CNBC Disruptor 50

37. C3.ai

Founder: Thomas Siebel (CEO)
Launched: 2009
Headquarters: Redwood City, California
Funding:
 $387 million
Valuation: $3.3 billion
Key technologies:
 AI, cloud computing, deep learning, edge computing, explainable AI, IoT, machine learning 
Industry:
 Artificial intelligence, big data
Previous appearances on Disruptor 50 List: 2 (No. 50 in 2019)

George Kavallines

Artificial intelligence is being used in everything from smart refrigerators that tell you when you're running low on milk to sensors on the manufacturing floor that can detect a potential machinery breakdown. Tom Siebel, founder of AI firm C3.ai, is now helping to focus that intelligence on the coronavirus. In March he announced a public-private consortium that will spend $367 million in its first five years to find ways to slow the coronavirus pandemic.

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The entity, know as the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute, includes commitments from Princeton, Carnegie Mellon, MIT, the University of California, the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, as well as C3.ai and Microsoft. The goal is to have top researchers and scientists tackle huge social problems with the aid of AI. The first grant was announced in April. Three research teams have been awarded approximately $1 million in total for projects ranging from the development of mathematical models to predict the spread of Covid-19 to computational techniques that will detect the virus as well as help diagnose patients. 

C3.ai was launched in 2009 by Siebel, the same man who started and sold Siebel Systems, the customer relationship management software firm, to Oracle in 2006 for $6 billion. C3.ai's software can read massive amounts of data and tell its owners — companies in industries such as aerospace, financial services, health care, retailing and utilities — if something is about to break down, or the most efficient ways to use sensor data in their supply chain management. The company began life as a software venture for the energy industry. But after the recession, when spending on software in the energy industry had all but dried up, Siebel course-corrected.

Over the past year, the company has announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to bring enterprise AI technology to the energy industry via Azure's cloud computing platform. C3.ai also added Bank of America, Koch Industries, AstraZeneca, Army Aviation and U.S. Stratcom as customers. The Redwood City, California-based company has raised $387 million so far from investors, including TPG Growth and Breyer Capital.

A look back at the CNBC Disruptor 50: 8 years, 209 companies