Will Tom Siebel Fulfill His Vision To Make C3 AI One Of The World’s Next Great Software Companies?

The widespread adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) software is one of the great transformational technologies of the 21st Century. It’s big business too. The global market for AI is estimated at $ 387.45 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach $ 1.394 trillion by 2029, according to Fortune Business Insight.

One company that is helping to accelerate that change, is AI pioneer C3 AI (NYSE: AI).

Founded in 2009 even before the widespread use of Cloud or AI by legendary Silicon Valley entrepreneur and billionaire Tom Siebel, C3 provides an open model-AI architecture that simplifies data science and application development to offer an end-to-end platform for developing, deploying, and operating large-scale AI applications; a portfolio of industry -specific SaaS AI applications; a suite of industry -specific CRM applications; and a no-code AI solution to apply data science to everyday business problems.

From the very beginning Siebel saw the potential of AI, as it was one of the next major technological advances to follow in the footsteps of the internet, graphical interfaces, mobile computing and high-speed broadband. “Looking at the market in 2008, we thought there was another step up of technology functionality coming online, that would completely change everything. Elastic Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things and predictive analytics, we will be another step function that will serve as a big, huge accelerator in the information technology business. And so, we thought, there would be an opportunity to build a software platform that would allow large enterprise applications to take advantage of those technologies. And we thought that using those technologies, we could solve the kinds of problems that were previously unsolvable, ”Siebel said.

Siebel is planning his next step after his pioneering CRM software company Siebel Systems was acquired by Oracle for $ 5.85 billion in 2005. He earned his legendary status not only for creating the first CRM platform and developing it. in a multi-billion dollar business, but also for famously taking on the industry’s most fierce competitor in the form of Oracle’s founding CEO Larry Ellison. The Ellison vs. Siebel story was the stuff of Silicon Valley lore and was played out in the pages of the business press, especially by Forbes colleague Rich Karlgaard.

With his billionaire status and history for success, Siebel had no problem attracting both world class team and financing to legislate his vision for C3. “On a Friday night in December of 2008. I sent an email to about 25 people, each name you know and raised $ 20 million by Sunday. We started the business in January of 2009 and went on to spend a decade and approximately one billion dollars developing this information technology platform we call the C3 AI suite, ”Siebel said.

Today, C3 is constantly evolving and gaining market momentum. The Redwood City, California -based company reported that total revenue for the fiscal year (ending April 30, 2022) was $ 252.8 million, an increase of 38% compared to last year working with customers in financial services, government, healthcare, manufacturing, telecommunications industries, oil and gas and utilities. Large organizations using the C3 AI platform include the likes of Shell, The US Air Force, Baker Hughes, Con Edison, The US Department of Defense and Raytheon Technologies.

Siebel brought C3 AI to the public markets through its IPO in December 2020 and its stock price rose 100% in the first days of its trading, reaching a high of $ 161 on December 24, 2020. In currently, the stock is at approximately $ 19 from here. writing.

Why go public and face the vagaries of the stock market? “It is not for the faint of heart. Running a public company is a serious responsibility, and you need to take it seriously. We want to protect our 800 employees, their families and our more than 250 customers. And we want to attract the kind of talent we attract. To do that, you have to provide the opportunity for creating some wealth, “Siebel said. And to that end, most C3 employees are shareholders.

But the publicity of the high -profile founder and a stock price that has not yet approached its IPO levels, brings the potential for attention from litigous short sellers. And C3 has fought what many in the industry term as “nuisance.” But Siebel was not happy about it, “We believe we will be able to show in court that it has absolutely no merit, and we believe it will be dismissed in summary motion.”

Siebel had every reason to retire from his 62,000-acre ranch in Montana after Oracle’s acquisition of Siebel systems for an all-stock transaction and the devastating damage he suffered by a rampaging bull elephant while in a photo safari in Tanzania (The story is well documented in the pages of Karlgaard’s Forbes). Siebel broke the leg of the elephant’s fang and nearly broke his leg when several tons of animals trampled on him. He lost half of his body fluids and will spend the next three years undergoing 19 surgeries and intense, painful rehabilitation, but eventually regained full use of his legs and feet. So why jump back into the start-up fray after such a life-changing experience?

