20VC Inside UiPath, The World's Fastest Growing Startup, How The Best Leaders Approach DecisionMaking & WhY Vulnerability Is Central To SuccessFul Leadership Today with Brandon Deer, VP of Operations & Strategy @ UiPath



In this episode of "20 Minutes VC," Harry Stebbings interviews Brandon Deer, VP of Operations and Strategy at UiPath, a rapidly growing company specializing in robotic process automation (RPA) that has raised over $977 million in funding. Deer shares his personal journey from venture capital to operations, emphasizing the importance of productivity over harmony, trust, and fun in building a successful team. He also discusses UiPath's mission to empower knowledge workers by automating repetitive tasks, allowing them to focus on higher-value work. Deer addresses concerns about automation replacing jobs, arguing that automation leads to expansion and job creation, drawing parallels with historical patterns of technological advancement. Additionally, he reflects on leadership, the importance of vulnerability, and the challenges of managing a globally distributed team. Looking ahead, Deer envisions UiPath as a potential $100 billion company, transforming enterprise software with its RPA solutions.

Summary Notes

Introduction to Episode and Guest

  • Harry Stebbings introduces the Founder Friday episode of the 20 Minutes VC podcast.
  • Brad Andandir, VP of Operations and Strategy at UiPath, is welcomed as a guest.
  • UiPath is highlighted as one of the world's fastest-growing companies, specializing in robotic process automation.
  • Brad Andandir's background includes his time at Openview Partners and Intuit.
  • Harry Stebbings acknowledges the contributions of individuals from Sequoia, Meritech, Capital G, Excel, Earlybird, and Credo in formulating the episode's questions.

"And so with that, I'm very excited to welcome Brad Andandir, VP of operations and strategy at UiPath, one of the world's fastest growing companies in history."

The quote introduces Brad Andandir and the company UiPath, setting the stage for the podcast episode.

Sponsorship and Partnerships

  • Clearbank offers fast, affordable investments for online businesses, specifically targeting the holiday season sales.
  • Dell Tech Capital is mentioned as a venture capital arm for Dell Technologies, investing in enterprise technology startups.
  • Silicon Valley Bank is promoted as a bank for visionaries and startups, offering banking services and solutions.

"Clearbank's here to help. They offer fast, affordable investments for online businesses."

This quote explains the services provided by Clearbank, one of the episode's sponsors.

Brandon Deer's Background and Transition to UiPath

  • Brandon Deer discusses his move from venture capital to UiPath, driven by personal reasons rather than professional ambition.
  • His transition was influenced by his long-distance relationship and the desire to prioritize personal life over career at a crucial point.
  • Deer details his experience at Openview Venture Partners and his expertise in cloud infrastructure and data technology.
  • A job offer for Deer's girlfriend in New York and his desire to be with her led to his move and subsequent opportunity with UiPath.
  • Deer was recommended to UiPath by a friend, Alex Curlin, and was impressed by the CEO's vision and character.

"I think for the first time in my life I chose something personal over something that was more career-oriented."

The quote reflects Deer's decision-making process, emphasizing the importance of personal choices over professional ones in certain life situations.

Work-Life Balance and Career Decisions

  • Brandon Deer shares advice from former Intuit CEO Brad Smith on distinguishing between 'rubber' and 'crystal' moments in life.
  • 'Rubber' moments are those that bounce back and can be revisited, while 'crystal' moments are unique and irreplaceable.
  • Deer applied this philosophy to his decision to move to New York, categorizing it as a 'crystal' moment.

"He always said in life you got to weigh the things that are rubber and those that are crystal."

This quote presents a metaphorical framework for assessing the significance of life events and making decisions based on their long-term impact.

Transition from Investor to Operator

  • Brandon Deer reflects on the differences between being an investor and an operator.
  • He notes that investing can feel like a solitary activity, while operating feels like going to battle with a full team.
  • Deer highlights the challenges of building a responsive company and the importance of listening to customers.
  • The difficulty of growing a business at a rapid pace, like UiPath, is also mentioned.

"The second thing that surprised me is just how challenging it is to build a highly responsive company that allows customers to know that you care."

The quote underscores the complexities of creating a customer-centric company that grows rapidly while maintaining a high level of responsiveness and care.

Company Growth and Digital Transformation

  • Harry Stebbings' company has experienced significant growth, expanding from $40 million to over a quarter billion in revenue.
  • The company's workforce has grown to over 3000 employees and has launched operations in 20 countries.
  • The company is positioned at the heart of the digital transformation journey, operating within a green space that represents a substantial opportunity.
  • Addressing this opportunity requires an aggressive and dynamic business strategy.

"Just since I've joined, we've gone from 40 million in revenue to over a quarter billion. We've got a little over 3000 employees. We're launched now in 20 countries."

This quote emphasizes the rapid growth and expansion of Harry Stebbings' company, indicating its significant impact on the digital transformation space.

