Software startup Automation Anywhere – a company that uses robots to automate tasks previously done by human workers – has raised US$250 million in funding to reach a US$1.8B valuation (A$2.4 billion).
The Silicon Valley company is the latest to join the exclusive unicorn list (startups valued at $1 billion or more).
In the Series A funding Automation Anywhere was backed by several leading US companies including Goldman Sachs, New Enterprise Associates, General Atlantic, and World Innovation Lab.
It's a sign that automation has reached an "inflection point, a tipping point" Mihir Shukla, co-founder and CEO of Automation Anywhere, told CNBC in a recent interview.
First, consumers are demanding faster service than ever before, Shukla says.
“The demand for automation is growing quickly. The digital native companies – the likes of Google and Uber and Netflix and Amazon and others – have created a new standard of instant customer gratification. And now we expect it from every company that we are customer of,” Shukla told CNBC.
“And you can only deliver that if you have automation as a key strategic driver in your business. That is the only way for businesses to compete.”
Taking over simple tasks from humans
Additionally, technology has developed enough so that bots can now take over simple tasks from humans.
“This is a historic point, a historic moment in our life that this is now possible. More importantly, that is the way to think about this – where it is a turning point or an inflection point, a tipping point, when now this is possible,” Shukla says.
Automation Anywhere's software allows bots to work alongside humans and do “repetitive work” while “dramatically reducing” costs for the client, the company says in a written statement.
Its customers – which spread across the financial services, insurance, health care, technology, manufacturing, telecom and logistics industries – include Google, LinkedIn, Cisco, Mastercard and Comcast.
Making workers more productive
The bots make each individual worker more productive, explains Shukla.
“This is about not job replacement but job augmentation," he says. "The best way to think of it is what computers are doing to us. When computers came to the workplace, there was the same discussion happening: How many jobs it would take away? Obviously certain jobs have gone away, but for most of us, if I take away your computer, you would say, 'How do you expect me to do my job?' Right? It has become an integral part of an augmented job for us.
"So that is the same way to think about the bots. Bots will work side by side people doing what they do best and allowing people to do what they do best. And it is an augmented workforce that will take us to the next, higher level of productivity."
The robots, which use machine learning and artificial intelligence, have “near-zero error rates,” the company says in a written statement. Tasks to which bots are well suited include moving data from one screen to another, data collection, data verification, reconciling data or invoice processing, explains Shukla.
Currently, "hundreds of thousands of human workers" are "manually" doing these tasks, Automation Anywhere estimates.
Automating repetitious, mundane tasks will allow professionals to focus on more complex tasks, which Shukla says is a net positive.
Automation Anywhere will use the $250 million to, in part, grow its robotic process automation (RPA) business.
The additional funding will also enable the company to grow in North America, Latin America, India, Europe, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Singapore, and expand into new regions.