More than $1 trillion is spent by enterprises annually on "digital transformation" -- the investments that organizations make to update their IT systems to get more out of them and reduce costs -- and today one of the bigger startups that's built a platform to help get the ball rolling is announcing a huge round of funding.
Celonis, a leader in the area of process mining -- which tracks data produced by a company's software, as well as how the software works, in order to provide guidance on what a company could and should do to improve it -- has raised $290 million in a Series C round of funding, giving the startup a post-money valuation of $2.5 billion.
Celonis was founded in 2011 in Munich -- an industrial and economic center in Germany that you could say is a veritable Petri dish when it comes to large business in need of digital transformation -- and has been cash-flow positive from the start. In fact, Celonis waited until it was nearly six years old to take its first outside funding (prior to this Series C it had picked up less than $80 million, see here and here).
The size and timing of this latest equity injection is due to seizing the moment, and tapping networks of people to do so. It has already been growing at a triple-digit rate, with customers like Siemens, Cisco, L'Oréal, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone among them.
"Our tech has become its own category with a lot of successful customers," Bastian Nominacher, the co-CEO who co-founded the company with Alexander Rinke and Martin Klenk, said in an interview. "It's a key driver for sustainable business operations, and we felt that we needed to have the right network of people to keep momentum in this market."
To that end, this latest round's participants lines up with the company's strategic goals. It is being led by Arena Holdings -- an investment firm led by Feroz Dewan -- with Ryan Smith, co-founder and CEO of Qualtrics; and Tooey Courtemanche, founder and CEO of Procore, also included, alongside previous investors 83North and Accel.
Celonis said Smith will be a special advisor, working alongside another strategic board member, Hybris founder Carsten Thoma. Dewan, meanwhile, used to run hedge funds for Tiger Global (among other roles) and currently sits on the board of directors of Kraft Heinz.
“Celonis is the clear market leader in a category with open-ended potential. It has demonstrated an enviable record of growth and value creation for its customers and partners,” said Dewan in a statement. “Celonis helps companies capitalise on two inexorable trends that cut across geography and industry: the use of data to enable faster, better decision-making and the desire for all businesses to operate at their full potential.”
The core of Celonis' offering is to provide process mining around an organizations' IT systems. Nominacher said that this could include anything from 5 to over 100 different pieces of software, with the main idea being that Celonis's platform monitors a company's whole solar system of apps, so to speak, in order to produce its insights -- providing and "X-ray" view of the situation, in the words of Rinke.
Those insights, in turn, are used either by the company itself, or by consultants engaged by the organization, to make further suggestions, whether that's to implement something like robotic process automation (RPA) to speed up a specific process, or use a different piece of software to crunch data better, or reconfigure how staff is deployed, and so on. This is not a one-off thing: the idea is continuous monitoring to pick up new patterns or problems.
In recent times, the company has started to expand the system into a wider set of use cases, by providing tools to monitor operations and customer experience, and to apply its process mining engine to a wider set of company sizes beyond large enterprises, and by bringing in more AI to its basic techniques.
Interestingly, Nominacher said that there are currently no plans to, say, extend into RPA or other "fixing" tools itself, pointing to a kind of laser strategy that is likely part of what has helped it grow so well up to now.
"It's important to focus on the relevant parts of what you provide," he said. "We one layer, one that can give the right guidance."