Understanding UiPath and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

  • UiPath is recognized for creating software robots, but its full business scope is not widely understood.
  • The company's software digitizes systems quickly without the need to overhaul existing infrastructure or invest heavily in developer hours.
  • UiPath's core technology is computer vision, which allows the software to interpret screen content and mimic human keyboard and mouse interactions.
  • The software can automate routine tasks in various functions such as finance and accounting, making processes faster, more accurate, traceable, and cost-effective.
  • UiPath's solution is likened to an advanced Excel macro that can operate across mainframes, web apps, Citrix environments, and desktop applications.

"At the core, what we've built is computer vision technology that allows us to see what's on person's screen in addition to mimicking human interactions on the keyboard and mouse."

This quote explains the fundamental technology behind UiPath's software, highlighting its capability to automate tasks by interpreting visual data and replicating human actions on a computer.

The Impact of Automation on Workflows and Employee Tasks

  • UiPath's platform targets the automation of repetitive and mundane tasks performed by knowledge workers.
  • The software can transform these workflows, allowing employees to focus on higher-value work.
  • Brandon Deer spends significant time with customers across various industries, discussing their bottlenecks and manual processes.
  • Many organizations have employees engaged in data extraction, input, and simple decision-making tasks, which are seen as comparable to the myth of Sisyphus.

"And Uipath can help automatically transform those workflows into something that's done by robots, allowing them to focus on higher-value work."

This quote explains how UiPath's automation software frees up employees from repetitive tasks, enabling them to dedicate time to more strategic and intellectually stimulating work.

Societal Implications of Automation

  • There is a societal concern that automation may replace jobs, particularly in lower-level, process-oriented positions.
  • Brandon Deer uses the story of chess grandmaster Gary Kasparov and IBM's Deep Blue to illustrate that the most effective teams combine human and machine intelligence.
  • UiPath believes in enhancing enterprise performance through the collaboration of knowledge workers and robots.
  • Historical data shows that despite automation displacing jobs in certain sectors, the overall employment-to-population ratio has remained stable, and new opportunities have emerged.

"Uipath we believe that the combination of knowledge workers and robots will transform the enterprise."

This quote reflects UiPath's philosophy that automation is not about job replacement but about augmenting human capabilities and fostering a symbiotic relationship between humans and machines in the workplace.

The Sustainability of RPA's Growth

  • RPA is one of the fastest-growing software categories, with UiPath outpacing the industry's growth.
  • The rise of RPA is attributed to the convergence of three market forces: the maturity of UiPath's technology, better-documented business processes, and the emergence of AI.
  • UiPath's success is linked to its enterprise-grade solution that became viable around 2015-2016, coinciding with improved business process documentation by large BPOs and advancements in AI.

"RPA is growing as a group, 60 70% year over year. Uipath is obviously well above that click, continuing to capture market share."

This quote highlights the rapid growth of the RPA sector and UiPath's success in capturing a significant portion of the market share due to its mature and effective technology solutions.

RPA's Potential and Market Position

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has experienced a meteoric rise due to three main factors.
  • RPA's potential is often underestimated by those who see it as mere hype.
  • Companies like Workday and Salesforce have high market caps and serve as examples of success in their respective domains.
  • RPA is not limited by industry or vertical but is domain-focused.
  • The RPA lifecycle is still in its early stages, with a promising future ahead.

"With RPA, there's really no limit to where it could spread. We don't sell based on industry or vertical, we're domain focused."

The quote emphasizes the limitless potential of RPA, highlighting its domain-focused approach as opposed to being restricted by industry or vertical, suggesting a vast market opportunity.

Daniel's Leadership and Partnership with Brandon

  • Investors and board members praised Daniel's leadership and his unique relationship with Brandon.
  • Productivity is valued over harmony in their partnership.
  • Trust is a foundational element of their relationship, despite differences in background and opinions.
  • The ability to enjoy the journey and have fun is considered crucial in building a globally distributed company.

"I think first and foremost, we mutually believe in productivity over harmony."

This quote explains the partnership's philosophy that productive conflict can lead to optimal decisions, implying that their success is partly due to their ability to engage in tough, constructive debates.

"And then the last thing to bat, we know how to have fun building a globally distributed company."

Here, the importance of maintaining a positive work culture and celebrating small victories, even amid challenging work, is highlighted, suggesting that this attitude contributes to the company's success.

Personal Growth and Leadership Evolution

  • Brandon reflects on his growth as a leader and as a person in the context of the company's scale.
  • He contrasts his earlier career focus on tactical achievements with his current role empowering others.
  • Brandon has learned the value of vulnerability in leadership from Daniel.
  • Admitting fears and uncertainties can make a leader appear more genuine and relatable.

"Leaders become great not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others."

This quote reflects Brandon's evolution in understanding leadership, where he now prioritizes empowering his team over personal achievements, indicating a shift from a self-centered to a more inclusive leadership style.

"My biggest fear is that I am going to screw this up."

By sharing Daniel's willingness to express vulnerability, this quote illustrates that openness about one's fears can enhance a leader's authenticity and relatability, which can inspire trust and loyalty among followers.

