There will come a time when you need to be public.

Prior to this, it is possible for UiPath to raise money again; perhaps as soon as early next year. Should this become a reality, then it would fetch a far higher price. That is if it manages to obtain a revenue of $300 million by the end of this year. What’s more, if it can run a rate of $1 billion in 2020. Dines expresses his thoughts on the matter:

UiPath isn’t a company where you can predict in six months what the company will look like, because nobody’s done this before … It’s like a book: It’s constantly changing.”

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