DURHAM – Success did not come overnight for Durham-based ProcessMaker, which just raised $45 million from Aldrich Capital Partners in its first outside investment for its open source automated workflow product.

“It was a long haul,” said CEO Brian Reale in an interview with WRAL TechWire. “We took a lot of different paths. Most people don’t do that.”

The funding is big news in the emerging field of no-code/low-code that ProcessMaker has helped pioneer.

“The promise of no-code platforms is that they’ll make software development just as easy as using Word or PowerPoint so that the average business user can move projects forward without the extra cost (in money and time) of an engineering team,” notes VentureBeat.

And here comes ProcessMaker.

ProcessMaker is a no-code/low-code open source process automation platform founded during the dotcom boom and bust of 2000 by Bobby Vernon and Reale. The bootstrapped startup had no funding, “So the only way to generate forward momentum is to sell,” Reale said.

Unfortunately, if you have no funding, you also don’t have anything to sell, he noted. So, in addition to working on the product development, the company did consulting to help pay bills. “A venture capitalist told me you should never do that, combine consulting with a product company. But if you don’t have any funding, I don’t see how else you could do itj. That’s exactly what you should do to organically build a business.”

The two entrepreneurs failed often during their initial years.

Off on an adventure

For a time, Reale was in Bolivia, where he had built an earlier company to provide internet service there. Some of his scrappiness was already in evidence because he talked his modem making employer into giving him outdated modems for the service. He said he originally agreed to do the Bolivia project thinking it would be an adventure. “It was,” he said.

The internet venture eventually sold to a U.S.-based public company. ProcessMaker still maintains offices in La Paz, Bolivia, and Bogota, Colombia.

Over the years, the entrepreneurs continued to refine and find the focus for their product. In 2008 they launched what is now known as ProcessMaker – one of the first open source workflow software solutions in the industry at the time.

The fact that they didn’t have a lot of competitors helped them hire and retain employees, Reale said.

“We’ve run ProcessMaker really lean and scrappy for 20 years.” The hard work paid off.

Focused on three verticals

The company grew from zero to 140 global employees, boasts several million open source downloads, and hundreds of customers across 52 countries.

The platform focuses primarily on mid-market banking, higher education, and manufacturing. Customers include community banks, multi-nationals, and more than 150+ universities. In 2020, The company will continue to focus on those verticals, Reale said, as it builds its executive team and sales and marketing with new hires. “We expect to go from 30 people in Durham to 50 by the end of the year.

In its mid-market banking vertical ProcessMaker offers an off-the-shelf commercial account opening process that can be deployed by community banks in a couple of weeks. The result, the company says, is that community banks can now deliver to their customers an experience that rivals the digital experience of banks 10 times their size at a fraction of the cost.

During COVID, this meant the banks were able to pivot from in-person commercial account opening to a fully digital experience while still focusing on building relationships with their customers.

In Higher Education, ProcessMaker automates student-facing processes like transfer of credit approvals and grade change processes. At one of the largest public university systems in the US, ProcessMaker reduced the average time for approving transfer credits from 5 months to 19 hours.

Refreshed product

Reale said the company relocated to the Triangle for its attractive business atmosphere. “We chose the right place,” he said.

The company refreshed its product prior to the new funding, so it’s faster and cleaner, Reale said. So it will be able to use the funds to increase its sales and marketing rather than upgrade its product.

Aldrich Capital Partners Managing Partner, Mirza Baig said in the funding announcement, “Aldrich invested in ProcessMaker because it is a highly capital efficient founder-run business that has a respected global brand. ProcessMaker is a market innovator that has proven that it knows how to be profitable and thrive even during a once in a century world-wide pandemic.”

He noted that low-code automation of processes is a hot commodity right now.

“At ACP, we love low-code process automation and fully expect hundreds of market verticals to be transformed in the next decade,” she said.

The global process automation market is expected to reach nearly $17 billion by 2023 with a CAGR of 5.8% according to a recent report.

The investment from Aldrich Capital will allow ProcessMaker to continue to invest in its market-leading digital process automation platform and build out its presence in community banking, higher education, and manufacturing.

Startup profile: ProcessMaker, aiming to automate key business processes (+ video)