Automation Pioneer Blue Prism Grows Its Digital Workforce

Robotic processing automation (RPA) company Blue Prism is celebrating the close of its second fiscal year as a publicly listed company by raising £70 million (about $100 million) from a share placement, including £40 million from issuing new shares. It has also announced net growth of 300 customers in 2017 and a 155% increase in revenues, to about £24.5 million (about $35 million).

The automation company says it will use the new funds to accelerate its sales and marketing activities. It also plans further innovation around RPA and its Digital Workforce Operating System, its software robots used to automate "repetitive administrative tasks" in a way it claims is secure, compliant with enterprise IT protocols and scalable -- and, the company says, in a manner that augments existing jobs by phasing out their clerical aspects, rather than replacing those workers entirely. (See Ericsson CFO: Automation Is Helping Us Cut Jobs.)

Blue Prism arrived on the scene -- and helped create it -- in 2001 with RPA software tools that are used by Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services, as well as in cloud deployments with Google and IBM. The company does business across enterprise markets and counts Sony Pictures, Boeing, DTE Energy, IBM, Ericsson and BT as customers. (See Automation Opportunities a 'Top 5' Topic for BT, Says Tech Chief.)

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Blue Prism says that it closed 609 new software deals, and signed up 324 new enterprise customers across the US, Europe, Asia Pacific, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand, in 2017, representing 238% growth in its customer base. The UK-based company says the US, where it has 135 customers, is its key focus, but it's seeing opportunity across the globe, especially in the Asia Pacific. It partners with Deloitte and Ernst & Young on international distribution.

Led by CEO Alastair Bathgate, Blue Prism has attracted a lot of attention for its promise to automate mundane processes and save companies time and money in the process. It's been recognized as a category definer and market leader and, among other accolades, was named one of MIT Tech Review's 50 Smartest Companies in 2017. Merrill Lynch estimates it has about 11% of the RPA market.

At the same time, however, it's also received a healthy amount of skepticism around whether it is worth its ever-soaring stock price and market valuation of about £900 million ($1.27 billion).

The Financial Times (subscription required), for example, points out that Blue Prism saw its pre-tax losses widen from £5.3 million ($7.5 million) to £9.4 million ($13.3 million) in 2017 and expects losses to worsen to £19 million ($26.9 million) in 2019.

The funding the company raised included about £30 million ($42.4 million) from the sale of 2.3 million shares by existing shareholders, including Bathgate, who sold 595,238 shares, reducing his stake in the company from 9% to 8%.

Blue Prism was down 1.45%, to £13.60 ($19.22) at market open Tuesday.

-- Sarah Thomas, Director, Women in Comms

James_B_Crawshaw 1/31/2018 | 6:41:34 AM
RPA market size and growth Given how much I've heard about RPA I'm surprised it is only a $300m dollar market. I guess the Blue Prism share price is telling us there is a lot of growth potential in that market. Whether Blue Prism's stock can rise another 3-fold this year is another matter ... 
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