RPA giant UiPath had a rocky few years. Rob Enslin wants to turn it around.

Protocol caught up with Enslin, named earlier this year as UiPath’s co-CEO, to discuss why he left Google Cloud, the untapped potential of robotic-process automation, and how he plans to lead alongside founder Daniel Dines.

Rob Enslin

Rob Enslin, UiPath's co-CEO, chats with Protocol about the company's future.

Photo: UiPath

UiPath has had a shaky history.

The company, which helps companies automate business processes, went public in 2021 at a valuation of more than $30 billion, but now the company’s market capitalization is only around $7 billion. To add insult to injury, UiPath laid off 5% of its staff in June and then lowered its full-year guidance for fiscal year 2023 just months later, tanking its stock by 15%.

But UiPath is hoping financial discipline, an increased focus on global expansion, and the addition of Rob Enslin as co-CEO can turn things around. Enslin is a veteran of enterprise tech, starting his career under Hasso Plattner at SAP before leaving to run Google Cloud, where he was credited with expanding sales internationally. Now as co-CEO at UiPath, Enslin thinks automation is the next great category of enterprise tech; he wants to take it international despite the company’s recent struggles.

In a conversation with Protocol, Enslin discussed his long career, why he left Google, the untapped potential of automation, and how he plans to lead UiPath alongside founder Daniel Dines.

The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

What brought you to UiPath?

I have always had a passion to help companies compete and operate at speed. I saw it in the very early days of SAP and how ERP could help globalize, help support global supply chains, figure out how to do it at highly efficient processes, integrate solutions, and I think that's pretty unique. I saw it at Google when it came to data and AI. I felt like that was the next thing in terms of what companies needed. And why do I say that? Because the world of structured information is one thing; the world of AI and ML is using unstructured [information] to understand patterns [and then] combine the patterns to solve solutions with structured data, and I felt like the cloud providers were in an incredible position to be able to do that using the next generation of technology. That cloud creates massive levels of speed and flexibility in how to deploy and serverless and so on.

And when I looked at applications, I knew that UiPath was in a unique position to define enterprise automation. I don't think it's defined. I think there are pillars to it.

In some cases, the process-mining companies mention one thing, but they don't have the ability to solve the problem. On the other hand, you get the workflow, case-management type companies: They can do workflow, but they don't have the ability to solve automation.

I think when it comes to the category of automation, if you assume that the discovery process is really important, that community and studio development is important, that you have to have a low-code/no-code type of solution, and you have to have workflow in it, that you need a UI and API type environment to connect to the multiple systems and then be able to automate across platforms at speed, I think we're the only company today that has that capability across all of those platforms. And I felt that it was an opportunity to let the world know the capabilities that enterprise automation could bring to the market. And it was incredible that [UiPath] got to a billion dollars as fast as they did, and that simply tells me the product is incredible and now we need to make certain that we can bring automation to the world.

I want to understand more about what you were just saying in terms of “process mining is one piece, but maybe not the full thing.” There are some automation companies that don't use the same approach as UiPath. Can you talk more about those distinctions?

UiPath was born into RPA. It created the category, it is by far the leader in that category. RPA by itself solves problems, but it's not enough to drive full understanding of which processes we should be working on on the back end, but the front end as well.

We forget that the phone is a walking terminal. This is where most people do information today, this is where most people capture. So you've got to be able to do task capture, task mining, you've got to be able to do process mining. But that's not enough, because what do you do if you find the problem? What do you say? “Here’s your problem!” “Well, thank you, what do I do now?”

I actually think we take it one step further, which nobody else has even thought of, and that's with Test Suite. And you say, “Why Test Suite? Why would anyone want to do testing?” Testing is one of the most highly effective ways to create speed in an organization because you can't put something into production without testing it, you have to do regression testing. Once you’ve gone to production, it's not about putting it there, it's about creating the automations already so if things change, you've already had the automation and you can redo the automation on the fly. You go into a system to capture an opportunity in a CRM system; [if] somebody decides they need to change the back-end ERP system, the automations are already written, we’ve already got testing, it can all happen automatically. So it's a complete life cycle circle that we have built.

RPA by itself solves problems, but it's not enough to drive full understanding of which processes we should be working on on the back end, but the front end as well.

Then we've added in, in any enterprise, the management capability to actually manage automations. So if you go on vacation with your automation sitting on your laptop, I’ve got to know that you actually can either run that automation or that I need to find somebody that's going to replace it and run it for you. So that's on the front end, but we actually have unattended automations as well. But if they have runaway automations, there’s latency issues, they didn't run, that's important for a mission-critical business to understand how to operate, because this is part of your day-to-day processes.

We are working on sub-processes, not processes, because the processes are managed by the Salesforces, the SAPs, the Workdays, the Oracles, and so on. That’s where we actually really scale. That’s why I say RPA is one thing, process mining is another thing, low-code/no-code is another thing, but putting it all together defines an enterprise automation category. I think we are at the beginning of that journey. And I think as we scale, we will see that this will become one of the biggest levers companies can use to deliver speed and accuracy.

