Bonitasoft: A decade and a half on the cutting edge. Why we invested

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Bonitasoft: A decade and a half on the cutting edge. Why we invested

Mar. 25th, 2022

Bonitasoft: A decade and a half on the cutting edge. Why we invested

By Simon Duyver, Investment Manager

In the business process management (BPM) software market, Bonitasoft occupies a unique position. Not only did it help create the industry with its open-source platform, but the European software vendor is also considered a first-mover and continues to punch above its weight when it comes to helping its customers navigate digital transformation. Recently, Bonitasoft co-founders Miguel Valdes and Charles Souillard decided to partner with a new investor for its next phase of growth.

Bonitasoft’s longstanding presence in this software category, as well as the expertise accumulated by its founding team over the years, are just two of the many factors we considered in our decision to invest, as publicised in our recent announcement to acquire a majority stake. In this article, we take a closer look.

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The early years

Bonitasoft’s CEO, Miguel Valdes, first gained experience in digital process automation (DPA) through his involvement in open-source projects aimed at mitigating Y2K risks – potential errors resulting from computers’ inability to distinguish between 1900 and 2000 – working with US vendor companies such as Appian. Armed with this experience, Miguel started developing his Bonita application at the French Institute for Research in Computer Science and Automation (INRIA) in 2001. This project was then transferred to Groupe Bull in 2005 for further incubation. This is also where Valdes met his future co-founder, Charles Souillard.

The two quickly realised that they shared a like-minded approach to DPA, which they could apply towards business process management projects. As they did so, they realised that the latest technology could help them automate these processes. They also realised that their knowledge put them in an excellent position to build an industry-leading solution, leading to the decision to launch Bonitasoft as a standalone company in 2009.

From the outset, the founders were rightly seen as tech thought leaders, thanks to their unique offering and open-source dissemination strategy. Their solution was met with instant approval and Bonitasoft managed to attract significant VC funding. This allowed them to expand their company quickly, first in France, and then into the US.

While Bonitasoft managed to gain a foothold in the huge yet competitive US market, there were also lessons the software founders had to learn quickly from operating a global business. Chief of those was that to be successful in this market required perfecting the product/market fit. The company therefore took the decision to reposition the product towards the enterprise customer segment, and, in doing so, developing a more sustainable and profitable growth model. As a result, Bonitasoft continued to grow its presence in the US with both new and existing customers.

This shift in focus proved again that the founders never relinquished their positions as industry thought leaders, not only in terms of their product, but also in terms of business management and achieving growth. In parallel, advances on the product side were also in the offing, as the application was rewritten and relaunched as a cloud-based solution in 2019.

Since then, the pace of innovation has only accelerated, to include further functionality to simplify and streamline programmers’ jobs so that they, in turn, can solidify – and even accelerate – their own company’s digital transformation.

As a result, Bonitasoft won more clients, and the number of use cases continued to proliferate. For instance, Alliance Healthcare implemented Bonitasoft to power its flu vaccine supply chain to nearly 10,500 pharmacies across the US, and the French Ministry of Defence chose Bonitasoft to simplify its aircraft maintenance operations.

It is therefore no surprise that, to date, more than 150 customers and thousands of business users around the world rely on Bonita to automate and deploy their most critical and complex business processes.

What makes Bonitasoft different?

Even after a decade and a half in the industry, Bonitasoft continues to showcase its founders’ forward thinking. Most large businesses need BPM tools to automate and optimise their processes, as well as to represent them visually to reach a deeper understanding as quickly as possible. However, where most BPM software suites are rigid and can cause more headaches than they cure, Bonitasoft’s open-source software provides companies with the flexibility they require.

In essence, Bonitasoft is a tool for technically-minded people. It features a unique separation between coding and visual programming, which means that the technical people are armed with the ability to interact with the software. The application can therefore be seen as Bonitasoft’s answer to the citizen developer trend, where almost anyone can build business applications. Bonitasoft, also recognises the importance of having both business analysts and technical developers collaborating on process automation. The big difference, however, is that Bonitasoft prefers to leave the ultimate responsibility of delivering scalable, maintainable and lasting IT transformation with technical staff.

The modular architecture allows users to use the software in the way that best suits them. Developers can code within their preferred environments and then deploy their creations on Bonitasoft, or use the Bonita software development kit if they wish. In that way, Bonitasoft stands alone in its commitment to developers. In addition, it features more out-of-the-box connectors than any other BPM solution available today, enabling it to immediately connect with almost every major packaged enterprise software out there, including DocuSign, Talend, and the leading robotic process automation provider UiPath.

This flexible, lightweight, and modular architecture means that users can extract more value quicker from the software, leading to an increased ROI.

The cloud-based iteration continues to enhance the company’s reputation as a market leader. Where many other BPM solutions feature two versions, the Bonitasoft cloud product provides the exact same functionality as the on-prem technology. Therefore, when companies choose to implement the cloud-based version, they can do so without compromise.

What the future looks like - and why we invested

Bonitasoft brings an innovative, high-quality, and extremely vital solution to a huge and dynamic marketplace. This fact alone would have been sufficient to justify the investment, but added to that is the Covid pandemic and its related effects, which highlighted the accelerated need for digital transformation and offers an extraordinary tailwind to a software company like Bonitasoft.

As teams have become more distributed, and customer expectations have continued to increase, customer experiences have become increasingly complex to manage. BPM has become a prerequisite for improving user experience across all channels and to drive innovation cycles for companies. This is true in fields as diverse as banking, healthcare, defence, telecommunications, and more.

Another important trend is robotic process automation (RPA), a technology aimed at substituting repetitive, mundane tasks with the help of robots. We believe in the complementarity of technologies such as RPA and BPM – and that the future of enterprise automation will always involve some kind of orchestration layer – coordinating interactions between myriad humans, robots, and processes, and tying them all together in a harmonised way.

Because of its heritage and strong technology, Bonitasoft is well positioned to capitalise on the above trends. The company is already working on the next frontier, which is to extend the product to include functionalities in the field of process mining and process discovery. This will unlock the benefit of automation to an increasing number of business processes – even those a customer didn’t know existed.

And then there is the founders’ edge, which has inspired the company’s strong culture. In the large, dynamic, and oftentimes confusing arena of enterprise automation, the success of many businesses is often dependent on their ability to differentiate themselves from their competition. In this regard, Bonitasoft has never been afraid to go against the grain. By staying true to their mission, and not following the herd – for instance, by appealing to the technical people – they have proven themselves to be visionaries in their domain.

With regards to the lessons learnt from the US expansion and the repositioning of the product offering, it is clear that Bonitasoft understands how to maintain the balance between growth, profitability, and sustainability. This is an important quality we look for in our Growth PE partnerships.

And despite never having parted ways with its entrepreneurial and visionary ethos, the company is an established industry player providing a strong, well-invested product, built by a loyal and capable team of domain experts. We remain impressed by the creativity of this team.

Since refocusing in 2015, the company has secured strong, recurring revenue growth. We look to forward to our ongoing relationship with Bonitasoft, partnering with them to accelerate their already strong market performance.

If you’re a Europe-based B2B SaaS company looking for advice and potential investment, we can help. Get in touch, and let’s get the conversation started.

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