Robotic process automation company UiPath on Thursday submitted a draft registration to the Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering.
UiPath is the latest company taking advantage of a bull market that's continued despite nine months of the coronavirus pandemic and a difficult year for the broader economy. Three of the 10 biggest tech IPOs for U.S. companies, in terms of capital raised, have taken place this year. Two happened on consecutive days in the last week, when DoorDash and Airbnb started trading on Dec. 9 and 10. The other was software vendor Snowflake, which had its New York Stock Exchange debut in September.
Investors and bankers have told CNBC that UiPath is among a large crop of subscription software companies that could have significant debuts next year. Others include GitLab, a site that helps developers share and manage code; HashiCorp, which provides cloud infrastructure automation software; Databricks, a provider of software that allows companies to analyze and use large data sets; and Tanium, a cloud security vendor.
Earlier this year, UiPath raised $225 million at a $10.2 billion valuation — one that would rank it among the most-valuable New York City tech companies like Etsy and MongoDB at the time of its Wall Street debut. The round was led by Alkeon Capital Management, a tech-focused hedge fund that's become one of the industry's best performers this year by betting big on e-commerce retailers and work-from-home plays.
UiPath uses artificial intelligence to build software robots that let companies automate back-office, repetitive and time-consuming tasks. The goal is to move humans away from this work and allow them to focus on things that bring more value to a company. Investors see great promise in this: Since the company was founded in 2005, UiPath has raised over $1 billion in funding from investors, including Coatue, Dragoneer, Sands Capital and Wellington. The company claims to have annual revenue of about $360 million and more than 6,300 customers, including Amazon, Bank of America and Verizon. It says 50% of Fortune 20 companies are clients.
As companies use AI from UiPath and other advanced technologies to help them with digital transformation, the whole topic of robotics seems eerily dystopian. The worry is that robots will replace humans in all kinds of tasks, repetitive and otherwise. UiPath says its software isn't out to replace humans, but rather enable them to focus on parts of their job that only humans can do.
The company, which issued a release announcing the IPO registration, declined CNBC's request for comment. Founder and CEO Daniel Dines said in a July statement that "Covid-19 has heightened the critical need of automation to address challenges and create value in days and weeks, not months and years," adding that UiPath is "committed to working harder to help our customers evolve, transform, and succeed fast in the new normal."