C3 AI : Digital Transformation through Enterprise AI at scale

52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 list from 2000 does not exist anymore. With vast amount of data generated across the enterprise, AI use cases & deployments can unlock significant economic value for organizations.

52% of the companies in the Fortune 500 list from 2000 does not exist anymore. With vast amount of data continuously being generated across the enterprise, AI use cases and deployments can unlock significant economic value for organizations. Global organizations also have realized the embracing digital transformation is critical to survival. But the challenges of building and deploying enterprise AI applications at scale, critical to a successful digital transformation, are significant and involve greater levels of complexity than ever before. Many organizations have limited knowledge in these ares and are looking for strategic partners to maximize the impact through AI and optimization of AI based applications at scale


C3 AI is the world’s leading provider of Enterprise AI. Founded in 2009, the company aim to support and accelerate digital transformation with its proven C3 AI Suite, an end-to-end platform for developing, deploying and operating large-scale AI applications [1]. The C3 AI Suite provides comprehensive services to build enterprise-scale AI applications more efficiently and cost-effectively than alternative approaches. 

It also supports the value chain in any industry with prebuilt, configurable, high-value AI applications for reliability, fraud detection, sensor network health, supply network optimization, energy management, anti-money laundering, and customer engagement. Currently C3 AI has enterprise AI footprint in Defense, Chemicals, Financial Services, Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Energy Sustainability, and Utilities industries.

Value Creation : Platform approach to AI for industry solutions

At a time when most vendors focus on tools for data scientists, C3 AI has always envisioned a platform approach to AI. Ahead of its time, C3 AI’s strategy is to make AI application-centric by building a growing library of industry solutions, forging deep industry partnerships, running in every cloud, and facilitating extreme reuse through common data models [2].

C3 AI offering moves around two families of software solutions : C3AI suite which is a set of application development frameworks to enable rapid design, development and deployment of enterprise AI applications and C3 AI applications, built using C3 AI suite that comprise many commercial use cases

The C3 AI Platform software uses a model-driven architecture to accelerate delivery and reduce the complexities of developing enterprise-scale AI applications. Model-driven architecture is an approach to the design of software systems that uses platform-independent models – rather than traditional structured programming – to serve as an abstraction layer to dramatically simplify the programming problem. Models are independent of the underlying infrastructure services provided by any particular cloud platform provider, whether AWS, Azure, IBM, or Google. Models automatically are translated to one or more cloud platform–specific implementations. This means the developer doesn’t need to worry about which underlying components the application will use or which cloud platform the application will run on [3].

Independent studies have shown that the C3 AI model-driven architecture reduces the amount of code developers need to write and maintain by 99% and decreases the effort required to develop and deploy AI applications by a factor of 26 compared to traditional “structured programming” approaches [4]. C3 AI provide value to organization through multiple ways including :

Data Integration and Management Services : The C3 AI Platform’s model-driven architecture serves as an object-centric abstraction layer removing complexities and barriers across developers, data scientists, and business end users.​ The platform can easily and automatically ingest massive volumes of diverse data from numerous sources and unify the data in a common and extensible data image.

Accelerated Time to Value : The C3 AI Platform and its model-driven architecture enable application developers and data scientists to focus on delivering immediate value, without the need to learn, integrate, or understand the complexities of the underlying systems. ​The applications are future-proofed applications with much simplified maintenance requirements​ that reduces the overall cost for the organization

Scalability : The company provides application development with 99% less code, significantly fewer resources, and reduced maintenance requirements with unmatched flexibility and scalability through reusability of object models developed on the C3 AI Platform. Currently, it offers more than 30 pre-built, industry-specific AI applications to optimize critical processes. These prebuilt, extensible models encompass a vast range of entities, including business objects (customer, order, contract, etc.), physical systems and subsystems (engine, boiler, chiller, compressor, etc.), computing resources and services (database, stream processing, etc.) – anything at all that an application requires, can be represented as a model in the model-driven architecture [5].

Figure 1 : C3 AI’s proprietary core technology is its Model Driven architecture approach to design of software systems
Figure 2: Inside the core stack of C3 AI suite. As the data gets in, it gets integrated, extended into the C3 AI set of data models, and transposed into a set of applications and intelligence tools

Value Capture : The Rise of AIaaS

C3ai is a cloud based Enterprise AI SaaS (AIaas) company. Their revenue over the last fiscal year was $252.8M growing 38% YoY. The primary revenue generators are through their AI Suite and AI application subscriptions, usually three years in duration, that comprises 80% of the revenue. The rest of the value capture is associated with the implementation services for new customer deployments of applications ( eg: trainings, application design, project management and data modeling). They are typically provided under a fixed-fee agreement with defined deliverables and less than a year in duration.

Challenges and Opportunities

AI and ML technologies support businesses with managing and utilizing massive amounts of data but the possibility of these technologies to provide outstanding impact rests on many critical factors such as the quality and quantity of the training data given. A McKinsey survey points out that the most significant barrier for businesses in their AI implementation process is the shortage of insightful, usable and relevant data. Numerous businesses have in fact had to delay or stop in the middle of AI implementation process due to lack of appropriate data. This will be the biggest challenge C3 AI will face as it try to sell its platform to large corporations across many verticals. Other challenges that C3 AI will face will be the criteria used for model evaluation, additional differentiated algorithmic methods unique to a corporation and working on AI bias as they work with customer facing organizations

AI integration requires a wide range of skill sets and this creates a major challenge for businesses which is to find and hire the right industry experts to take charge of the generation and operation of AI experts. C3 AI’s unique strategy of low to no code AI and a growing library of industry solutions with extreme reuse of common data models helps to get significant adoption by partners and enterprise customers and work as an opportunity for the company to accelerate industry partnerships, create and capture value for the partner ecosystem.


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Student comments on C3 AI : Digital Transformation through Enterprise AI at scale

  1. Very interesting and dense blog post! Correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand that C3 AI provides apply-to-all horizontal AI infrastructures to customers regardless of what industries or applications the customers are in. But horizontal AI tech stacks (AI libraries, cloud, etc.) are being commoditized and most of the time incumbents are still in need of vertical industry customization and integration and consulting services even if it’s low-to-no code. What then do you think is C3 AI’s unique competitive advantage in this context?

  2. Fascinating post, Karthik! Thank you for sharing.

    I remember C3.ai’s IPO in 2020 and watching the stock price soar. I saw that, despite C3.ai’s continued growth, today the stock is down more than 90% since its high… macro factors aside, I would imagine that this is partially due to the market’s skepticism around the sustainability (or availability) of C3.ai’s future cashflows.

    In addition to companies’ data readiness, do you think there are other factors that could limit C3.ai’s profitability in the future? If companies are able to overcome their data readiness challenges, would that put them in a position to no be as reliant on C3.ai? Similar to Gigi, I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on C3.ai’s moat going forward.

    1. Absolutely Louis! I do think that macro economic conditions + a new nascent market has been the main reason for C3 AI’s stock to perform poorly. To yours and Gigi’s point – The biggest opportunity I see is being this ‘one stop shop’ for all your AI model needs and really providing a complete turnkey enterprise solution. The main competitive advantage that C3ai have right now is not only providing an end-to-end platform of solutions : supply chain planning and execution capabilities, with extension to demand planning, production scheduling, sourcing management, and supply network node risk, process optimization for improved manufacturing but the ability to deploy this at scale.

      Granted these are probably not a competitive moat compared to a slew of competitors who are specializing and entering this space. Since it’s a very nascent and growing space, I do think that execution will define and determine the winners and losers in the market and then the management can really see the effect of some of these applications, what companies really want and then honing on those applications.

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