We recently sat down with Guy Kirkwood to discuss his journey to Chief Evangelist at UiPath, the creation and growth of the RPA category and UiPath's goal to support future generations.
An introduction to Guy Kirkwood
Chief Evangelist at UiPath, a passionate advocate of RPA and BPO, Guy Kirkwood has 20 years’ experience in outsourcing and a particular interest in innovation and future development of the market. He has been a speaker for The Economist and Management Today and has written for Finance Director Europe and Professional Outsourcing magazines.
An introduction to UiPath
UiPath believe in using the transformative power of automation to liberate the boundless potential of people. A world with a robot for every person is their goal. Dedicated to delivering the Fully Automated Enterprise™, one where companies use automation to unlock unlimited growth opportunities. UiPath offers an end-to-end platform for automation, combining the leading Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution with a full suite of capabilities and techs like AI, Process Mining, and Cloud to enable every organization to rapidly scale digital business operations.
UiPath encourage the best minds to contribute and create the next leap in RPA. Developers of all ranks are building upon the UiPath Community Edition, and to support this growing pool of talent, UiPath brought UiPath Academy to the world as the first open online training and certification platform dedicated to RPA users. Based in New York City, the UiPath presence extends to over 40 offices around the world. Let’s meet to unlock your potential.
Stephen Mackintosh - 00:05 Hi, everyone. My name is Stephen Mackintosh. I'm the host of the AI Pioneers Podcast, and today I'm joined by Guy Kirkwood, Chief Evangelist of UiPath. Guy, we're delighted to have you as our guest today. The whole purpose for this Pioneer series is to get behind both the technology, the innovation, but also the people who've made these stories come to life. So, Guy please introduce yourself to the audience.
Guy Kirkwood - 00:30 Yeah. Thanks, Stephen. My name is Guy Kirkwood, I'm the Chief Evangelist with UiPath. It's the best job and the worst job title in the world. Going a mile a minute.
Stephen Mackintosh - 00:45 So, Guy, for anyone who doesn't know about UiPath, which I'm sure is not many people, especially in our audience. But also for anyone who doesn't know what a Chief Evangelist is, please tell us, what's UiPath? What's a Chief Evangelist?
Guy Kirkwood - 00:57 Okay, no problem. So UiPath's fundamental aim is to reshape how people work. That sounds like a very spectacular thing to aim for. The reason that we're able to say it and, indeed, help to do it, is that our platform which is Robotic Process Automation or what you might know it as RPA. Takes away the boring, repetitive, mundane work that workers have to endure. Particularly office workers. And our software robots, not hardware robots, our software robots actually take on that work, which elevates us and allows humans to work on stuff that they want to, and stuff that just makes more sense to you and me as humans, and it's more innovation, more ingenuity, rather than the boring mundane stuff that you have to do as part of your job.
Guy Kirkwood - 01:52 And the role itself, as Chief Evangelist, I'm not the first. I was the first in the market, in the RPA market. But actually the role came out of Apple. It was run by a guy called Guy Kawasaki. Another Guy, funnily enough. Guy Kawasaki was asked by Steve Jobs to find out ways that they could sell Apple to everybody. And Kawasaki said that wasn't possible, because we're not going to sell Apple kits to DOS users back then. MS DOS users and Window users because, in his words, they're zealots. And you can't change Zealots' minds. However, what we can do, he said, is we can sell the agnostics. And so that's in the RPA market, because I started relatively early, in the market.
Guy Kirkwood - 02:51 We've really had to create the category. The category is a group of organizations or a group of technologies that come together that organizations then talk about. So the analyst community, and the press, and all the rest of it. Talk about RPA as a category. And as a category it's actually grown incredibly quickly. It's the fastest growing. Still, the fast growing enterprise software category at the moment.
Stephen Mackintosh - 03:17 In your day-to-day role as an Evangelist, could you talk us through what does it involve for you? What's your operating during the week, during the quarters? What's your responsibility for the company?
Guy Kirkwood - 03:29 The thing about being an Evangelist is it's bidirectional. As well as what I do now, talk to our partners, our technology partners, our implantation partners. I also talk to our customers, and to the analyst communities. So that's the Gartner's, the Forrester's, and IDC's and [inaudible 00:03:46] as well.
Guy Kirkwood - 03:50 So I'm telling the story. I'm a story teller. That's what Evangelists do. But also, I spend more time listening than I do talking. I know that's hard to believe sometimes. But I do spend more time listening. So by listening to what other people are saying, and what they're seeing in the market, and what they're anticipating, and what they want, I can then go back into the organization, into our product team, into our sales and marketing team, partner teams so on, so that we can adapt, so that we can stay ahead of the market.