“And so, the game we played in C3, as we successfully did in Oracle, as we successfully did in Siebel, was to see if we would establish or maintain a global market leadership position in enterprise AI. If we do that, we will be one of the best software companies in the world. If we become number two, or number three, we will still be important. That’s kind of the worst case scenario. So now why would I do this? I mean, this is my idea of ​​a good time, ”Siebel said.

Can Siebel fully realize his vision to make C3 a leading software company? To reach the highest level of the world’s leading software companies ranked by revenue, C3 will need to experience a 24 -fold increase in revenue to approach the current number ten spot in the $ 6.3 billion held by ServiceNow, let alone Microsoft’s leading position at $ 193 billion or the number two or number three software companies, with Oracle at $ 42 billion and SAP at $ 32 billion. Clearly, more work needs to be done to achieve such lofty goals. But Siebel is on a mission to do more than just build the next great software company.

“The economic benefits [of AI] is shocking. And the social implications are really interesting. If we do not succeed in our jobs, people will die. There is some risk of famine this year on a large scale in the world. In what is happening in Ukraine, 30% of the world’s wheat is unsold. Ten percent of the world’s rice will not be grown this year due to manure not being released in Russia. That is 26 million metric tons. That’s half a billion people who don’t eat. So, we work hard to solve the demand chain optimization problem to ensure that they can efficiently distribute food around the world. Pretty important thing, right? So, it’s important, it’s hard, it’s challenging, and we’re just having the time of our lives doing it every day, ”Siebel said.

Siebel’s journey began as one of the most successful and influential technology entrepreneurs in the world during his days as a graduate student at the University of Illinois. He came up with a paper published in 1973 by the MIT Press written by Marxist Sociologist Daniel Bell called “The Coming of Post-Industrial Society.” The paper outlined a new post-industrialized society and predicted the coming revolution in Information Technology. Ironically, the role will have a profound impact on Siebel and his desire to pursue a career in this emerging industry.

“He said it was going to fundamentally change the structure of the global economy. And I thought, you know, this is a game I want to play. And so, I found it very motivating. And so, I enrolled in computer science. department at the University of Illinois and earned a graduate degree in computer science and math. My focus is on an emerging field, which is relational database theory, “Siebel said.

As she was preparing to graduate, Siebel received a call from a California-based start-up company that very few had heard of the Oracle call, wanting to talk to her about getting into work for them. “And so, I went out to Mountain View and interviewed Larry [Oracle Co-Founder and CEO Larry Ellison]met Bob Miner [Oracle Co-Founder] and a few others, and they seemed to be pretty good guys, and I worked for them, ”Siebel said. Initially, he worked in Chicago helping explain to customers how they could apply relational database technology to business problems. He realizes that while he does all the work, the salesmen make all the money. So, he decided to move into sales in the company’s Washington DC office and despite a questionable sales staff, he was successful, the company moved him to headquarters in 1985 where he made his way to become Vice President of Marketing.

“One of the ones I built there was a telesales unit, which was one of the first telesales units in the information technology business. And we developed a system called Oasis, a massive CRM system for Oracle before the concept of CRM existed, ”Siebel said. It was so successful that he tried to convince Larry Ellison to pursue the development of the system as a new offering to the customer. “Larry didn’t share my perspective, and he had other priorities, and he didn’t want to do it. And so, I left, and Siebel’s systems started. He started the company in 1993 and made it public in 1996, only to be acquired by Oracle in 2005.

About the future? Even at the age of 69, no one should diminish Siebel’s strength, charisma, passion for victory against all possibilities and the strength of will to finally make his vision a reality. “At Oracle, we have succeeded in building a market -leading company. At Siebel, we built a market -leading company. At C3, we are committed to establishing and maintaining a market leadership position in Enterprise AI. This is our idea of ​​a good time. Yes, markets go up and down. I think now the markets are being butchered, which I think is actually pretty reasonable. There will be fewer software companies existing and we are well positioned for the future. We are a quarter of a billion dollar business that we grew last year at a 38% compound annual growth rate, we have a billion dollars of cash in the bank. And we are focused on completing the work, ”Siebel concluded.


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