The tech sector: a guiding light for every startup
Ask any established business leader for the secrets of their company’s success, and it is almost certain that having inspirational role models – be they other entrepreneurs or businesses - would have played a key role in their growth.
When starting a business, every entrepreneur will look to model their startup on an established business success story. For some entrepreneurs, this modelling is very clear - they will have a firm idea in their mind of an inspirational business (or businesses) that they will look to base their venture on. For others, modelling can be more of a subconscious process.
Many entrepreneurs, however, simply aren’t sure who to take inspiration from. Another successful startup in their sector? An established, international industry leader? A company from another sector altogether? When first starting out, identifying which companies to base your own business on can be a confusing process.
When I founded parrotprint.com, a personalised internet print brand, in 2014, I faced this exact dilemma. Over the last decade, the photography and printing landscape has considerably shifted as a result of relentless digitisation, resulting in many companies with outdated model that hardly cried out ‘inspiration’. The high-street printing stalwarts such as Snappy Snaps seemed, at the time, under threat from increasing home printing possibilities, whilst Kodak – having failed to embrace digital - had gone from blue chip to bankrupt.
Meanwhile, it was those photography and printing companies that were embracing digital innovation that seemed to be forging the brightest futures.
The answer, it became abundantly clear, was to model the business not on a photography or printing company, but on a tech company. It is a philosophy that has held me in good stead as the parrotprint.com brand has grown, and one I believe that any startup or small business – irrespective of what they do, or what industry they operate in - would be wise to adopt themselves.
Many non-tech startups may already consider themselves tech companies at heart, with their core offering underpinned by some sort of technology (how many times have we heard companies describing themselves as the ‘Uber of X’?) But in reality, basing your startup on a tech company means much, much more than just integrating a bit of technology into your core product offering.
Today, the global economy on the cusp of what is being termed the fourth industrial revolution – that is, a revolution, and a future, underpinned by new digital capabilities and smart technologies such as machine-to-machine communication, big data analytics, AI and forms of automation. These are the technologies that analyse and perform on behalf of humans, reduce risk, increase efficiencies and redefine the relationship between employee and company.
Basing your startup on a tech company means embracing and investing in these new possibilities, across every aspect of your business. Customer support? Automated chatbots can help reduce the time and cost involved in keeping your customers happy. White collar client onboarding? AI and machine learning can automate the KYC process, helping reduce risk and increase transparency. Finance and invoicing? Robotic Process Automation can automate all the mundane tasks, freeing up your staff to focus on more engaging tasks that actually require human intelligence.
At parrotprint.com, we use AI and algorithms in our printing process, robotics in our production and automation in our packing process – all of which makes us, in our eyes, a tech rather than a traditional printing company. And with digital transformation already disrupting every industry, from chocolate making to the NHS, it will be those companies that embrace the new age of digital innovation now that will be the most future proofed, resilient, nimble and primed for success.
But it is not just through digital transformation or digitised operations that entrepreneurs should be looking to model themselves on a tech company.
As any modern company will testify, today’s business cannot – in an age of growing ESG concern – simply be about profit anymore. Every company is under increasing pressure to be more progressive and transparent in regards to their social impact – be that in relation to good governance, sustainability, diversity or staff welfare. It is in these ESG areas that any budding entrepreneur would also be well advised to take a leaf out of a tech company’s book.
Gone are the days where a positive company culture could be box ticked with a table football in the common room. Today, employees – especially millennials and generation Z, expect their employers to offer ongoing professional development, a supportive work-life balance, flexi working and an ethnically and gender-diverse workforce.
For years, tech companies have been at the forefront of workplace culture innovation and satisfaction - which is one reason companies such as Google and Apple consistently ranks as some of the best places to work. For companies looking to embrace new a progressive workplace, much inspiration can therefore be taken from the tech giants.
Every business owner needs a role model, and every company needs inspiration from those businesses that have successfully trodden the entrepreneurial path before them. With the fourth industrial revolution truly upon is, it is the tech sector – both operationally and culturally - that can universally light the way.