Guy Kirkwood - 04:19 And that's worked out quite well for us. I said that it's the best job and the worst job title. It's the best job because I get to talk to and listen to a lot of people. I have to say, for the last year, I've been locked down like most of the rest of the world. And so I do miss the physical interaction that I get with people. But nevertheless, I'm now used to talking to cameras all the time and listening to people on speakers. But the bad thing about being Chief Evangelist is that I still have an inordinate number of people on LinkedIn who say that they are so pleased that Jesus has entered my life. And I have to explain all that to them I'm not that type of evangelist.
Stephen Mackintosh - 05:02 But you are Evangelical about RPA, that's for sure.
Guy Kirkwood - 05:04 I am, yeah.
Stephen Mackintosh - 05:06 In terms, and I think just for everyone's benefit, I think, the acronym RPA is such an incredibly powerful marketing construct. The fact that it kind of personifies this work that takes place by software, and has this construct which is the robotic work or robotic process automation. I think it's definitely something that multiple stories can be laid on top of. I think that's really one the most interesting observations I have certainly got about the RPA market is just how effective that construct's been, and the stories you can weave into it- [crosstalk 00:05:42].
Guy Kirkwood - 05:41 That has nothing to do with us. That was all to do with two people. One was Phil Fersht of HFS, and Pat Geary of Blue Prism. They came up with the acronym for RPA. Now there are quite a few people out there at the moment saying, "Well, it doesn't contain robots." At the start involve processes, it was more task oriented. But actually RPA stuck. As an organization, we look at ... and what's happening with the market is that the product companies are turning into platform companies.
Guy Kirkwood - 06:23 And you can think about UiPath as a platform of platforms. It facilitates the software robots to work both horizontally and vertically. Breadth and depth. The only reason that we're able to do that is because we're including a lot of those sort of AI type tools. Artificial intelligence tools, to enable that to happen. So that by creating a platform, as opposed to a product, that facilitates that without any doubt.
Stephen Mackintosh - 06:57 Well, we'll get on to the platform conversation a bit later, and especially about these newer parts to the kind of expanding intelligent automation ecosystem. Including machine learning and process learning and all that good stuff. I think also a bit more about UiPath. UiPath obviously, according to recent publications, is a highly valued business.
Stephen Mackintosh - 07:19 I know we can't talk too much about it today, but I think the most recent press that was publicly announced was that it's around a $35 billion evaluation, which is incredible. But before we get too stuck in the details of the company, this time around I want to start with you. Tell us a bit about yourself, Guy. Who is Guy Kirkwood? How'd you get started in this industry? How'd you get started with UiPath? What's your background?
Guy Kirkwood - 07:41 I was interviewed about three or four months ago by a journalist and he said, "Take me through your career." And I laughed at him because I haven't had a career. All I've had is a collection of jobs. Every one of those jobs has really led up to where I am today, what I'm doing today. And that is not planned, it's just luck. There's that famous saying, "The harder you work, the luckier you become."
Guy Kirkwood - 08:13 And I try and be lazy, but it's quite difficult now. So to run through, to answer your question. I've done a couple of degrees, and during my Master's ... Psychology's my first degree. Second degree was a Master's in Philosophy, actually, but I was working at publishing. And helped working with a new start-up in technology space in computer-based training. And bear in mind, I'll tell you how old I am, the first lesson in our computer-based training program was how to use a mouse. I really am that old.
Guy Kirkwood - 08:57 Anyway, I was looking at the way the brain simulates information, in my first degree. The university was quite interested in that. They said, "Well, we'll sponsor you through to do the master's course, and you can work for this start-up that we're creating, and we can utilize the working, and you can do your dissertation on the results."
Guy Kirkwood - 09:18 It took me about 30 seconds to say yes to that. I had in my mind the fact that people do not learn linearly. So you'll learn this bit over here, and then go learn that bit over there, and then this bit over here. And then providing you check it, it's a very effective way of learning. But I couldn't find a piece of software that would actually do this, that we could build the platform on. I went to university in Scotland. I came across a small organization in Edinburgh called Owl, as in Twit-Twoo owl. And no one's ever heard of that organization except one of the directors of that company was someone called Tim [Burnerslee 00:10:03].
Guy Kirkwood - 10:02 And we actually, in our little company, used the precursor of HTML to actually build our platform, which is pretty cool. We sold a very large deal to an insurance company, and in typical [Ronson 00:10:23] style they liked it so much they bought the business, which was nice. So, then went into publishing. I went into a magazine publisher. I was Production Editor for the Scottish Licensed Trade Guardian, which meant I had to go around an awful lot of pubs, and distilleries, and hotels. It was awful. It was a really bad job. And then for some unknown reason I decided to join the army.
Guy Kirkwood - 10:56 I hadn't done OTC, Officer Training Course at university, but I joined the TA, Territorial Army. I then sought to join the army full time.
Stephen Mackintosh - 11:10 Scots Guards, wasn't it? That you joined.
