Tom Siebel sat down with Forbes publisher Rich Karlgaard to discuss his career and many of the themes in his newly released book, Digital Transformation, at a sold-out fireside chat hosted by the Churchill Club in San Francisco on August 27.
In response to Rich Karlgaard’s question about why he started another computer software company after the success of Siebel Systems, Siebel replied that he is good at assembling groups of talented people to tackle high-impact problems. Siebel observed that his current company, C3.ai, began as a philanthropic effort—a clean energy company whose mission was to use information technology to reduce the global impact of energy production. A year in, it became apparent that the company would have a larger impact as a for-profit corporation and would eventually evolve beyond energy to bring solutions to all markets.
Today, C3.ai is the world’s leading provider of commercial AI solutions and as Siebel noted, “Every problem we’re solving, is a problem that has never been solved before.”
Siebel followed up with his thoughts on corporate mass extinction and digital transformation, stating, “In the last 18 years, 52% of the Fortune 500 companies have become extinct. Obsolete. Where are Kodak, Westinghouse, Toys R Us, Sears?” There is, he observed, a growing recognition on the part of leaders for the need to embrace technologies such as cloud computing, AI, big data and, IoT in order to survive. Digital transformation has become a corporate mandate.
Siebel rounded up the evening with his recommendation for those starting a career: “Go to work for a great company with a great leader and learn how it’s done. Learn how to support customers, market and sell product, and hire people. Then, go out and start your own company.”