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AntWorks Targets Breadth & Depth in Client Engagements, Partners & Curation Capabilities


Last week, NelsonHall attended ANTENNA2020, AntWorks’ yearly analyst retreat. AntWorks has made considerable progress since its last analyst retreat, experiencing considerable growth (estimated at ~260%) in the three quarters ending January 2020, and employing 604 personnel at the end of this period.

By geography, AntWorks’ most successful geography remains APAC, closely followed by the Americas, with AntWorks having an increasingly balanced presence across APAC, the Americas, and EMEA. By sector, AntWorks’ client base remains largely centered on BFSI and healthcare, which together account for ~70% of revenues.

The company’s success continues to be based on its ability to curate unstructured data, with all its clients using its Cognitive Machine Reading (CMR) platform and only 20% using its wider “RPA” functionality. Accordingly, AntWorks is continuing to strengthen its document curation functionality while starting to build point solutions and building depth into its partnerships and marketing.

Ongoing Strengthening of Document Curation Functionality

The company is aiming to “go deep” rather than “shallow and wide” with its customers and cites the example of one client which started with one unstructured document use case and has over the past year introduced an additional ten unstructured document use cases resulting in revenues of $2.5m.

Accordingly, the company continues to strengthen its document curation capability, and recent CMR enhancements include signature verification, cursive handwriting, language extension, sentiment analysis, and hybrid processing. The signature verification functionality can be used to detect the presence of a signature in a document and verify it against signatures held centrally or on other documents and is particularly applicable for use in KYC and fraud avoidance where, for example, a signature on a passport or driving license can be matched with those on submitted applications.

This strategy of the depth of document curation functionality resonated strongly with the clients speaking at the event. In one such case, it was the depth of the platform allowing cursive and text to be analyzed together that led to an early drop out of a number of competitors tasked with building a POC that could extract cursive writing.

AntWorks also continues to extend the range of languages where it can curate documents; currently, 17 languages are supported. The company has changed the learning process for new languages to allow for quicker training on new languages, with support for Mandarin and Arabic available soon.

Hybrid processing enables multi-format documents containing, for example, text, cursive handwriting, and signatures to be processed in a single step.

Elsewhere, AntWorks has addressed a number of hygiene factors with QueenBOT, enhancing its business continuity management, auto-scaling, and security. Auto-scaling in QueenBOT to allow bots to switch between processes if one process requires extra assistance to meet SLAs, effectively allowing bots to be “carpenters in the morning and electricians in the evening,” increasing both SLA adherence and bot utilization.

Another key hygiene factor addressed in the past year has been training material. AntWorks began 2019 with a thin training architecture, with just two FTEs supporting the rapidly expanding company; over the past year, the number of FTEs supporting training has grown to 25, supporting the creation of thousands of hours of training material. AntWorks also launched its internship program, starting in India which has added 43 FTEs in 2019. The ambition this year is to go global with this program.

Announcement of Process Discovery, Email Agent & APaaS Offerings

Process discovery is an increasingly important element in intelligent automation, helping to remove the up-front cost involved in scaling use cases by identifying and mapping potential use cases.

AntWorks’ process discovery module enables organizations to both record the keystrokes taken by one or more users against multiple transactions or import keystroke data from third-party process discovery tools. From these recordings, it uses AI to identify the cycles of the process, i.e. the individual transactions, and presents the user with the details of the workflow, which can then be grouped into process steps for ease of use. The process discovery module can also be used to help identify the business rules of the process and assist in semi-automatic creation of the identified automations (aka AutoBOT).

The process discovery module aims to offer ease of use compared to competitive products and can, besides identifying transaction steps, be used to assist organizations in calculating the RoI on business cases and in estimating the proportions of processes that can be automated, though AntWorks is understandably reluctant to underwrite these estimates.

One of the challenges for AntWorks over the coming year is to develop standardized use cases/point solutions based on its technology components, initially in horizontal form, and ultimately verticalized. Two of these just announced are Email Agent and Accounts Payable as-a-Service (APaaS).

Email Agent is a natural progression for AntWorks given its differentiation in curating unstructured documents, built on components from the ANTstein full-stack and packaged for ease of consumption. It is a point solution designed solely to automate email traffic and encompasses ML-based email classification, sentiment analysis to support email prioritization, and extraction of actionable data. Email Agent can also respond contextually via templated static or dynamic content. AntWorks estimates that 40-50 emails are sufficient for training for each use case such as HR-related email.

The next step in the development of Email Agent is the production of verticalized solutions by training the model on specific verticals to understand the front office relations organizations (such as those in the travel industry) have with their clients.

APaaS is a point solution consisting of a pre-trained configuration of CMR to extract relevant information from invoices which can then be API’d into accounting systems such as QuickBooks. Through these point solutions offered on the cloud, AntWorks hopes to open up the potential for the SME market.

Focusing on Quality of Partnerships, Not Quantity

Movement on AntWorks’ partner ecosystem (now ~66) has been slower than expected, with only a handful of partners added since last year's ANTENNA event, despite its expansion being a priority. Instead, AntWorks has been ensuring that the partnerships it does have and signs are deep and constructive. Examples of these deep partnerships include Bizhub and Accenture, two partners who have been added and that are helping train CMR in Korean and Thai respectively in exchange for some timed exclusivity in those countries.

AntWorks is also partnering with SBI Group to penetrate the South East Asia marketplace, with SBI assisting AntWorks in implementing the ability to carry out data extraction in Japanese. Elsewhere, AntWorks has partnered with the SEED Group based in Dubai and chaired by Sheikh Saeed Bin Ahmed Al Maktoum to access the MENA (Middle East & North Africa) region.

New hire Hugo Walkinshaw was brought in to lead the partnership ecosystem very recently, and he has his work cut out for him, as CEO Ash Mehra targets a ratio of direct sales to sales through partners of between 60:40 and 50:50 (an ambitious target from the current 90:10 ratio). The aim is to achieve this through the current strategy of working very closely with partners, signing exclusive partnerships where appropriate, and targeting less mature geographies and emerging use cases, such as IoT, where AntWorks can establish a major presence.

In the coming year, expect AntWorks to add more deep partnerships focused on specific geographic presence in less mature markets and targeted verticals, and possibly with technology players to support future plans for running bots on embedded devices such as ships.

Continuing to Ramp Up Marketing Investment

AntWorks was relatively unknown 18 months ago but has made a major investment in marketing since then. AntWorks attended ~50 major events in 2019, possibly 90 events in total, counting all minor events. However, AntWorks’ approach to events is arguably even more important than the number attended, with the company keen to establish a major presence at each event it attends. AntWorks does not wish to be merely another small booth in the crowd, instead opting for larger spaces in which it can run demos to support the interest in clients and partners.

This appears to have had the desired impact. Overall, AntWorks states that in the past year it has gone from being invited to RFIs/RFPs in 20% of cases to 80% and that it intends to continue to ramp up its marketing budget.

A series B round of funding, currently underway, is targeted on expanding its marketing investments as well as its platform capabilities. Should AntWorks utilize this second round of funding as effectively as its first with SBI Investments 2 years ago, we expect it to act as a springboard for exponential growth and these deep relationships and continue to lead in middle- and back-office intelligent automation use cases with high volumes of complex or hybrid unstructured documents.

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