Guy Kirkwood - 11:12 Yeah, when I went down to regular commissions board, which is where ... because I was old and fat at that time as well. I went down to regular commissions board in Westbury, which is where they ask you or test whether you're going to be officer material. I did okay on the mental stuff, but appallingly badly on all of the physical stuff. And it came to the interview, and they said, "So, Mr. Kirkwood, how long have you wanted to join the army?" I said, "About two weeks."
Guy Kirkwood - 11:42 Which was true but not necessarily the answer they were looking for. So they sent me on something called [RoAllen 00:11:47] Company. Anyone that's been through [Santis 00:11:50] will know and will be quietly sobbing to themselves about [RoAllen 00:11:56] Company.
Guy Kirkwood - 11:56 Because basically it's for 17 year-old school boys. Where they're not sure if they're officer material, so they just, basically, spend three months abusing them. They get them to run around morning, noon, and night. You go on camping trips in the pouring rain in Wales, that sort of stuff. Because they just assume, just a 25 year-old fat boy, that I would leave. Anyway, I didn't, so I ended up in Scots Guards, as you say. Everything from sort of running around Belfast getting shot at, to several occasion changing guard at Buckingham Palace. That sort of stuff. It was a great time.
Guy Kirkwood - 12:35 Four very happy years in the army. Operational and public duties. And then I had lined up a job with Wahlbergs, HG Wahlbergs. It was an investment bank. To look at tech stocks. The plan was for me to go and become a trainee fund manager, basically, because my interest in technology was there.
Guy Kirkwood - 13:00 And there was a gap between leaving the army in the June and then joining, it was actually [Makrastic 00:13:05] Management was part of Wahlbergs, in the end of September, and I thought, "Well, who knows about technology? Who knows about technology more than technology companies do?" And I worked out, it was head-hunters because head-hunters are like priest were 200 years ago. They knew about what's happening before it actually happens.
Guy Kirkwood - 13:25 I was living in Windsor, so I went and had an interview with this called Roger Baker, and he offered me a job as a part time researcher. And it just opened my eyes, because our clients, at that time, were organizations like KP&G and PARO Systems. PARO Systems had just done a really big deal with East Midland Electricity, and used outsourcing, IT outsourcing, as the enabler to transform the business. I thought, "Hey, this is the future." So, I then set up my own-
Stephen Mackintosh - 14:04 It was the economics of that that was eye opening?
Guy Kirkwood - 14:05 It was. I can talk about the deal until ... It's one of the best deals I've ever have come across. PARA went into EME East Midland Electricity. This was a time when the 12 regional electricity companies were created. We're now down to four, I think, but there were 12 originally. East Midland electricity was right at the bottom of the shareholder value. Mainly because they're IT team was completely shot.
Guy Kirkwood - 14:32 PARO Systems came in and said, "Okay, we'll run the IT for you, but we, the head hunters, Roger Baker and partners and I was helping, were actually finding Business Process Re-engineering consultants. BPR guys and girls, if everyone remembers those. Because they would transform the business using IT as an enabler for that. And it's the first time I'd actually seen that happen.
Guy Kirkwood - 14:55 And three things happened. Firstly, EME went from 12 to 6 in terms of shareholder value, out of the 12. Second thing was that PARA doubled the size of the deal from 300 to to 600 million dollars, which was quite substantial. And the third thing was using that is the use case, as the case study. They then won California Lights and Power, which was 1.2 billion dollars, which back in the '90s was a huge amount of money. It was a massive deal.
Guy Kirkwood - 15:21 So I thought anything that could make that much difference to the service provider, PARA, to the organization and to the people involved, has got to be good news. So I got involved with outsourcing after running a research company. And I then got into outsourcing. Worked for a company called EquaTerra, which was one of the like TPI, what become ISG, where the outsourcing advisory organizations helping companies to decide how they're going to do. Not sure if these work. And then got into outsourcing, worked for several outsourcing companies. Ended up at a company call Sutherland Global Services.
Stephen Mackintosh - 16:10 And can I just jump in for one second?
Guy Kirkwood - 16:11 Oh, sorry.
Stephen Mackintosh - 16:12 I'm guessing in these roles, I'm I right in thinking that you were a sales person? That was your role?
Guy Kirkwood - 16:19 Top tip from Guy. If you're not actively selling, don't join the sales organization. It really is that simple. Mainly because, if you join a sales organization ... What I really did was to my generation. But if you join a sales organization, and the sales management changes, the first thing the new sales director does when he comes into the business, he goes down the list and he says, "Right, these are all my people. These are the stars. These are the average people. And there's this one chap right at the bottom who never sold anything. Who's he?" That's Guy Kirkwood. All right, he's off." Every time. If you're doing it to my generation, join marketing. That's the top tip.
Guy Kirkwood - 17:02 Anyway, I was working with Sutherland, and we had a technology business, it was Dell actually, and we were going to outsource all of their auto-processing. Because the auto-processing system was 20 years old and it was embedded in everything that the organization did. So they tried to change it six times, and everything time they tried to change it something fell over.
