Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been a hot commodity in recent years as it helps automate tedious manual workflows inside large organizations. Robocorp, a San Francisco startup, wants to bring open source and RPA together. Today it announced a $5.6 million seed investment.
Benchmark led the round, with participation from Slow Ventures, firstminute Capital, Bret Taylor (president and chief product officer at Salesforce) and Docker CEO Rob Bearden. In addition, Benchmark's Peter Fenton will be joining the company's board.
Robocorp co-founder and CEO Antti Karjalainen has been around open-source projects for years, and he saw an enterprise software category that was lacking in open-source options. "We actually have a unique angle on RPA, where we are introducing open source and cloud native technology into the market and focusing on developer-led technologies," Karjalainen said.
He sees a market that's top-down and focused on heavy sales cycles. He wants to bring the focus back to the developers who will be using the tools. "We are all about removing friction from developers. So, we are focused on giving developers tools that they like to use, and want to use for RPA, and doing it in an open-source model where the tools themselves are free to use," he said.
The company is built on the open-source Robot Framework project, which was originally developed as an open-source software testing environment, but he sees RPA having a lot in common with testing, and his team has been able to take the project and apply it to RPA.
If you're wondering how the company will make money, they are offering a cloud service to reduce the complexity even further of using the open-source tools, and that includes the kinds of features enterprises tend to demand from these projects, like security, identity and access management, and so forth.
Benchmark's Peter Fenton, who has invested in several successful open-source startups, including JBoss, SpringSource and Elastic, sees RPA as an area that's ripe for a developer-focused open-source option. "We’re living in the era of the developer, where cloud-native and open source provide the freedom to innovate without constraint. Robocorp’s RPA approach provides developers the cloud native, open-source tools to bring RPA into their organizations without the burdensome constraints of existing offerings," Fenton said.
The company intends to use the money to add new employees and continue scaling the cloud product, while working to build the underlying open-source community.
While UIPath, a fast-growing startup with a hefty $7.1 billion valuation recently announced it was laying off 400 people, Gartner published a study in June showing that RPA is the fastest growing enterprise software category.