As we are gearing up for our 3d epic SaaStr Europa 2022 in Barcelona 7-8 June, I wanted to take a look at a few iconic sessions in the past.
At our inaugural SaaStr Europa in Paris back in 2018, Sequoia (then Accel) Partner Luciana Lixandru and UiPath CMO Bobby Patrick discussed what breaks when your business goes into hypergrowth mode (hint: pretty much everything). Check out the full video and transcript below!
And don’t miss out when we do it all again — even bigger and better — this June! We’ll have two full days of thought leadership content, networking opportunities, fantastic food, and fabulous evening events, all in the heart of Barcelona — snag your Europa 2022 tickets and catch up with us on the other side of the Atlantic this summer!
Luciana Lixandru: My name is Luciana Lixandru. I am a partner at Accel, the Global Venture Capital Fund, and I’m very happy to be here with one of these mythical creatures that people were talking about earlier. I’m here with Bobby Patrick, the Chief Marketing Officer of UiPath. Accel led UiPath Series A about a year and a half ago, and the Series B about half a year ago.
Bobby Patrick: Right.
Luciana: It has been quite a journey. The company scaled from a hundred people to 800, last I know, but it changes every day.
Bobby: A thousand next week.
Luciana: Okay. A thousand next week. They are active in 16 offices and I would say they’re on fire. I’m really thrilled to hear a bit more of their story together with the audience. Bobby, tell us a little bit about UiPath.
Bobby: Yes. We’re in the business of robots, software robots, an industry … There was a great presentation earlier, you all probably heard with the category awareness, category urgency, and I’d add one more, company urgency. We’re in a category that a year ago nobody really heard of called RPA or Robotic Process Automation.
Today, every single global 2000 company has somebody thinking about RPA and next year every division within a global 2000 company will think about RPA. These are robots that sit next to a human and they do the work that a human does continuously over and over and over. This is in all parts of your life. What’s exciting about this is we talk about that, what we do is we help humans be more creative. That’s what you were born to do. That our robots do the work that we hate. I can give you marketing examples about how robots are sitting on my laptop and then in the cloud doing work for us that we hate doing, the work that is done in a contact center or in an airline or work that’s done in your finance business.
We tell every CFO up that if you have an employee in finance that’s not doing data driven analytics, that’s what a robot should be doing. That’s how big the opportunity is, and our company grew from … The numbers are huge, but we’ll do. We’ve already done more than all of last year, Luciana. We will do four and a half times what we did last year and be able to be a half a billion dollar AI company in about 18 months.
UIPath History 🚀
2005: Started as a tech outsourcing company
2014: $500k rev. $1.6m seed round
2015: $1m rev.
2016: $3.5m rev
2017: $30m rev.
2018: $155m rev.
2019: $336m rev
2020: $607m rev
One of the fastest-growing SaaS companies ever 🔥
— Jon Ma (@jonbma) March 27, 2021
Luciana: Last year the growth was also meaningful. I think we shared the numbers publicly. It was about eight times on numbers that are already significant. Let’s talk a little bit more about the topic of this panel. What is your philosophy around growth if you have one? Unless you just go every day and try to do your best and survive.
Bobby: Yes, we have a pretty, we have a different philosophy than the prior Meltwater one. I think part of it is market timing. Meltwater started in 2001, as you heard and grew consistently over time. They even use their cash well. We also started back in early 2000s, but spent the better of 12 years perfecting a technology called Computer Vision before the market really was there. The market now called RPA, which is the fastest path to using AI in a company now. What we did though, if you look at how the hockey stick works, is about a year and a half ago when the Series A started, that’s when this, the world shifted a bit. The technology is perfected. A business user could do their own, build their own robot and things really took off. We took the series A, interesting enough, the first executive hired by, thanks to the sales coaching, actually was marketing. When I was first met Luciana, we didn’t have executive teams really outside of the founders and for her to say how important marketing, big in marketing, not little how marketing was, meant a whole lot about what we were going to undertake here. We had to build the category, we had to drive the urgency and then in our company then we had to act with a massive sense of urgency about how fast this market was going to materialize.
Growth for us is about massive scaling and hiring. We went from two offices probably a year ago and three employees in the US, for example, to 1000 employees, 150 in the US now, and 16 offices worldwide, all within 18 months. We raised $180 million and we really haven’t touched the cash either.
Luciana: I had been telling people that the inflection point came when Accel invested, but I guess it was market and product and all that good stuff. No, I’m joking. How do you set milestones when you’re growing so fast and then mainly internally, but even how you manage your board and people like me? Do you set higher targets so that the team is overly incentivized? I have also heard the opposite side of the spectrum where companies will set a slightly lower target in order for the team to be really excited. How do you guys think about it?