Guy Kirkwood - 17:30 They literally had 1,000 people manually doing the [inaudible 00:17:34] processing. Cutting and pasting and re-keying stuff into the system. Green Screen. So we did the usual business process outsourcing BPO-y stuff and said, "Okay, so, what we'll do is we'll come in, we'll take all the people on, we'll consolidate into a shared service operation. We'll move that shared service operation off-shore, so you get a better service, for less money. Should we crack on?" And they said, "Yeah, great idea. We've already done all of that.
Guy Kirkwood - 18:05 We've already done things and we've already done consolidating shares of this operation. 96% of those people are offshore anyway, so how can you help?" "Not sure." Anyway, the team went back and we realized that the only way that we could actually make any money on this deal was to automate.
Guy Kirkwood - 18:26 We went to see a little business called Blue Prism, in the UK, and then we went to see this even smaller organization, which consists of seven people in a flat, in a apartment in Bucharest, called Desk Over, run by two people one was called Daniel Deneuse, and the other one is Marius Tirca. And we used, what became, UiPath technology. We were the first customer of what became-
Stephen Mackintosh - 19:03 Right. Okay.
Guy Kirkwood - 19:03 And the results were staggering. I won't bother to go into them now, but it was so impressive. If you think about that in the back, into that Ross Perot moment. The PARO systems moment. Where I was thinking, "Outsourcing. This is the future." I had exactly the same feeling when I found out about this automation stuff.
Stephen Mackintosh - 19:26 It was the solution for this problem?
Guy Kirkwood - 19:29 It was. Normally when you think about technology, technology is a solution to searching problem. You got a new piece of technology comes out, and you go, "Great wiz-bang. So what?" How is that going to help us? But right from the off, you can see that automation is going to have a fundamental impact on organizations. Even back in 2013, 2014 when we were doing that deal. So I started talking about this and writing about it, and so on. And then Daniel got his seed round funding. Raised just under a million dollars at an valuation of eight million dollars. One of the first ... He hired some people, which I was one of them.
Stephen Mackintosh - 20:15 And was that Seedcamp who did the seed round? And EarlyBird? I think it was Seedcamp and EarlyBird, right?
Guy Kirkwood - 20:23 EarlyBird and Seedcamp, yep. EarlyBird is, for those who don't know, is by far the best, most intelligent, early round investor in Europe. Without a shadow of a doubt. I think they got three or four Unicorns now from those organizations that we've identified really early on. They are brilliant. Anyway, EarlyBird and Seedcamp and I joined, originally, as Chief Operating Officer, COO. And then switched to the Chief Evangelist role after six or seven months, I suppose. I've been happily doing what I do since.
Stephen Mackintosh - 21:08 Cool.
Guy Kirkwood - 21:09 That was going to take about two minutes to answer that question but it turned into 15 minutes.
Stephen Mackintosh - 21:13 No, I think it's good. I think, also, for anyone who's interested, during your career, I'm guessing, you made this kind of jump from, as you said at the beginning, in your instruction, you're now a story teller. When we spoke before the show, in the prep notes, I think what was really interesting for me is that you'd realized that what you did, what your skill set was, was demand generation. And you realized that the best output for that skill set was in this Evangelist role, which really sits within marketing, not within sales, where you've been traditionally your whole career, right?
Guy Kirkwood - 21:49 Yeah, it wasn't my idea to become Chief Evangelist. It was Daniel's, actually, but he was right, and I've grown into that role. There are four tenets that UiPath has that comes from top to bottom. That's be bold, be fast, be emersed, and be humble. And actually, the humility thing is the most important. Because if you're not humble, you fight your corner, you don't listen, you defend yourself. And so that's why you can't change. That humility that's throughout our organization is probably the thing that really makes us stand out as a company. Culturally as opposed from a technology standpoint.
Stephen Mackintosh - 22:45 That's interesting, especially when you're in a competitive market. I think having humility is a good thing because it allows you to interact with the market, which is very competitive, but also still, I wouldn't say defend, but be proud of your position in it. Whilst also respecting that ... As you said at the beginning, even though people create the RPA acronym, but you guys have co-opted it as well as part of this broader market now. Guy, what would you say gives you most satisfaction in your job?
Guy Kirkwood - 23:20 Wow, after talking about humility, what really gives me the most satisfaction is making sure that we do well in the analyst reports. The reason for that is that ... If I said the head hunters used to be the priest of 200 years ago. That role, in our market, certainly, is taken by the analysts, because they're talking to everybody. They're talking to the companies that support us from an implementation perspective, they talk to organizations like yours, from a technology perspective. They talk to customers, of course, and they get inquires from, and now investment communities as well, they're getting questions all the time. The inquiry calls that they get ... They're called inquiry calls or inquiry, if you're American. Those calls is where they're being asked for their advice.
