Highlight Report

Laiye eyes expansion with recent funding and new leadership

June 18, 2021

Sometimes dubbed as UiPath’s equivalent in China, Laiye is an intelligent automation platform provider based in Beijing, China. It was founded in 2015 by Ivy League Ph.D. graduates. Its RPA product, Laiye RPA, was launched in 2019, after its merger with Awesome Technology and its UiBot technology. At present, Laiye has 1000+ customers and caters to key verticals including Energy & Utilities, Banking, Finance & Insurance, Government, and others. With its recent $50M Series C+ funding and appointment of a former WorkFusion MD Asia/Pacific, Ronen Lamdan, as its International CEO, Laiye has a growth on the brain with plans to enhance the capability of its intelligent automation platform and expanding more broadly in the Asia Pacific and to Europe, Middle East, and Africa markets. Laiye’s co-founder Wang Guanchung will continue to lead the company as CEO, while Lamdan will focus on international growth.

Laiye has built a robust ecosystem with its strong product-market fit

Laiye got its start focused on digital associates – essentially intelligent chatbots – before it pivoted to RPA in 2019 after its merger with Awesome Technology and its UiBot RPA technology. Its cognitive roots are critical as from inception the company sought to bring intelligence to RPA. Laiye initially focused on product-market fit and ecosystem development (primarily for indirect sales, implementations, developer connect, advanced features, and functionalities development), and developed an RPA+AI platform.

At present, Laiye’s intelligent automation portfolio includes three components: Laiye RPA – Core RPA platform; Laiye Chatbot – AI-enabled program for human conversation via text and voice messaging; and Laiye IDP – Processing semi-structured and unstructured data. From the technology point of view, the portfolio combines RPA and advanced AI components (NLP, conversational intelligence, text recognition, etc.). It also has a library of 500+ pre-built solutions for accelerating go-to-market and adoption. Some of its marquee customers are Walmart, Lenovo, China Mobile, Merck, and Nike among others. Building a robust ecosystem is also a priority for Laiye– working with both partner and developer angles – to drive adoption. The company states it currently has more than 400,000 developers and 500 partners. According to their CEO:

“Laiye aims to foster the world’s largest developer community for software robots and built the world’s largest bot marketplace in the next three years, and we plan to certify at least one million software robot developers by 2025.”

Wang Guanchun, chair and CEO of Laiye

Overall, Laiye has secured $130M+ funding in more than five rounds as described in Exhibit 1. According to media reports, Laiye reached several milestones in 2020. For example, Laiye’s annual RPA software subscription revenue recorded 900% YoY growth and it achieved positive cash flow for its enterprise business and profitability for the chatbot business in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Exhibit 1: Laiye funding rounds

1. finmes.com
2. laiye.com/news
3. techcrunch.com
4. kr-asia.com
5. owler.com
6. techinasia.com
Note: The investors’ list is indicative and not exhaustive
Source: News reports, media publications

Laiye eyes international markets after a rapid rise in the domestic China market

Laiye initially focused on building a solid product to dominate the China market – a prize that has largely eluded the global RPA players. After achieving strong client experience and product maturity over the first couple of years in China, Laiye has added offices in Singapore and California and hired employees in the UK.

In May 2021, Laiye appointed Ronen Lamdan as its CEO International whose primary role is to expand Laiye’s international presence. Lamden will formulate the international expansion roadmap, primarily targeting Europe, Middle East, and Africa geographies. The primary objective is to build an implementation partner ecosystem as they did in China. Lamden’s experience working with intelligent RPA product vendor, WorkFusion, directly informs this role as well as his earlier experience with other major ISVs like Microsoft and NetSuite.

The Bottom Line: Laiye needs to sharpen its differentiation approach to have a chance at success beyond the Asia Pacific

The world needs another RPA company like a hole in the head. Let us explain. The big three RPA companies – UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism, continue to own the RPA category, working arduously (and often loudly) to best one another by building or acquiring complementary functionality to extend the capabilities of core RPA. In all cases, they have done a stellar job of building their advisory and SI channels as well as their respective technology partner ecosystems which have helped them gain strong enterprise adoption around the globe. Meanwhile, various enterprise software companies such as Pega (the visionary acquiring OpenSpan in 2016), SAP (Contextor – 2018), Appian (Jidoka – 2020), Microsoft (Softomotive – 2020), Hyland (Another Monday – 2020), and now ServiceNow (Intellibot – 2021) have realized RPA has some use, usually around enabling connectivity to systems lacking APIs and have added RPA as part of their portfolio. Notably, some offer bundled access to RPA – aka free with larger license agreements as with Microsoft, Appian, and Pega. This paints a picture of the broad market availability of RPA with strong incumbents and formidable challengers offering attractive commercial models.

The exceptions to big three dominance have been in China, broader Asia Pacific beyond Singapore, Japan, and South Korea, and Latin America – largely because some country markets have not been able to make RPA economics work at the local level. This is where Laiye can find a unique point of differentiation – being the only native RPA vendor to hail from the Asia Pacific. HFS recommends it looks first to dominate the APAC region and then leverage its position to expand to other regions ideally off the back of strong APAC clients with multinational operations as well as expanding its service partner network to those with a global presence. This will require a few things:

  1. An excellent platform that either matches or brings differentiated capabilities (native AI capabilities like Laiye’s focus on digital associates (chatbots) and IDP are in high demand, but are not necessarily differentiating);
  2. A strong commercial proposition that works locally but can scale;
  3. A service provider network based on quality, not quantity. There are scads of press release partnerships out there. Laiye needs partners it can work with to co-innovate and create bi-directional opportunities

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