Bobby: Well, it’s really fascinating. Our founder, Daniel Dines, an amazing guy who lives and breathes this with passion. He actually sets the targets extremely high, and raises them every quarter because it’s a sense of urgency that he’s driving right now. It’s not, and he’s right though, right? It’s really weird. We raised, since I’ve been with the company now 10 months, the numbers go up, we’re adding five and a half customers a day. These are all large enterprises. We added 0.8 when I joined, we have 21,000 inbound leads that come in now every month, 800 of them are hot. What we do is look at all those metrics and our hope, goal is that every one of them continues to show this. There’s no plateauing. We have all these numbers we look at, but I think in some ways we’re a little short term focused because we worry about the fact that every global 2000 company right now, should be thinking about deploying digital workers and building a digital workforce and we want to be the one in there and we want to be the one. We think we have a superior product and we want to be the one that … so there’s a sense of urgency. I think we push ourselves.
Luciana: Okay, so set milestones actually higher and ideally achieve them, and so far you have.
Bobby: Yeah, you wouldn’t believe the milestones like when I first heard them, you wouldn’t have believed it.
Luciana: I didn’t.
Bobby: Right? You had to actually live this to realize that this is one of those examples of a very, very, unique market opportunity. A shift, a way, a shift on how businesses work. This is the future of work. Every single person in here will have their own digital worker here in the next three years. You may not realize it yet, but it’s in every part of the business and it’s dramatic. Any fast growing startup in here and you’rer hiring and HR to handle your employee hiring, you could probably have a robot do 88% faster, better for your employee, and not have to hire fast. If you’re handling multiple invoices from different customers that come in different formats, you can keep hiring more finance people or you can have robots augment your finance people. They enjoy their job better and have better satisfaction actually, and you have a much more productive organization. This is, it’s mind blowing the degree to which the shift is happening and when you have a shift like this, you’ve got to just go all in.
Luciana: If I had to summarize, you believe that the opportunity is now, you believe that the opportunity is massive and therefore you’re going to grab the opportunity as fast as possible.
Bobby: Yeah, that’s right. We went to Japan. I don’t know how many of you have any operations in Japan, but here’s an easy example. You don’t typically go into Japan and drive huge growth fast, right? We moved into Japan and in March of last year. We have 270 customers. We’ve hosted 2,000 businesses and our own events there. We’re in almost every large organization, in Toyota, in the banks and others in Japan. It took us having a very … we had to go, we make an investment, hire the right person, ex-Barclays CIO.
Luciana: Right. Very senior in this case. Very, very seasoned. Yes.
Bobby: Very senior in this case. He has a 90 person organization and now RPA in indistinct Japan, RPA is a societal discussion. RPA has two big benefits to Japan. One is it addresses an aging population and the workforce impacts there, they call it decaying population, which I don’t use, but they call it that. Two, suicide, so robots actually reduced the amount of work from 120 hours on average at a Japanese company to 80 hours a week, which is still a lot, but that, every market is a little bit different, but if we didn’t go all in on Japan and we went in slowly or we said, “Arg, too hard,” we would have missed out on a massive opportunity and that exists in public sector here in France, public sector in the UK, federal government in the US. It’s just really everywhere simultaneously.
Luciana: Do you feel Japan is one great example, as I mentioned earlier, you guys expanded from two offices to what, 16, is that the right number now?
Bobby: Yes, 16.
Luciana: 16 across Europe, Asia, and the US. I believe that we have a lot of European entrepreneurs here. Is there any advice in terms of when is the right time to find your next market and is it always the US in terms of the first step after Europe? In this case it sounds like Asia was quite lucrative as well.
Bobby: Yes, I think we’re also different that in the earlier discussion we tried to influence everybody in here to move to San Francisco. We actually think it’s about where the customers are when it comes to our sales and customer success and then where our product development center should be. We have a product development center in Bucharest, in India, and in Seattle. I have a lead development team in Austin, Texas and in Bucharest, we have the salespeople and our customer success in offices all around local and closer to customers. We actually think about, where are the customers and where do we need to be able to serve those customers? When Daniel moved the company to New York, it was really about getting closer to the biggest market of large companies that were going to become the biggest opportunity. It’s not that they’re all there, they’re not here or in Japan, it’s just that he knew we needed to be there in a serious way. Right, so we moved our company’s headquarters to New York City, but right now we think about the markets in terms of establishing an office primarily for local sales and customer success. We open Toronto and in Sao Paulo in two weeks, we just opened Seoul and you’ve got to be there, and you gotta be there in a legitimate way, right? You can’t really serve the Korean market or the Japanese market or market in Portuguese, in Brazil without really being there in a serious way. It’s no different than in federal government. We’ve been in the US federal government for five months with offices and now we have robots running at most major agencies, NASA, and others. They’re big success stories and this is all within six months.