Guy Kirkwood - 24:23 The key role for and the thing that gives me most satisfaction is when I find out that they are talking about us when we're not in the room. So I spend a lot of time, at the moment, talking to venture capital organizations, product organizations, and the portfolio companies that run them. Including Seedcamp and EarlyBird, and so on. And I always say the same thing, and you've been in those conversations, the relationship you build up with the analyst is probably the most important on that you can do, initially.
Guy Kirkwood - 24:59 Now most organizations don't get that. They think about the analyst as an afterthought, or we need to brief the analyst, but actually, the relationship with the analyst needs to start really, from day zero when you're in a start-up.
Guy Kirkwood - 25:12 Because the better the relationship you've got, and the more trusting ... This is where the humility comes in, the more trusting that relationship is, the better that you are perceived as an organization by the people who are talking about the market as a whole. So it took us about six months to go from nowhere to be on the first Forrester wave of RPA. Which is unheard of. I'm not saying that we did anything right, but the lessons that we'd learned from that is that, even if you're a smaller organization, a start-up organization ... and this is a really good serious tip for your listeners and viewers. You want to get on to those Gartner Magic Quadrant, the Forrester waves, the Everest Peaks, and so on.
Guy Kirkwood - 26:12 Why? Because if you can get into the top three, as we did, very early on, then you have full sight of the market. Because organizations tend to look at those things and go, "Okay, so who are the top three? We'll send our request for proposal, or our request for information to those people, start with, and then we can look at others." But they always start with the top three. So if you can get there in your small nascent category, whatever that might be. That is immensely powerful.
Guy Kirkwood - 26:42 The thing that gives me most pleasure, and the thing that I measure myself on, is how well our relationships are going with the analyst community. And that's not just for the people that are focused on RPA, but it cuts across pretty much any topic that you can think of. Because that might be by geography or industry because RPA is applicable to, luckily, applicable to all of them.
Stephen Mackintosh - 27:13 It's really interesting seeing how effective your honest relations strategy has been, and a quick shout-out to you. I think you gave me a lot of support in kick starting our honest relations journey, and we've built some really great relationships with the likes of IDC and Forrester recently. That's been a really, really great steer from you.
Guy Kirkwood - 27:35 Anyone that's listening who really wants to understand this, there is one person they need talk to and that's Sven Litke. That's Sven S-V-E-N, L-I-T-K-E. He's been working with us as long as I have. He runs a company called Kea Company and they specialize in analysts relations, and they are brilliant. If anyone wants to get in touch with either of us actually, then we can pass on the details, but Sven and his team are fantastic.
Stephen Mackintosh - 28:05 And just on that subject actually of help and support, just thinking, in the kind of story you told us. I think it's an interesting story. From like, the Scots Guard. Starting at the beginning of the outsourcing market. To the RBA genesis which is really, I think, a natural disrupter for that outsourcing process. In that timeline, have you had any mentors that have helped you, who you've looked up to, or gave you a better mentorship and steer to help you grow, who would they be? Tell us a story about any of those guys.
Guy Kirkwood - 28:38 Daniel, obviously. He made me what I am today in terms of the Chief Evangelist role. But prior to that. Actually, it was a guy I worked with, a head-hunter. Not Roger Baker, funnily enough. But this a guy ... I worked for a company called Borderless Executive Search, based in Brussels. His name is Andrew Kris, and that's K-R-I-S. And he still runs Borderless with his wife.
Guy Kirkwood - 29:10 He was a true mentor because he had confidence that, although I was really bad at sales, I was quite good at building relationships. He basically fed me for two years while I, sort of, got my act together. And the reason that he was a mentor, and the link to what I've done previously and afterwords, is that he was, prior to going head-hunting, was one of the very senior guys at Johnson & Johnson. He decided that he wasn't going to do what was politically expedient to get to the top of the slippery pole, but didn't want to leave the organization.
Guy Kirkwood - 29:58 So, inevitably they gave him all the shit jobs to do. So he had to go and run finance, and procurement, and HR. And as a business person, who was used to building business, he thought, "Oh, god what am I going to do with this?" But the only thing he knew how to do was build business, so he did that. He turned those operations into what we now know as shared service operations or Global Business Services.
Stephen Mackintosh - 30:25 Very interesting, yeah.
Guy Kirkwood - 30:26 And actually wrote the book on it. It's called Mining for Corporate Gold. It's quite old now, but is just brilliant.
Stephen Mackintosh - 30:34 That's cool.
Guy Kirkwood - 30:36 That combination between people, process, and technology was writ large by Andrew. He is wonderful with people. He is humble as well. I didn't realize it then, but I do now. The great thing was that he encouraged us to think beyond what we would normally do. In fact, so much so, that my children were five and seven, at that time and we were going to go through whole, sort of, British prep school and public school and stuff.
