Background: Last week, The Information announced news no one expected. Sequoia Capital, the famed venture capital firm that has backed companies like Apple, Google, LinkedIn, Instagram, and WhatsApp, had found a "backdoor" into investing in Zapier, a workflow automation SaaS solution.
The facts: When Sequoia purchased shares in Zapier from the company's founders, it solidified Zapier's valuation of $4 billion, a figure representing more than 40x Zapier's annualized revenue.
Context: Zapier is a company that allows users to integrate and automate communication between the SaaS applications they use. As one Reddit user put it best, "Zapier has over 1000 integrated apps, which is far more than any other "connector" out there, including automate.io which has perhaps 100." Teams use it mostly for triggers and actions.
The numbers: Gartner, Inc. projects the market for Robotic Process Automation (or RPA) to reach $ 1.89 billion in 2021, an increase of 19.5% over 2020. And the market will continue to grow, gaining double digit increases through 2024, despite (or perhaps even helped by) the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form.
Anvil - DocuSign challenger - receives Google funding
Synthesis: No one has time these days to sign digital PDFs. In June 2020, Anvil, a paperwork automation platform that enables users to "complete docs without picking up a pen", raised $5 million in a seed funding round led by Google’s Gradient Ventures.
TechCrunch interviewed Anvil CEO Mang-Git Ng who mentioned that Anvil (priced at $99/month) helped Sunrise Bank customers apply for $127 million worth of PPP loans as the pandemic has increased demand for their services:
“The overall trend that we’ve been seeing is that people in these industries are thinking about going more digital, but generally speaking, the people who are at the forefront of that tend to be in larger organizations where squeezing a little bit more operational efficiency will save a ton of money. But as we’ve gone into lockdown, everybody has to figure out how to do things remotely and the solutions that help people do things remotely are definitely pushing to the forefront.”
The takeaway: Even Microsoft is chasing the RPA market opportunity, rebranding their Microsoft Flow product to "Power Automate" in late 2020, and expanding the feature set by adding Task Mining.
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Question: What does enterprise software activity have to do with Indie Hackers?
Answer: Successfully automating various business processes is rarely simple or straightforward. RPA sequences can be endlessly varied across users, and requires a champion who has:
Background: Each industrial revolution precedes social chaos. The gap between machine intelligence and human intelligence will grow wider as industries from Finance to Transportation are radically changed. According to Gizmodo, solving this challenge could give rise to "Centaurs", a human and AI collaboration for solving complex problems.
The takeaway: There are boundless opportunities for supportive applications, services and info-products to assist end-users with their automation objectives. Use of templates like the ones Anvil provides will proliferate, and user forums or communities for peer-to-peer support will continue to add value for new adopters.
The new frontier: Conventional risk management strategies don't adequately accommodate machine learning or algorithm-based decision-making systems, and there are very few standards in the space. This means risk management is another area ripe for exploration. Here's why:
According to Forbes, the global robotic process automation market size is expected to reach $6.81 billion by the end of 2026. "Every month in 2021, we should expect either an M&A deal or VC investment in an RPA company."
Last word: While large enterprises are sure to drive a high percentage of this growth, the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) sector is a highly desirable target for growth of RPA companies and products. However, to successfully address the SME sector, organizations will need to rely on the simplification of UI/UX design, and on the expansion of the software-and-services ecosystem.