Luciana: One of the things that comes to mind when you mention Brazil and the US and Europe is culture and how UiPath really was active and in one city as only two years, as was only two years ago, and yet all the offices I’ve been to give me the same impression, people are running in the same direction. They’re very mission driven. They know exactly what the purpose is. I would actually say that you guys have done a very good job of scaling culture across many cities and many countries that are very different from each other. Was it organic?
Bobby: It starts at the top.
Luciana: Are there tools that you used?
Bobby: Every, all hands meeting, which we have multiple a month, humility starts the conversation, right? We don’t hire arrogance. In fact, our CEO will fire an arrogant person tomorrow, right? We don’t, excuse the word, hire assholes, right? It’s very, very important to us, right? Any one employee, and you’re required to have at least three interviews, can say no and there’s no exceptions asked. Every employee goes through IQ tests and not to look for the highest IQ, but just to get a feeling of how they answer questions and go through thought processes.
This is … we have some 18,000 people active in our job bite right now worldwide, right? We pride ourselves in hiring people that fit. This is no work-life balance company. We’re honest about it, right? You’ve got to believe in this unique opportunity. We’ve managed, interestingly enough our Paris office is four blocks from here and yesterday they were all feeling the same way. We’ve really managed to keep that. One thing I didn’t mention earlier that is important in a go to market perspective, which we do different than our competitors, is in addition to building out the direct and the touch base, we do foster community online. We do think about, we do things we think about. We have a term we want to democratize, RPA, right? Meaning if you’re a small business and if you’re under a million in revenue, you can use robots for free right now. This weekend you could build them and make your life more productive, right? If you’re a university and you use our technology courses in business school now, which a number are doing, you can use our software for free.
We think about things, about how do we make this and take this and that’s part of making the humility part of being who we are real, right? It took doing those kinds of things, thinking about online community, you can get certified with our software free online. In fact, over 100,000 people have gone through it in just 11 months. It’s called Academy and you can add, people add them to their LinkedIn profile, their certifications and there’s different ones based on job roles and it’s all free. I would be remiss if I didn’t say that those things are also equally important to the mix of how we scale worldwide.
Luciana: The fascinating thing here is that you hire slow and fast at the same time. You hire slowly because it takes, anyone can veto or one person can veto or hire, and you test for various things, not just like you, as you said, being humble is key and I can say that’s something I’ve witnessed and something I felt whenever I met someone in the company, but at the same time you guys are adding what, 100 people a month now. I don’t-
Luciana: It changes and grows every month.
Bobby: Well, at the end of the year, almost 2000 people.
Luciana: How do you do that? It is that just about spreading the pipeline as wide as possible, just hiring a big HR team or processes. How do you do that?
Bobby: Yes, it’s … referrals are still the best way to get the best people. We hire, I have an employee branding person now who came from LinkedIn and we spend a lot of time on employer branding of who we’re hiring, and who we’re going after on social media. We do have a network of recruiters. I don’t think recruiters they’re … I don’t really want someone out there that’s been looking for a job for a year, right? We want to recruit, actually find people who aren’t really looking. Right? I think we’re deliberate like that, but it’s something we talk about every day. Hiring is the number one challenge. Hiring great people. We also care about what the right force, attrition should be. Well, how do you also understand what is not working right? Perhaps maybe it was a wrong fit and dealing with that too fairly quickly. These are probably the first things we talk about in every operational executive meeting every week before we talk about numbers.
Luciana: Let’s talk a little bit about some of the more boring part of scaling. Growth is intoxicating, right? It’s almost like a drug. Everyone is really excited. Everyone is running in the same direction. How about putting the right infrastructure and processes in place while you’re growing so fast? Is that a priority or do you feel that is the market, the opportunities now it’s just a land grab and the rest will be figured out later?
Bobby: Yes. I think if you looked back and said, what have we not done as well? Right. We scale the front end of the business first.
Luciana: Marketing, sales, customer facing.