Guy Kirkwood - 31:16 For people who don't understand the British system, public school is not public. But that's by the by. When we went to Christmas parties in Brussels, because there were so many different nationalities there, the children were all switching languages between Italian, and Flemish, and French, and English. We thought, "This is amazing." So we bought a little place in France, and we went over there, and literally threw our children into French school. They didn't speak a word of French. And a year later they were fluent without accent, and it's the best thing that we have done, from my perspective.
Stephen Mackintosh - 32:01 And I guess, for anyone listening, UiPath is, I think ... it started of in Romania, but it's now based or headquartered New York. But it's a global business with thousands of employees and offices all over the world. Where abouts are you based?
Guy Kirkwood - 32:17 I'm currently at home. After moving back from France, I got head-hunted back. We now live in Devon or the Devon Cornwall border. The river that separates Devon and Cornwall is called the Tamar, and we live in Tamar valley just at the top of the Tamar Valley on the Devon side. Very close to a world heritage site. Which is known as the Devon Great Consols. So I think about 75% of the world's copper came out of those mines in the 18th century. Amazing place.
Stephen Mackintosh - 32:57 Oh wow. And I always knew you as a larger than life character, and then you told me about the animals that you keep, and I was stuck. I thought it was a good story to bring into the conversation. You have quite an interesting set of pets, let's call them, all rather large.
Guy Kirkwood - 33:15 Yeah, we sort of collect them. We currently have three Great Danes and a Yorkshire Terrier. Guess who's in charge?
Stephen Mackintosh - 33:21 Interesting mix.
Guy Kirkwood - 33:22 Yeah, guess who's in charge? Inevitably the terrier. And then we have seven horses, and our entire family ride. My wife and children do dressage. I try and stay on. I don't do dressage. I'm not good enough. I stay on a horse. That's about it. I make a good passenger.
Stephen Mackintosh - 33:51 I think it's really interesting pastoral image. Real British country side behind this rocket ship technology business. So I think that's a really cool story for everyone. Thank you for sharing that.
Guy Kirkwood - 34:04 We've been extremely lucky during lockdown that I can go out and walk the dogs ride the horses and so on. We've got friends we were at university with who are having a really hard time. Physiologically, mental health, hard time because they're stuck in flats, and they can't get out. You can be fun and facetious all you like, but it really does matter to people. Actually Forrester said that there are now 18 million more people working from home this year then there were last year, and that's just in the US alone. So we've got to make sure that we look after people.
Stephen Mackintosh - 34:44 It's an interesting segue. Actually it's a question I wanted to ask you before when we were talking about the rise and the success. I think obviously it's always great to hear the positive side of things, and how people have made it. But I think it's always true to say that with success comes some kind of hurdles on the way, or some lessons. What would you say has been, for you, one of your biggest lessons or perhaps even your biggest failures in your career today? I think that's always a really interesting perspective to get from someone.
Guy Kirkwood - 35:13 I think we sort of covered it. It's the fact that I've been fired or made redundant from every job I've ever had. I'm not sure that's a negative in a lot of ways. Funnily enough, eventually I got so blasa about it, "I've been made redundant. Okay, how much?" For some people, when they first get made redundant, they're going, "Oh, no this is the end of the world." But no, I think that's it. It's finding your place. And I know that's hard in a lot of cases, but it's taken me a long time.
Guy Kirkwood - 35:51 I look at the people in UiPath, and I'm really old. I'm 54 years old. The majority of people are half my age in the business. To join a rocket ship ... The guy who created Google, I think it was Larry Page. He said, "When I offer you a job, you're joining a rocket ship." He said, "Don't ask me which seat you're going to get. Just get on the rocket." And it has been that with UiPath.
Guy Kirkwood - 36:29 And be that through luck, or good judgment, it's a combination of all of those things, of course. But I look at the young people coming into work now, and not just in UiPath, but work generally into the world of work, and it's hard. It doesn't matter which country you live in, the politics of my generation are making it really hard for the younger generation.
Guy Kirkwood - 37:04 You keep seeing things ... Scott Galloway, the professor [crosstalk 00:37:08] writes articles about this. I highly recommend them by the way. About the fact that this next generation, have earning potential less than their parents. That's the first time that's ever happened. So, if the world of work is going to change, it's up to us, the vendors, it's up to us collectively, as the ecosystem that supports the world of work to make sure that people aren't left behind. I really, fundamentally, think that.
Guy Kirkwood - 37:44 That's why we're doing a lot of work with the World Economic Forum, and EU, and the UN, and so on. Because we've got to make sure that, if we become a generational business, that we are supporting the generations to come rather than us now. And that's really important. There's a lady that's doing fantastic work on this is one of my colleagues is Margret Shasari. And the work that she's doing is just amazing.