You talked about testing, which is interesting because I think in the early days of RPA, there was this sort of perception of, “OK, it’s gonna scrape this web page,” but then if you change something, everything's broken, and you have to start over.

That's absolutely, 100% right. So when you build the automations, you build the testing as well. And so when the automation changes, because it always changes … that’s one of the challenges with workflow type products or low-code: They don't come with the manageability if things change. And things do change: Companies get sold, divisions get bought, you change the organization structure. One day you're a division and you’re part of the broader alphabet; the next day, you're a separate entity. Things happen.

And so if you're not able to adjust to that, you end up in an environment that is slow because you have to plan for it, you have to test, you have to go through a whole methodology. So we build the testing automation as part of the automation, and that includes linking — we've got 190 APIs that link to multiple different systems automatically — so it's not only for one system: It's for the whole ecosystem around us.

You had earnings, and the full-year guidance was lowered a bit. What were the reasons for that? Was it the macroeconomic environment, was it inflationary pressures?

I would include the inflationary pressures in the macroeconomic environment. Negativity on foreign exchange was a big portion of that, 50% of our businesses outside of the U.S. — and that’s in local currency, so there’s an immediate impact. And we have a significant portion in Japan and Europe. So [foreign exchange movement] was a big part of it in Europe. I would say the macro piece certainly had an impact in Japan, and the U.S. we feel really positive about. So that's why we looked to the guidance for the rest of the year, the way that he articulated to the markets.

Where do you see growth areas? What are you thinking about in terms of where UiPath goes next?

We certainly see growth areas expanding our partner ecosystem, having less partners and doing more, especially with the global system integrators — we're seeing significant traction with them. They’re wanting to partner more with us now that they see the full automation platform at play because it's more significant for them. I see the ability to embed UiPath technology into other technologies as a big player. We saw it with iCIMS, we made the announcement with iCIMS where automation will become part of their iCIMS cloud. The product is just very good at being embedded and helping other companies' products utilize automation as a feature for value to the customers. That’s a big play for us.

If you can work in an environment where your egos are not part of the environment and you’re there because you want to do something that's important and you feel it's important, then you find a way to make it work.

I think there's significant opportunity in terms of automation outside of RPA for sure. I think we’re at the early stages of that. We have a full set of products already in that space, it’s fully integrated. We believe with our 20.10 announcement, which is our vision coming out in October, that we will see the cloud grow much much faster because we’ve put a lot into process mining and task capture with that version. So we feel like there's a ton of opportunity.

How do you and Daniel work together? This co-CEO role is something we've seen more and more in the industry.

Some of my best friends have been co-CEOs. We actually are pretty interesting. So you know, I started my career as an engineer. I think Daniel likes it that I can actually talk engineering. When I was at SAP I ran our cloud business, including the engineering pieces, so I have some skills in engineering. I’ve run go-to-market and sales for a long time. I focus on the operation of the company, how to run the company, how to operate the company, how to make it more efficient, how to scale it, how to get it multibillion, and Daniel is focused on innovation and culture. That's what his passion is, he wants to think about the next things. Daniel focuses on people, he really wants to focus on people, making sure the culture of the company continues as we grow the company.

Did you chat with any of your co-CEO friends about how they approach things?

I had firsthand advantage of it. I mean, I had firsthand advantage with Jim Snabe and Bill McDermott, I had firsthand advantage with Hasso Plattner and Henning Kagermann, I had firsthand advantage with Léo Apotheker and Henning at SAP. I’ve watched Salesforce with Marc [Benioff] and Bret [Taylor], and Keith [Block] and [Benioff], I know [Jennifer Morgan] and Christian [Klein] at SAP.

I've seen what works and what doesn't work and what can work. At the end of the day, if you can work in an environment where your egos are not part of the environment and you’re there because you want to do something that's important and you feel it's important, then you find a way to make it work. And then when your skills are complementary, [it feels] like it works really well.

I worked with somebody for 17 years really closely: we weren't co- anything, but our skills were super complementary, and you can basically finish each other's sentences, and so it works. Having a partner is actually an awesome thing. When I go home at night, and it's been a shitty day, my wife has to listen to my BS for the last 36 years — it's nice, I feel better. Like I can have a glass of wine and I feel like there’s somebody here that can just hear me out. And so if you look at it from that point of view, the benefits of it are incredible.

I believe in diversity and diversity for me is, we're all much better when we all bring our best to the party. If you can make it work, you'll be better. And it's hard, it’s not easy. But I think it's an incredible opportunity to use different skill sets in the right way and to build a company. And Daniel is a very humble person, he's extremely hard-working, he’s got a great vision. We just work well together. We like each other!


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