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People to Watch 2018

Tom Siebel
Founder of Siebel Systems
Creator of CRM
Chairman and CEO of C3 IoT

Tom Siebel is founder, chairman, and CEO of C3 IoT, the leading software platform provider for rapidly developing and operating AI and IoT applications at industrial scale. He was founder, chairman, and CEO of Siebel Systems, a leader in application software with revenue exceeding $2 billion before merging with Oracle Corporation in 2006. He was an early executive at Oracle Corporation. He serves on the advisory boards of the engineering colleges at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of California, Berkeley. He is a former Princeton trustee. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2013. Mr. Siebel is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he received a B.A. in history, an M.B.A, and an M.S. in computer science.

Datanami: Congratulations on being named a Datanami Person to Watch in 2018! Organizations continue to struggle to build complex big data systems, but the tools and technology they use to build them improve by the month. Where are we now in terms of the whole “build vs buy” debate when it comes to building big data systems?

Tom Siebel: Thank you for the honor. We are at a critical time in enterprise IT as three disruptive technology vectors converge: AI, IoT, and elastic cloud computing. To leverage these powerful technologies, many companies have tried to custom-build a platform solution by attempting to stitch together a multiplicity of independent open source software components and micro-services from cloud providers into a cohesive, functional, and scalable platform. However, successful production deployments with recurring business value are elusive for these companies – as the inherent complexity, varying maturity of components, and lack of complete software interfaces make this an intractable engineering problem.

Our customers have the need for a comprehensive and cohesive software development platform – to manage peta-scale datasets consisting of all relevant data across a company’s value chain; to apply machine learning to make predictions in real time; and to distribute those insights across the enterprise, frequently for machine-to-machine control. In the past nine years, C3 IoT has designed and developed such a platform – with more than 25 enterprise-scale production deployments worldwide. The “build vs. buy” debate seems to be coming to an end. Many of our best customers are those that have tried and failed to “build” it themselves.

Datanami: Congratulations on receiving $100M in your recent funding round. How do you intend to leverage that to build more momentum for C3 IoT?

At C3 IoT, we are focused on running a rapidly growing, profitable, cash positive business driving digital transformation at many of the world’s leading organizations. The additional investment by existing investors reflects ongoing confidence in C3 IoT’s capabilities, management team, and growth potential. The capital will be deployed to substantially increase service and distribution capacity globally and accelerate adoption of the C3 IoT Platform in new industries.

Datanami: Digital transformation remains a driving force in the enterprise today. What’s the single most important piece of advice you can give to leaders trying to advance a digital transformation agenda?

While AI and IoT digital transformation is rising to the top of CEO agendas, many executives struggle to execute. In fact, 85% of companies in a recent survey by BCG/MIT Sloan believe AI will provide competitive advantage, but only 25% are implementing it now. They need help moving from vision to execution. Digital transformation changes everything about how products are designed, manufactured, sold, delivered, and serviced. CEOs should be talking about it all the time, with their boards, in the C-suite—and mobilizing the entire company. Tinkering is insufficient.

Datanami: What do you hope to see from the big data community in the coming year?

Since 2000, 50% of Fortune 100 companies have disappeared – merged, been acquired, or gone bankrupt. At the same time, many new and unanticipated enterprises are emerging with AI and IoT in their DNA—think Amazon, Uber, Tesla, Google. We are experiencing a highly disruptive corporate extinction event. Enterprises that fail to digitally transform risk extinction. Embracing these disruptive technologies empowers CEOs to rethink how companies execute, the nature of customer relationships, and the nature of work itself. I urge the technology and customer communities to think holistically about the change to be effected through their digital transformation initiatives – not tinker or try to solve parts of the problem.

Datanami: Outside of the professional sphere, what can you share about yourself that your colleagues might be surprised to learn – any unique hobbies or stories?

I am a student of history, particularly history of science and technology. I lift weights with a trainer for an hour every morning before coming into the office. I am a competitive sailor, enthusiastic kite boarder, and an active ATP-rated pilot. I was attacked and mauled by a charging elephant in Tanzania on August 1, 2009.  I recovered fully after 19 reconstructive surgeries and years of rehab.

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