Tom Siebel Interviews with theCUBE at AWS re:Invent
Hello and welcome back to the Cube. This is Silicon Angle's exclusive coverage with the CUBE here at Amazon re:Invent. It's our 5th year covering Amazon, explosive growth. I'm John Furrier, founder of Silicon Angle Media and I'm here with Justin Warren, my co-host. Our next guest on set is Tom Siebel who is the founder and CEO of C3.ai. Industry legend, knows the software business, been around the block a few times, now part of the new wave of innovation.
Welcome to the Cube.
Well, we live at the convergence of elastic cloud computing, big data, AI, and IoT. At that convergence, I think it's something called digital transformation, where you have these CEOs that are concerned that companies are going through a mass extinction event. The companies are seeing 52% of the FORTUNE 500 companies since 2000 are gone. They've disappeared and it's estimated that as many as 70% might disappear in the next 10 years.
We have this new species of companies with new DNA that look like Tesla, Uber, and Amazon. And you'll have no drivers, no cars, and they have their own transportation. And I think these CEOs are convinced that unless they take advantage of this new class of technologies, they might be extinct.
So this is my fourth decade in the information technology business. I've seen the business grow from a couple hundred billion dollars, to say, two trillion dollars worldwide and I've seen it go from mainframe to mini computers to personal computers to the internet, all over that.
I was there in all those generations of technology, when we brought these products to market, would come up in the organization, through the IT organization, to the CIO. And the CIO would say we're never going to use a mini computer, we're never going to use relational database technology, or we're never going to use a PC. So you'd wait for that CIO to be fired then you come back two years later, right?
So, meanwhile we've built a two trillion dollar information technology business globally. Now what's happening in this space (AI, IoT, predictive analytics), is all of a sudden CEOs are at the table. The CEO was never there before. And the CEO is mandating this thing called digital transformation and he or she is appointing somebody in the person of a Chief Digital Officer who has a mandate and basically a blank check to transform this company and get it done.
And where it used to be the CIO would report to the CEO once during the quarterly offsite, the Chief Digital Officer reports to the CEO every week, so virtually, for every one of our customers it's now a CEO driven initiative.
You bring up a good point I want to get your thoughts on. Because the old way, and you mentioned it was IT, reporting to the CIO. They ran things, they ran the business, they ran the plumbing, the software was part of that. Now software is the business, nobody goes to the teller, the bank relationships, the software or whatever vertical you're in, there's now software, whether it's at the edge or it's data analytics, is the product to the consumer.
So the developer renaissance, we see software now, changing. Were the developers now an influencer in this transformation?
Not just 'hey go do it and here's some tools.' Can you share your perspective on this? Because if we're in a software renaissance, that means whole new creativity is going to unleash with software. With that role of the CDO, with that blank check, there's no dogma anymore, it's results.
So, what's your perspective on this?
Well, I think that there's enabling technologies that include the elastic cloud. Computation in storage is basically free, right? Everything is a computer, IoT used to be about devices. But IoT is about the changing form factor of computers. In the future, everything's a computer, your eye glasses, your watch, your heart monitor, your refrigerator, your pool pump, they're all computers right?
And then we have the network effect of Metcalf's law saying we have 50 billion of these fully connected devices, well that's a pretty powerful network. Now these technologies in turn, enable AI, machine learning, and deep learning. Hey, that's a whole new ballgame.
We're able to solve classes of problems with predictive analytics and prescriptive analytics that were simply unsolvable before in history and this changes everything. About the way we design products, the way we service customers, the way we manage companies. So I think this AI thing is not to be underestimated. I think the cloud, IoT, big data, devices, those are just enablers.
Big data. Big data is about, people think big data is the fact an exabyte is more than a gigabyte, that's not it.
Big data is about the fact that there's no sampling error, we have all the data. So we used to, due to limitations of storage and processing, we used to basically take samples and infer results from those samples and deal with it with the level of confidence that was there. With big data, there's no sampling error, it's all there. It's a whole different game.
Tom, I gotta ask you a personal question. I mean you've gone through four decades, you're a legend in the industry, what was the itch that got you back with this company, why did you found and run C3.ai? What was the reason? Was it an itch you were scratching? Were you like 'damn I want the action'?
I mean, what was the reason why you started the company?
Well, I'm a computer scientist, and out of graduate school, I went to work with a young entrepreneur by the name of Larry Ellison. Turned out to be a pretty good idea. And then a decade later, we started Siebel Systems. And then I think we did invent the CRM market, and that turned out to be a pretty good idea.
I just see at this intersection of these vectors we talked about, everything changes about computing, this is a complete replacement market and I thought, 'There's opportunity to play significant role in the game,' and this is what I do. I collect talented people, and I try to build great companies, and make customers satisfied. This is my idea of a good time.
On a more positive upbeat, what's next for you? You're doing great, the numbers are good. I mean, the rumors in the hallway say you're great financially. I'm not sure if you can share any color on that. Big wins, obviously.
These are not little deals that you're on but what's next? What's the big innovation you've got coming around the corner for C3.ai?
Our business grew last year about 600 percent. This year it will grow about 300 percent. We're a profitable, cash-positive business. Our average customer is say, a $20 to $200 billion business.
We're engaged in very, very large transactions. In the last 18 months, we've done a lot of work in deep learning. The next 18 months, we'll do a lot of work in NLP (natural language processing). All of those technologies are hugely important, so technologically, this is where we'll be going.
I think machine learning, traditional NL, we have that nailed. Now we're exploiting deep learning in a big way, using GPU's and a lot of the work Jensen Wang is doing at NVIDIA. And now, I think NLP is the next frontier for us.
I really appreciate you taking the time to come on here. You're an inspiration, serial entrepreneur, founder and CEO, Tom Siebel, of C3.ai. Hot company, big part of the Amazon Web Services ecosystem. They are doing great stuff. Again, serial entrepreneur, great four-decade career, thanks for coming on the Cube, Tom Siebel.
Here inside the Cube I'm John Furrier, Justin Warren, here in Las Vegas for AWS re:Invent. We'll be back with more live coverage after the break.