Vulnerability in Startup Leadership

  • Vulnerability is recognized as a strength in leadership.
  • There is a balance to be struck in how much vulnerability a startup founder can show to different stakeholders.
  • Authenticity and genuineness in communication are key, regardless of the audience.
  • Tailoring the presentation of vulnerability to employees, customers, and investors is a strategic aspect of leadership.

"It's not about making up a different story or changing the messaging. It's about how you're presenting yourself and how genuine you're being."

This quote suggests that while vulnerability should be managed, the essence of communication should remain authentic across different audiences, proposing that the manner of presentation is as important as the content.

Managing a Distributed Leadership Team

  • Distributed leadership teams are common in today's global business environment.
  • Time spent together in person is highly valued and enhances team dynamics.
  • The board is interested in how the distributed nature of the leadership team functions effectively.

"All businesses these days are, for the most part, global."

The quote acknowledges the prevalence of distributed teams in modern business, hinting at the necessity for effective strategies to manage geographically dispersed leadership.

Cultural Challenges in Global Business Expansion

  • The cultural gap is a significant challenge when uniting people from different backgrounds in a global business setting.
  • Misinterpretations can arise due to cultural differences in communication.
  • The complexity increases with founders or exec teams from regions outside the US or Western Europe.
  • These challenges can also present unique learning opportunities beyond typical corporate environments.

"I'd say the biggest challenge is the cultural gap and bringing people together to better understand how you work in different cultures."

This quote emphasizes the difficulty of bridging cultural divides in a global business and the importance of understanding diverse work practices.

Hub-and-Spoke Model for Global Companies

  • A strategic decision was made to adopt a hub-and-spoke model to facilitate global operations.
  • The company was "born global," originating in Romania and expanding internationally.
  • Offices were strategically placed around leaders in key regions: New York, London, and Tokyo.
  • Each regional HQ supports localized leadership and functional teams, aiding in the company's growth.

"But it was building a hub and spoke type model where we knew we were going to be a global company from day one."

This quote explains the company's strategic approach to global expansion, using a hub-and-spoke model to manage international operations effectively.

Valuing Nonconformity and Perspective in Business

  • "Originals" by Adam Grant is favored for its celebration of nonconformists.
  • The book empowers those with less experience to have a voice among more tenured individuals.
  • It highlights the importance of bringing fresh perspectives to the table in business environments.

"But this book celebrates those who come to the table with a different perspective, and they call them nonconformists."

The quote reflects the appreciation for unique perspectives in business, as championed by the book "Originals."

Temporality of Challenges and Maintaining Perspective

  • Recognizing that challenges in life and business are temporary is crucial.
  • It's important not to let negative events consume one's focus.
  • The concept of distinguishing what's "rubber" and what's "crystal" helps in identifying what truly matters.

"And the truth is that all this stuff is temporary."

This quote serves as a reminder that difficulties are transient and should be approached with a sense of perspective.

Combating Arrogance in the Tech Ecosystem

  • There's a perceived increase in arrogance and entitlement within the tech industry.
  • Humility is valued and should be more prevalent, regardless of a company's success.
  • Building products that address significant challenges should be the primary focus.

"So I'd like everyone to just get back to being humble and building great products that solve really amazing challenges."

This quote calls for a return to humility and a focus on creating valuable products in the tech ecosystem.

Investor Relations and Missed Opportunities

  • Anecdote of a missed opportunity to meet Jim Kramer at the New York Stock Exchange.
  • The incident is humorous but also a reminder that not all meetings or opportunities materialize as expected.

"I've never effing heard of them and just walked away."

The quote recounts a candid and somewhat humorous rejection from Jim Kramer, highlighting the unpredictable nature of investor relations.

Approach to Competition for Startups

  • Curiosity about competitors is advised, but it should not dominate a startup's strategy.
  • A startup should focus on its own vision and direction.
  • Copying by competitors can be an indicator of a startup's innovative impact.

"A strategy based on someone else's strategy is no strategy at all."

This quote emphasizes the importance of startups having their own distinct strategy rather than imitating competitors.

Future Prospects for Brandon and Uipath

  • Personal life update: moving in with a girlfriend.
  • Professional forecast for Uipath involves significant growth and establishing a new pillar in enterprise software.
  • Ambition to become a $100 billion market cap company.

"We're establishing a new pillar in the enterprise software stack and this is as meaningful a transformation as databases presented in the cloud-based infrastructure in the early 2000s."

The quote expresses a vision for Uipath's future impact on enterprise software, drawing a parallel with past technological shifts.

Acknowledgments and Appreciations

  • Thanks to Alex at Maritech for arranging the interview.
  • Gratitude towards the board for suggesting questions.
  • Anticipation for Uipath's future endeavors.

"A special thanks to Alex at Maritech for really setting up the interview, making the introduction, and then the whole board for suggesting some truly fantastic questions."

This quote acknowledges the contributions of individuals who facilitated the interview and helped curate meaningful content.

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