From enterprise software company to AI pioneer: a look at C3.ai’s history, key members, and future in digital transformation

In this series of ai.nl, we feature the most promising AI companies in the world: where do they come from, what have they achieved and what are their plans for the future. In this episode, we are looking at C3 AI, a provider of enterprise AI software that helps in accelerating digital transformation.

Digital transformation is the biggest challenge facing business leaders right now. In just a few years, digital transformation has evolved from a trend to a necessity, and it involves using 21st century technologies like cloud computing, big data, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence to drive business transformation.

One of the key players helping businesses drive this transformation is C3.ai. It was founded in 2009 as an enterprise AI platform company providing applications for multiple commercial uses. Its products and services help with energy management, predictive maintenance, fraud detection, anti-money laundering, inventory optimization, and predictive CRM. It is also the biggest idea yet from Tom Siebel.

C3.ai is Tom Siebel’s big idea

The story of C3.ai is more akin to the story of its founder Tom Siebel, who has a reputation for finding industry trends and running a wave around it. Siebel founded C3.ai with the intent to provide enterprise software for energy management. However, the company has now transformed to be one of the popular providers of enterprise AI software platforms and applications for multiple commercial uses.

Born in Chicago, Siebel is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a BA in history, an MBA, an MS in computer science, and an honorary doctorate of engineering. He began his career as an executive at Oracle Corporation where he held a number of management positions between 1984 and 1990.

After serving as CEO of Gain Technology, he founded Siebel Systems in 1993 and sold the company to Oracle Corporation in January, 2006, for $5.8B. During this time, Siebel had established himself as “a pioneer in relational databases and as a godfather of customer relationship management.”

In his fourth book titled Digital Transformation: Survive and Thrive in an Era of Mass Extinction, Siebel describes the confluence of four modern information technology vectors – elastic cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence, and the internet of things.

The book explains how this confluence of modern technologies is impacting business, government, and society. In this Wall Street Journal bestseller released in 2019, Siebel also discusses why organisations must undergo digital transformation by harnessing the aforementioned four information technologies. This digital transformation journey has manifested in the form of C3.ai or Tom Siebel’s big idea.

What does C3.ai do?

Siebel explains that C3.ai has spent roughly half a billion dollars building a software suite that is being marketed to large multinational organisations. This suite helps these companies to design, develop, provision, or operate enterprise and industrial-scale artificial intelligence (AI) and IoT applications.

In an interview with Forbes, Siebel revealed that C3.ai counts the likes of Royal Dutch Shell, Cat, 3M, and the United States Air Force, as its customers. Siebel explains that the digital transformation journey for a company happens at people, process, and technological level.

C3.ai is helping these companies change the way “manufacture products, the way they develop services, the way they deliver products and services, and how they run their companies.” This transformation is being done with the goal of staying competitive in the 21st century.

Siebel uses the reference of companies like Kodak to make companies realise the need for them to digital transform themselves. He keeps highlighting the 52 per cent of Fortune 500 companies that have disappeared in the last 18 years. He says only Tesla, Amazon, and Airbnb are digital natives while many other companies simply use the technologies available to them.

In the build vs buy paradigm, C3.ai helps companies looking to buy technology from trusted partners. It provides over 40 turnkey enterprise AI applications meeting the business-critical needs of global enterprises. Its products mainly cater to the manufacturing, financial services, government, utilities, oil and gas, chemicals, agribusiness, defence, and intelligence industries.

The ingenuity of C3.ai’s product lies in the way it has structured its software suite. Firstly, it offers AI applications, which are ready-to-use enterprise AI applications for high-value use cases. This includes AI CRM Suite, Reliability, Supply Chain, Sustainability, and vertical-based suite.

It also offers development tools which includes deep code, low code, and no code development platforms offered in a collaborative multi-functional environment. The third layer of C3.ai’s software suite is an AI application platform, which provides all necessary software services in one integrated suite. This is designed in a way that software developers can rapidly develop, provision, and operate Enterprise AI applications.

C3.ai: key members

  • Thomas M. Siebel (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer)
  • Edward Y. Abbo (President and Chief Technology Officer)
  • Houman Behzadi (President and Chief Product Officer)
  • Rip Gerber (Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer)
  • Juho Parkkinen (Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer)
  • Chip Lutton (Senior Vice President and General Counsel)

C3.ai’s outsized role in future of AI market

The global AI market is expected to grow by $76B at a compound annual growth rate of almost 21 per cent through 2025. With continuous research and innovation, the CAGR is pegged to reach as high as 40 percent between 2021 and 2028. For a company like C3.ai, these numbers are a reflection into genuine growth opportunities.

One of the things that will help C3.ai is its early lead in a wide variety of industries. The company announced on Tuesday that it has renewed and expanded its contract with Koch Industries, one of the largest private companies in the US. The agreement will see Koch further leverage C3.ai’s technology across its diverse group of companies.

Every company on the planet is now focussed on reaching new levels in terms of operational reliability and also becoming sustainable. The AI Application Platform offered by C3.ai will serve as an essential application for a number of companies to reach those goals.

Beyond its product, it is important to note that C3.ai is down nearly 80 per cent from its all-time high. With its revenue continuing to grow at a face pace, the depreciating price of the stock does not represent the true value of the company. With Siebel’s ability to turn around companies, C3.ai could emerge as one of the most important AI companies on the planet.

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