UiPath IPO: Years in the Making
By Carl Eschenbach
Published April 21, 2021
After the past several years of rapid company growth, the hundreds of thousands of workers who have been freed up to focus on mission-critical tasks rather than repetitive “digital manual labor,” and now the milestone of today’s IPO, it might seem like UiPath’s success — and the success of the robotic process automation (RPA) market it leads — was inevitable. But the truth is more interesting: Daniel Dines, Marius Tîrca and their team just never gave up.
When Daniel started UiPath, then called DeskOver, in a Bucharest apartment in 2005, the company was focused on building and outsourcing automation libraries and software development kits. For close to a decade, they struggled to grow. Then, after a customer started using the products to mimic rote labor like data entry, Daniel and the team realized the computer vision technology they’d built could potentially transform the then-nascent field of robotic process automation..
At first, skepticism reigned — not only of UiPath, but RPA itself. While we now know the technology has empowered workers to focus on the productive, useful tasks they prefer, some feared it would replace those workers entirely. Others believed existing infrastructure technologies would eventually start to “bake in” their own automations, and RPA would never become a category.
But the people using UiPath knew better. When Luciana — then with another venture capital firm — first met Daniel at a customer gathering in London in late 2016, RPA remained a tiny market, and the company was still a small team with no feet on the ground in the U.S. Yet the event was buzzing. Senior leaders from blue chip corporations were among those excited by the benefits of the platform, which was more modern and user-friendly than the competition. It was clear that it could be disruptive — if it could be executed at scale.
What’s more, Daniel himself stood out. Anyone who’s met him knows he is always his authentic self, unafraid to say what he thinks. And at a time when “dreaming big” was less common among European businesses, much less within the tiny entrepreneurial ecosystem of Romania, he and the team had massive ambitions for UiPath. Not long after that first meeting, Luciana led the company’s Series A and joined the board.
In the months that followed, new customers discovered UiPath, and existing customers discovered new ways to use its technology, from finance and operations to HR and beyond. The company started growing quickly — becoming, to borrow Daniel’s phrase, “a 10-year-in-the-making overnight success.” Carl and the Sequoia team were impressed not only by that momentum, but by the technology; by the company’s global, decentralized workforce; by the deep partnerships it was building; and of course, by Daniel himself. While Sequoia didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the Series B, we never gave up. In fact because of our perseverance we eventually won Daniel over, leading the 2018 Series C and participating in every round since.
To establish itself as the leader in the field, UiPath accelerated, moving from growth to hypergrowth — and as always, running fast came with ups and downs. As they shifted toward more structure, efficiency and operational rigor, Daniel and the leadership team faced difficult decisions. Then, like the rest of the world, they faced COVID-19.
But they met that moment just as they did the challenges of the company’s first decade: with grit, determination and perseverance. From their homes around the world, the team banded together. And under Daniel’s calm, steady leadership, they emerged even stronger.
Now, with applications across a wide range of both industries and departments, UiPath has set its sights on the “fully automated enterprise,” a fundamental transformation of the way work is done. As we congratulate Daniel, Marius and the entire team on their success, we recognize this moment is not a destination but merely a stop on the journey. The two of us, along with everyone else at Sequoia, are excited to be by their side along the way.