The coronavirus pandemic has radically altered the way that businesses of all kinds operate.
At the forefront of many of those adaptations are enterprise technology companies: Chugging along behind-the-scenes, enabling remote work and collaboration, and keeping businesses safe from cyberattacks as employees work from home.
As one CEO — Matthew Prince of cybersecurity company Cloudflare — put it:
“The superheroes of this crisis are the medical professionals and scientists who are treating the sick and looking for a cure, but the faithful sidekick is the companies helping businesses work remote,” Prince said. “We’re sort of the Ant-Man to their Captain Marvel.”
More than ever, the executives leading those companies are at the forefront of dramatic, fast-paced change, so we asked them for their perspectives on how the crisis will affect their business, their industry, and the world.
We heard predictions — like workers returning to radically redesigned offices, if at all, and how businesses will increasingly rely on the cloud — as well as challenges — like figuring out how to sell products in a world that may permanently eschew conferences.
There was a heavy dose of optimism for the opportunities at hand, too.
“When we go back it will be different,” said SurveyMonkey CEO Zander Lurie. “Let’s make it better.”
Tom Siebel, CEO of C3.ai: “Unless companies reinvent themselves and apply AI to their processes, they’re not going to exist.”
Tech is a young industry. You have people who are in very significant positions who graduated from college or business school after 2008. They’ve never seen anything but a bull market. In the next year in the AI space, eight out of 10 companies will go out of business. If you’re not generating cash, I do not believe you’ll be in business. The IPO market is closed. This is what happened in economic downturns. Unless companies reinvent themselves and apply AI to their processes, they’re not going to exist.
It’s interesting to see how confused everyone is, globally, about the long-term course of this pandemic. How long are we closed for business? Are we going to be open for business by May? Will we see a resurgence of COVID in the fall? Does herd immunity kick in or does the virus accelerate? If it accelerates, we’re in for a world of hurt. No one will know for two months.
I’ve been managing this company for 11 years in anticipation of an economic downtown, because it will happen. We were overdue. C3.ai has amassed significant capital, and we’re running a cash- neutral business. We should be sustainable even if this goes on for 36 months. We previously did all our work from our offices – no one worked from home. But we were able to switch to a shelter-at-home system with almost no loss in productivity. We absolutely will go back to everybody working in the office. I’m just a strong believer in the collective IQ of a shared workspace.
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