New York-listed automation company UiPath announced, on August 1, 2022, that it had acquired Re:infer, a natural language processing (NLP) startup based in London for an undisclosed amount.
UiPath specializes in robotic process automation (RPA) technology and offers a cloud-based platform that allows businesses to automate operational activities. Re:infer, in contrast, employs AI and NLP technology to help enterprises mine text-based communications for data and insights.
In a press release, Ted Kummert, EVP of Products and Engineering at UiPath, emphasized the complementarity of the two companies, describing automation and AI as “a natural pair.”
The applications of AI to business contexts are myriad, and companies have an ample choice of resources — including Google, Microsoft, and Amazon cloud computing platforms — to build their own machine learning (ML) engines.
However, Re:infer focuses on applying AI to a specific aspect of business activity: customer-brand interactions. Texts such as emails, chat logs, and social media posts are analyzed to gauge customer sentiment, prioritize incoming messages, and extract data for risk management and monitoring purposes.
Founded in 2015 by AI researchers from University College London, Re:infer uses transformer architecture — the same technology behind language language models, machine translation and most recent ML models — to analyze text. The company also uses other ML techniques to more efficiently find patterns in communications.
Re:infer offers a zero-code platform in which enterprises may build custom ML models and monitor business data via dashboards.The company’s target sectors include finance, e-commerce, insurance, and telecommunications, and its clientele includes Farfetch, HISCOX, Expedia, and UBS.
Prior to its acquisition by UiPath, the company was VC backed, having raised USD 7.6m as of February 2022 from a number of firms including Seedcamp, IP Group, and Crane Venture Partners.
RPA + AI
Founded in Romania in 2015, UiPath is now headquartered in New York. Its automation software and SaaS platform are used by the likes of Google, Airbus, and NASA.
While RPA technology is ideal for automating repetitive tasks — such as connecting to system APIs, copying and pasting data, and extracting structured content — machine learning engines of the type used by Re:infer can extract insights from language and process unstructured content.
Yash Tulsuni of UiPath Corporate Development, in a LinkedIn post, said that UiPath first met with Re:infer founder Edward Challis in January 2022. The two teams have, according to the post, “spent extensive time together” over eight months.
On the rationale for the acquisition, UiPath said in his blog that Re:infer “adds to UiPath’s automation capabilities by unlocking the value of the vast amounts of unstructured data in an organization.” UiPath went on to say that “automation and AI are the technology power couple.”
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UiPath previously acquired Cloud Elements, an API integration platform, for USD 36m in March 2021. In October 2019, the company bought ProcessGold, a process mining company, for USD 35.2m.
UiPath has an annual recurring revenue of USD 977m and, for the full-year 2023, expects revenue to exceed USD 1bn, according to the company’s first quarter results.
The company was listed on the New York stock exchange in April 2021 in one of the largest US software IPOs in history, raising USD 1.34bn. However, its share price has since fallen by around 70%.
UiPath’s share price increased by around 6% after the announcement of the Re:infer acquisition.