All About The Bots – And Valuations, Too

In the land of startups, and valuations of startups, it’s all about the Benjamins.

And the bots. And the Benjamins that can be made from bots…

The much-storied tales about tech unicorns, those young firms that have logged valuations of at least $1 billion, got a new chapter on Monday, after California firm Automation Anywhere stated that it had raised $250 million in a fundraising round from the likes of Goldman Sachs and others.

Reports noted that the investment activity takes the valuation to $1.8 billion.

The 15-Year-Old Startup

But … wait. Here’s a wrinkle. This startup started up 15 years ago. And the fundraising noted above is the first outside funding round that has come to the company in that timeframe. The company has said it will use the funding to boost its efforts in robotic process automation (RPA). Automation Anywhere seems to want to automate everywhere, as it seeks to grow in the domestic market of North America, and also to gain visibility in markets as far-flung as India, Australia and Singapore, to name just a few.

It is RPA that is the selling point here, where bots are deployed to help make daily life a bit faster and more seamless. In the words of CEO Mihir Shukla, a tipping point is at hand. Shukla told CNBC that demand for automation is on the rise, spurred in part by familiarity with Uber and other firms.

The key concept is instant consumer satisfaction. Speed is key in some verticals, such as financial services and manufacturing. And one way to increase speed is to eliminate the manual part of the equation when it comes to repetitive tasks. Those tasks include moving data between computers, processing invoices and letting the human workers handle the bigger picture and strategic parts of the equation.

Give the routines to the robots, you might say.

“Certain work goes away, but the jobs don’t go away,” the executive told CNBC.

Anecdotal evidence points to automation as no mere buzzword. The recent funding round for Automation Anywhere speaks a bit to the enthusiasm of investors to see returns on capital in a space that is growing, yes, but where some big players in retail and beyond see promise. Consider the fact that Walmart and Target are eyeing automation as a conduit to better customer service.

Target is aiming to automate cash counting operations, which can help to contain labor costs by predicting cash needs and thus cashier staffing. That would ostensibly free up capital to deploy elsewhere. For Walmart, on-premise robots will help to handle inventory, and help to direct consumers to find where the items they need are located on shelves.

Beyond the stockroom and the till, automated task-mastering by bot has seen a surge, too, as tech cooks up something new – literally. Chowbotics has brought Sally the Salad Robot to markets that include C-stores and hotels. The moniker implies facility with salad, of course, and of course there are other companies with robots that can flip burgers, make pizza and help save QSRs time and money.

To grab a phrase from a movie you’ve never seen: These just might be the droids you are looking for.