The indie RPA dream is over for Blue Prism after being gobbled by private equity

UK firm failed to make an impact against the market leaders

Blue Prism, poster child of the UK's modest tech boom, is to be snaffled by Vista Equity Partners (VEP) and merge with Tibco, the integration and buiness intelligence vendor.

Known for its robotic process automation (RPA) wares, Blue Prism is to be acquired for £1.1bn as interest in the RPA software segment hots up.

According to Forrester, the market for RPA software will be worth $2.9bn in 2021, up from $125m in 2016. The two biggest independent players – those that don't also sell big chunks of the enterprise stack – are US-based Automation Anywhere and UiPath (founded in Romania, but now based in New York), which have a combined valuation of around $39.2bn

Still, the plucky British upstart had a good run as an independent challenger. Blue Prism launched an IPO on the AIM stock exchange in March 2016, gaining £21.1m. In 2018, it accrued £70m additional funding and in 2019 raised £100m seemingly to boost international growth, bagging the same figure in April 2020.

In April 2021, half-year results showed group revenue hit £80.4m, up 24 per cent on a year earlier. Although suffering losses of £20.9m in the half-year, they had narrowed from £53.8m in the prior year.

Following the VEP buyout, the company faces being merged with Tibco, a dotcom-era data integration company that was bought by Vista back in 2014.

For those with short memories, Tibco purchased 40-year-old enterprise data company Information Builders following an agreement struck in 2020.

Rob Warensjo, Megabuyte principal analyst, commented that Blue Prism never seemed to attract the same buzz as bigger RPA vendors, and the VEP buy represents a "less-than-spectacular ending for Blue Prism's time on the public markets."

TechMarketView analyst Duncan Aitchison agreed Blue Prism had "struggled to keep pace with its more aggressive, better-funded rivals like UiPath and Automation Anywhere."

"While it is always sad to see another global UK-HQ'd tech firm fall into foreign ownership, the investment injection from Vista should help Blue Prism challenge more successfully in what is a fast-growing, but extremely competitive market segment," he said.

Competition comes not least from the enterprise software giants, who are showing increasing appetite for the RPA market. Oracle, Microsoft, and SAP – which bought up French RPA firm Contextor in 2018 – have all launched RPA-like products in the last year or so.

However, out of the three big guns, only Microsoft stands much of a chance of making an impact against the RPA specialists, Forrester said earlier this year. ®

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