Stephen Mackintosh - 38:17 I think it's interesting, one of the things that UiPath were very effective at, at the beginning, was opening up the software, the platform, to this much broader community. You were like one of the first movers on the UiPath Academy.
Guy Kirkwood - 38:36 That was my idea. You're talking about things I'm proud of. Yeah, that's probably one of them. When I joined, all the vendors were charging for training, because, frankly, we weren't making a huge amount of money on licenses. But I said, "No, you're going to give it away." You've got to ... I didn't use the word democratize, "But you've got to make sure as many people get their hands on your software as we can." So that was the idea because I've done some MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses and seen how successful they could be. And funny enough, they weren't successful because they extend and expand the people who were using it. It's because it expands the people who come up with the good ideas.
Guy Kirkwood - 39:24 We're still a small business. We've got nearly 3,000 people. But we're still a small business. We do not have a monopoly of good ideas, in fact, quite the reverse. It's our community that come up with the good ideas. So if you can democratize and give away as much as you can, and still remain commercially viable, that is always got to be beneficial. Because someone in Kazakhstan, or Bangalore or Bristol that comes out, "Oh, I was trying out your software, and I've got a really good idea about doing this." That is so powerful. So the UiPath Academy has now trained, I think, 750,000 people around the world.
Stephen Mackintosh - 40:13 That's astonishing. It's crazy. And they're all trained RPA developers for a new type of role in the economy, really?
Guy Kirkwood - 40:20 Yeah. Well, it goes broader than that because we then set up the Academic Alliance. So in the same way that Google, and Apple, and Microsoft give laptops to schools and universities so that you get used to using that platform. We did the same with the Academic Alliance. So we went to the universities and said, "If automation, broad automation has got a fundamental impact on work, regardless of the degree your students are doing, you need to teach RPA." We expected a really slow uptake, but we now have ... and this is since April, May 2019, we've got over 800 universities around the world that are now teaching RPA as part of their curriculum.
Stephen Mackintosh - 41:17 That's amazing.
Guy Kirkwood - 41:18 Amazing.
Stephen Mackintosh - 41:22 I think on the subject of community, just bringing it back to, I guess, a Re:infer slant for a second, obviously, for any of our listeners. It's no surprise that we're a natural language processing platform. We specialize in what we call communications mining. We're partnered, obviously, with UiPath. What do you think the future holds for this ecosystem, Guy, of both automation tools and more cognitive tools, like ourselves and like other businesses? Where do you think it's going in the future? Where do you think this automation market is evolving to?
Guy Kirkwood - 42:00 I got famous a couple of years ago for saying that AI is bollocks, because most organizations the C suites of the companies, they say, "Oh, we need AI. AI is definitely the way forward. We need AI," without any clue that AI is, actually, as you said, is a combination of different tools. It's an ecosystem. It's not a "thing." But ultimately, and I've said this before, I think all of these technologies will disappear.
Stephen Mackintosh - 42:30 Interesting perspective.
Guy Kirkwood - 42:31 And they're not going to disappear because they're not going to get used. They're going to disappear because they've just become the fabric of what we do.
Stephen Mackintosh - 42:40 Embedded.
Guy Kirkwood - 42:41 Electricity. No one cares, unless you're an eco-mentalist, when you switch the light on. The light comes on. Where's the electricity coming from? How's it generated? All of that just becomes part of the fabric of everyday life. And that's exactly what will happen with these technologies.
Guy Kirkwood - 43:03 That's RPA and what we term as the four understandings. Visual understanding, could be division type stuff. Product as a document understanding. Sort of OCR and terms of OCR and sentiment analysis and all that rest of that stuff. Process understanding. Understanding what processes, how they work and who's doing what. And your work, which is conversational understanding. And all of those things are going to come together.
Guy Kirkwood - 43:36 So we've got all people coming into RPA from different directions. So you've got us as the core RPA vendors. Then you've got the API-driven organizations. The BPM organizations, the CRM and ERP type companies that want to automate as much as they can. They're all coming into this space. So we're expanding out, they're expanding in. I think that there's going to be a, I know I've said this before, a consolidation in the market as the more challenger type organization in the pure RPA space, some will be acquired.
Guy Kirkwood - 44:19 The competitive landscape will change every time. So now we've got Microsoft coming to the market. We've got SAP making lots of acquisitions in this market. But I'm expecting organizations like Google, and Amazon, and Salesforce to move in over the next few months and possibly a couple of years. As more and more mundane work, is where we started, becomes automated. It just makes sense.
Stephen Mackintosh - 44:48 I think it's interesting you say that about mundane work. I think a lot of observers of the automation market over the past few years have viewed the innovations around, really, kind of clerical, back-office work. But I think now what we're seeing is the stage is set for the disruption of knowledge worker activity. In our world, where we play, we sit a lot further upstream, to the genesis of a process.
