C3.ai CEO Tom Siebel - "We’re now applying generative AI in all kind of areas where we wouldn't have expected"

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan March 4, 2024
C3.ai had a head start in enterprise AI, says Siebel; now generative AI is opening up fresh opportunities.

Tom Siebel

The world is very much coming our way.

As C3.ai prepares to host its Transform user conference later this week, founder and CEO Tom Siebel is clearly a man on top of his game, arguing that his firm has been preparing for the current enterprise AI explosion since 2009. Timing is everything, of course, and the current generative AI hype cycle is delivering results, with qualified deal opportunities up by 73% year-on-year.

Currently, the user base for C3.ai’s tech by industry breaks down to 29% state and local government, followed by federal, defense and aerospace (25%), manufacturing (16%), agribusiness (11%), chemical (8%), professional services (7%), energy and service utilities (2%), while food processing & CPG and oil and gas come in at one percent each.

Siebel points to an 85% year-on-year growth in bookings for the US Federal business:

We signed new and expansion agreements with the Missile Defense Agency, the Department of Defense, the United States Air Force, and the US Intelligence community, including seven new generative AI agreements at the Missile Defense Agency, the United States Air Force, JROC, and the US Marine Corps. We have a really substantial growth opportunity in Federal and we're laying the groundwork to seize it. We're getting strong traction with partners in this federal space, not the least of which is AWS. We've deployed our Federal solutions on the AWS marketplace for the US Intelligence community in June of last year, and we're basically on speed dial collaborating with AWS Federal executives every day in the defense and intelligence communities.

Outside of government, he cites Holcim, a European leader in sustainable building solutions, which last May embarked upon a production pilot with C3.ai to configure and deploy the C3.ai reliability suite:

Following a successful six-month pilot Holcim entered into a four-year subscription agreement with C3.ai to scale the reliability application across its in excess of 100 cement plants. Holcim's predictive maintenance program monitors a large number of assets and will generate significant yearly economic value in reduced maintenance costs and production increases.

Gen AI

Holcim is also implementing C3 Generative AI to enrich that reliability application and to assist with complex machinery troubleshooting. Interest in generative AI is booming, says Siebel, with deals closed in the most recent quarter for 17 gen AI applications pilots:

The opportunity ahead of us in generative AI is enormous. C3.ai has been at the vanguard of enterprise AI innovation now for 15 years. We've spent 15 years building enterprise AI applications for manufacturing, supply chain, demand chain, finance, defense intelligence, smart grid, oil and gas, et cetera. In all fairness, we largely established the enterprise AI category.

Now, with the advent of generative AI, I mean, this is fundamentally changing the nature of the market. It's changing the nature of the human computer interface. It's unlocking new use cases and it's breaking, and it's creating kind of breakthrough opportunities for non-obvious applications in new industries and enterprises that we would not have expected and we're just in the earliest days of this.

It may be early days, but there are already positive use cases out there, with Siebel pointing to global law firm DLA Piper which has created a generative AI application to streamline the analysis of complex legal agreements:

In just three months, DLA Piper applied C3 Generative AI to reduce the attorney time it takes to create over 200 point due diligence analyses of limited partner agreements, and it reduced the effort by 80%. As a result of this application, DLA Piper is realizing new operational efficiencies and freeing up their attorneys' time to focus on delivering increased value to their clients…DLA Piper is using generative AI to significantly reduce the labor associated with limited partner agreement due diligence.

And he points to "another leading law firm" that is using generative AI to reduce the attorney labor in generating first drafts of S1s for IPO candidates:

I mean, imagine you train a Large Language Model on the corpus of S1s on SEC.gov, and then you want to come up with your first draft of your S1 if and when the IPO market opens again. You put in the name, address, the finances, the key risk factors, hit the carriage return, and, you know, it was ipso facto the first draft of the S1 is there. And we've saved, you know, God knows how many person weeks of legal associates, where now they can just edit and get it done. So it's really, this is pretty neat.

Given concerns around hallucinations and downright inaccuracies that can be thrown out by generative AI tech, it might seem surprising to many that law firms are among early users. Siebel quotes Gartner as warning that organizations that don’t manage AI risks are exponentially inclined to experience adverse outcomes such as security failures, financial and reputational loss, and social harm.

This is where C3.ai has an advantage, he argues:

We are leveraging our first-to-market advantage in scalable trusted enterprise AI to bring secure, deterministic, hallucination-free, traceable, domain-specific generative AI solutions and generative AI augmented applications to market…We’re now applying generative AI in all kind of areas where we wouldn't have expected - the operator assistance in a major manufacturing facility, customer assistance at a global financial services company, and field technical support at a major multi-national manufacturing group.

Because  of the way that C3.ai's system is structured, the LLM has no access to public data and because it doesn't have access to such data, it doesn't have the opportunity to hallucinate, he adds, thus avoiding questions of IP liability:

The IP liability associated with these Large Language Models that are trained on the public internet [is] unbounded. Unbounded liability is a problem for Bank of America. Unbounded liability is a problem at Cargill. It's a problem at any responsible organization, even Morgan Stanley. The way that our system works, only your data are available to the Large Language Model, so there is no IP liability problem.

My take

I don't know how big this generative AI thing is, but it's bigger than a bed box, I can tell you that.

Those who have followed Siebel across the decades will be all too aware that this is not someone who minces his words or who’s afraid to voice opinions, however controversial or surprising – “I think we're going to see a return to in-house data centers, believe it or not, where people have the GPUs inside.”

That 15 year head-start that he claims for C3.ai appears to be showing up in some of the use cases that are emerging. There will be more of those on show at Transform this week – and as we always say at diginomica, there is no stronger or more compelling advocate for any vendor’s tech than customer testimonial.

For now, Siebel appears to be having what he calls “the professional experience of a lifetime”, saying of his latest firm:

This is a very unique place. We have the only full parking lot in Silicon Valley. There are 500 or 600 people here working with us today shoulder to shoulder. They're here Monday through Friday. And we're working in Chicago, Atlanta, Tyson, Washington DC, London, Rome, Paris. We're all at it. We have a very unique high performance corporate culture that I think is going to serve as a real strong competitive advantage in the long run. So this place is just kind of vibrating with excitement.

Let’s see how that translates into audience enthusiasm at Transform. We’ll be watching with interest.

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