Bobby: Marketing, sales community, all these things are driving that, every month our inbound activity is up 15%, 20%, right? That’s, we do outbound, too, like the earlier discussions but I think so we have to address that, but the back end of the business, finance and accounting and legal didn’t invest. We have to ask ourselves right now. Every meeting we talk operationally about our investments. Right now in marketing, for example, our web martech platforms should be built for a company of $400 million in revenue today because we’re going to get there so fast that if we’re not thinking that way, we’re going to be left with systems that are not, will never … I think in some ways we’re playing catch up. It feels like always in the back office because fortunately with SaaS we use a whole variety of great tools.
I love personally InsightSquared on top of Salesforce. I use it every morning, and we also use robots though, too, right? I’ve a robot in the morning that goes onto Google Trends and does top four competitors and it does screen scrapes, and it sends it to me. Right? I don’t, that’s two minutes a day I save, but add that up and it’s a great thing. Right? How do you scale? It’s something we worry about every day and the last thing you want to do is a big migration of systems, right? It’s going from one CMS or marketing automation platform and moving to another. It’s not anything that anyone wants to do, but if we don’t think about how do you serve a billion dollar business in a couple of years now we’re going to be hurting then.
You’ve got to put yourself, the hardest part for the employees then if you don’t have experience is, what does that look like when you’re a billion dollar company and you’ve got five times the sales people who are needing use cases, and needing materials and needing events? We’ll host almost 11,000 people at UiPath events this year alone, right, up from a thousand last year. How do you pull that off even right now? How do you do that in a way and knowing that next year it’ll probably be 25,000? You have to sit down and force yourself to think about, what do I do now so that I’m ready for six months, 12 months, and 18 months? It’s a really hard thing to break, to really think through.
Luciana:The next question I ask myself often, so I don’t know what your answer will be and I’m very curious. If you were to take a step back and try to summarize this evolution and this fast growth for the past couple of years and attribute it to one thing and it’s never just one thing. What does UiPath obsess with getting right? Is there a one thing where you feel that you just can not fail or make mistakes?
Bobby: Yeah, I think we are obsessed with making it really easy for the non technical engineering IT person to build and automate their processes and build robots because IT is so stressed and engineering projects are heavy. That if we can make it really easy, that everybody on every desktop can just like Microsoft office can automate something you do everyday in a repetitive way so you tomorrow don’t have to do it anymore. That’s game changing. Right? There are two big breakthroughs. One was the computer vision that we built so that the robot has eyes like a person looking at a screen with perfect accuracy across multiple applications. The other one was the ease with like a Vizio tool that can automate a complex process and have a robot run for me and it can do that in hours or days for a complex process.
What’s amazing about this technology, unlike most B2B software technologies I’ve ever seen, is that the implementations are fairly easy, Accenture and those guys that built practices around them. The outcomes are immediate, right? Meaning the outcomes are immediate, productivity outcomes and the payback period on the entire automation project is six to nine months. These are self funding, right? Then it’s transformational for our company because you’re serving your customers extraordinarily better. Contact Centers for airlines can respond to an email instead of 48 hours or the smart response in four minutes. It’s still Michelle the person, Michelle the robot. This is the digital transformation we’ve talked about Luciana, for 10 years in this industry, finally made easy.
Luciana: Really product ease and specifically-
Luciana: … usability.
Luciana: Okay. The last years have been a whirlwind. What can we expect in the next few years from UiPath?
Bobby: I think what’s interesting is there were some AI terms earlier thrown around about AI is this, the CIO of United Health Group said at a dinner that he will not allow anyone in his team to say the words AI and machine learning in a sentence if they can’t say ROI in the same year. Right? What we’re learning though in the business of digital workers, that what we do is that we’re actually becoming the fastest path to AI, so there’s an exposed API. If you’re an AI startup here and you have some expertise say in insurance and you have some machine learning algorithms, and you’ve got one or two great customers, but you really want to get to all these insurance companies, what we do is becoming the path for your model to a business operation and that insurance company.
We’ll have nine of the top 10 insurance companies as customers. Their automations run through our platform, it means business operations run through our platform. You apply your machine learning and voila, you’ve turned a process from rules-based to experience-based, right? You’ve begun this transformation, this ability to make a process, not just go digital, to make the process smarter is probably our next big wave in the next two years and our philosophy is not to be an AI company, but be the route to market for every AI company, which is why Google invested in us too.
Luciana: It all goes back to products. Right? That’s something I love about UiPath’s philosophy.
Bobby: Great Product.
Luciana: Thank you so much Bobby.
Bobby: Yes, great.
Luciana: Thank you so much for having us.
Bobby: Thank you very much.