Stephen Mackintosh - 45:17 And I think now that's really the battle ground for destruction because the way professional services have functioned. Via email, via calls, via these kind of, I would call them human centric processes. That's now opening itself up for disruption because of all those four pillars of, I think, sensory perception that these systems, these tools can have. When you get that symbiosis between, I guess, man and machine you've got a totally, not just embedded infrastructure where things are imperceptible, but it's also a perception of infrastructure where it's constantly listening, and learning, and judging, and rooting. I think what we've seen so far is just the start and I think the next few years are going to be really fascinating for that.
Guy Kirkwood - 46:05 I absolutely agree. And when I talk about the boring, mundane, repetitive stuff, it doesn't matter what your job is, there are bits of your job that you don't want to do. Forrester did a big study on this run by a guy called Dave Johnson. David Johnson. He's their lead analyst on employee engagement. And it turns out that the key indicator for employee engagement isn't how much someone is paid, or how much recognition they get, or whatever. It turns out that, actually, the key indicator for employee engagement is whether you as an individual think that the work you are doing takes the business forward, is important.
Guy Kirkwood - 46:45 And when you see very large churn of people, that is obviously not the case. They are not doing stuff that they feel is important. Therefore, you have a large turnover of staff. So automation helps regardless of whether you are a lawyer, a doctor, a scientist, a technician, an engineer, a teacher, a student. It cuts across so much of our world now. I come back to where we started, which is automation. What you do, what we do, what the ecosystem does is reshaping that.
Stephen Mackintosh - 47:34 Just in terms of that landscape there of different kind of people and places, are there any specific industries, or verticals that are most intriguing or most fascinating to you, where UiPath is innovating at the moment?
Guy Kirkwood - 47:48 If you look at the adoption of RPA, it tends to start in finance. BFSI. Banking, financial services and insurance. Manufacturing. But where we're really seeing a massive uptake in the last year, maybe because of COVID, is public sector.
Stephen Mackintosh - 48:17 Okay, interesting.
Guy Kirkwood - 48:18 Public sector is a very exciting place to be working at the moment.
Stephen Mackintosh - 48:22 Okay, well fantastic. Guy, I think it's been really, really interesting. Really interesting perspectives on you, on UiPath. I guess, just to wrap it up, what does the future hold for Guy Kirkwood? Obviously, we can't go into too much detail about UiPath with potential IPOs pending, et cetera. But I'm more interested in, perhaps, you. What does the future hold for you in a few years down the line? What would you get up to, pending any kind of evolution in this space?
Guy Kirkwood - 48:54 I don't know. I love the job that I do. If I was going to find something else to do, it would be something completely different, I think. I don't know the answer to that, but then, over the last 30 years that I've been in business, I've never known the answer to that. Happy-go-lucky, I suppose. So let's see what happens, let's see what happens.
Stephen Mackintosh - 49:32 In terms of for any one like ourselves like young start-ups looking to emulate what UiPath have done and learn from people like yourself and businesses like UiPath. Any advice you'd give to any start-ups that are embarking on the enterprise software space, or any kind of software space, what would you say to them?
Guy Kirkwood - 49:52 Yeah. It's a relatively simple process, but it requires nothing more than hard work. And that is to understand, as broadly as you can, the milieu in which you operate. And I'm not talking about industry, I'm not talking about sector, I'm not talking about category. I'm talking just generally, just picking up newspapers and magazines. Not that anyone sits on planes reading those in-flight magazines. Ideas can be triggered off by anything.
Guy Kirkwood - 50:39 Read broadly. Find people you can trust. And that can be your investors, that can be the analyst community, which I mentioned. It could be mentors, which we've discussed as well. Then don't think you can do everything yourself. Find out what you're good at, as an individual, find out what you're good at. And then just practice it.
Guy Kirkwood - 51:08 When I was very young I was terrified of speaking in front of people, and I couldn't do it very well. And then I did drama training and all the rest of it. I was really bad at acting, but I was really good at mime. There you go. That tells you something, but really bad at acting. But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So it's just practice. So read broadly, get some friends, practice what you're good at.
Stephen Mackintosh - 51:39 That's great advice. For anyone who wants to reach out to, Guy. To follow you, to interact with you, what's the best way to do that?
Guy Kirkwood - 51:48 LinkedIn. I'm on Twitter, but I'm thinking about binning it because it's just a monster. I'm not going to go there now. So LinkedIn is good. I think I'm the only Guy Kirkwood, so it's fairly easy to find. Or email me. We are very open. My email address is Guy@UiPath.com.
Stephen Mackintosh - 52:13 Well, Guy, thank you so much for being our AI Pioneer in this interview. Real pleasure to have gotten to know you over the past few years. Grateful for all your help and support, and very excited to see what happens in the near future.
Guy Kirkwood - 52:27 Fantastic. Well, Stephen, thank you very, very much indeed for having me.
Stephen Mackintosh - 52:30 Thanks, Guy